Toyota’s Corolla Cross Hybrid
COMMON SENSE, COMMON GOOD
Over the last six months, not only have global temperatures predictably increased; so has the venom thrown at fossil fuels by ‘friends’ of the environment. And while I’ll take no issue with most positions taken by climate activists – except those living in single family homes of over 4,000 square feet – I will take issue with the barbs thrown at Toyota for its slow-walk of battery EV production.
Toyota, of course, was onboard early (very early) with the development and production of hybrid powertrains and, more recently, has introduced plug-in hybrids to its Toyota and Lexus showrooms. Given that criticism by activists, Toyota defended its stance and – by extension – its timetable, noting that for all of the hard-to-obtain elements necessary for the production of one EV battery Toyota could produce 50 plug-in hybrids or 150 conventional hybrids. To be sure, with their limited all-electric range plug-in hybrids will inevitably burn some gas, and hybrids burn only gas – but the hybrid burns that gas at (typically) between 40 and 50 miles per gallon. If everyone that needs to drive did so at 50 miles per gallon, our national appetite for fuel would decrease dramatically. And educated guessing suggests fuel prices would follow.
The above is a long way of bringing us to the Corolla Cross Hybrid, a small SUV capable of delivering an EPA estimate of 45 miles per gallon city, 38 on the highway and 42 miles per gallon combined. And it does this while giving a family of four all the room they could reasonably need, or an active couple with all of the necessary room for their activity-oriented stuff. And the Corolla Cross Hybrid does it a base price of around $32,000!
At this point my wife and I have some familiarity with Toyota hybrids, having purchased a ’21 Venza for what we’ll call our third car, which is based in Southern California. At the time we did our shopping, efficiency was top of mind, despite this being the car we’d put the fewest miles on. So, 40 miles per gallon was our mantra – but two-plus years later it’s been driven less than 10,000 miles. That’s in contrast to our main zip code in Northern Virginia, where taking our grandson to school most days commits us to a 45-mile roundtrip, and that – when done in our ’06 Grand Cherokee – consumers 3+ gallons of regular unleaded each and every day, or 15 gallons over the course of a 5-day school week. As you’ve surmised, we should have put the Venza here!
We could easily park the Corolla Cross Hybrid here. Described by the EPA as a ‘small SUV’, it provides all of the interior space and flexibility a family of four could reasonably need. On a trip to Home Depot the hatchback handled three large bags of dirt and a propane refill handily, with the rear seat up. Fold it and you have 40 cubic feet of stowage, more than enough for that bike or snowboard. And with standard all-wheel drive, you can credibly get through the snow!
Under the hood is a 2.0 liter four supplemented by a small hybrid motor/battery, and connected to a CVT transmission. If I have one gripe, it’s the drone created when accelerating. The performance – see below – is more than adequate, but Toyota’s tuning of the CVT does little to diminish the anguish, if you will, that goes with merging or passing. And behind the wheel, what Toyota describes as its sport suspension is comfortable and composed – but doesn’t deliver ‘sporty’. If you’re hoping for Toyota’s GR Corolla, you’re gonna’ have to buy a GR Corolla.
Of course, with this efficiency and practicality you necessarily pay a price. The good news? It’s not on the window sticker; our fully equipped XSE came to just $35K with destination, a small(ish) premium when compared to the non-hybrid Corolla Cross. And with that greater efficiency comes competitive performance. In testing by Car and Driver, the Corolla Cross Hybrid reached 60 in just over 7 seconds, and offers a governed top speed of 113. That top speed figure is academic, but does suggest a relaxed cruising capability at legal (or extra-legal) highway speeds.
The strive for efficiency gives you a Corolla-based hatchback short on any suggestion of visceral excitement, but that’s not what Toyota is pushing, nor is that what the general consumer is buying. I’m reminded of the Toyota Matrix, which shared production space – back in the day – with Pontiac’s Vibe. This ain’t a Pontiac, and comes with virtually no vibe. But for someone wanting a common sense set of wheels, Toyota’s Corolla Cross Hybrid is an in-the-park homerun.