A magical combination

When it comes to a well-rounded package offering good comfort and usable storage; a car that is a pleasure to drive and bristles with technology and driver-to-vehicle connectivity, the Corolla Cross ticks a lot of boxes.

Toyota’s VP of Sales, Marketing and Franchise Operations, Sean Hanley, informed us that this new Corolla Cross has the richest suite of active safety and connected services technologies of any Toyota model to date. Big tick indeed!

But wait, there’s more. You also get a range of driveline configurations to suit your budget and personal preference. You can choose between 2WDrive or All Wheel Drive in either petrol or hybrid configurations with three variations in interior specification from the base GX on to the mid-range GXL, and right up to the range topping Atmos. However, note that only GXL and Atmos offer the dual electric motors for AWD functionality, whilst the GX remains front wheel drive in either petrol or hybrid options.

The other key benefit is greater height in the loading area to enhance load capacity. With all of them sharing the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-C) platform, which is great for strength and rigidity, the Cross and Hatch get their wheelbases trimmed by some 60mm down from the sedan’s 2700mm to 2640mm.

Yet the Cross is 35mm wider and 85mm longer. So what? Well, it’s most noticeable in the cabin interior, offering extra space for diver and passenger comfort. Factor in the wider wheel track, increased from 1530mm up to 1570mm, and there’s a positive handling opportunity for the taking. The Corolla Cross exploits this perfectly to provide rather impressive on-road dynamics.

Plus, there’s a reasonable 160mm of ground clearance. Before you dream about a run to Cape York, you won’t be doing any rock crawling or remote exploration in this little fella, but gravel roads and well laid forestry trails are a breeze. In fact, if the budget will allow, add in dual electric motor AWD functionality and it’s a lot of fun. You’ve got a confident little commuter that will tootle off the tarmac and get a little dusty. Who’s up for lunch at the winery and the scenic drive home?

The GX comes equipped with 17″ alloy wheels, fabric seats, 60:40 split-folding rear seats and a luggage cover. Smart entry and a 7″ colour instrument display, with the smaller 8″ centre touchscreen and 6-speaker audio, along with Wireless Apple CarPlay and LED headlights.

What was impressive is the base also receives 12-month complimentary access to Toyota Connected Services, which includes a range of safety and security features, including driving insights and remote connectivity. Plus, there’s Toyota Safety Sense2, which incorporates a speed active cruise control with curve speed reduction, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane change assist, pre-collision with pedestrian and cyclist detection. There’s even intersection turn assist, speed sign recognition, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, a very good reverse camera, auto high beam and an electric auto release park brake. Hybrid GX’s also receive a drive mode select option to dial up normal, eco or power.

The GXL ups the ante with black leather accented seats, steering wheel and shift knob, and a 10.5″ colour touchscreen, which drops the very useful volume knob on the side. You get satellite navigation, dual zone AC, and two extra USB-C ports in the rear of the centre console. There’s a panoramic view monitor, privacy glass—rear and rear sides, roof rails and LED headlamp upgrade, plus fog lights and sequential indicators. Both petrol and hybrid retain a 17″ temporary spare wheel (2WD) whilst the AWD with the extra rear electric motor consuming space receives a tyre repair kit. Probably not the ideal combination. As an AWD crossover, I’m more likely to enjoy its capability on unsealed roads when holidaying, which has the greatest propensity for a puncture.

Finally, there’s the more self-indulgent Atmos, for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

Adding extra bling are larger, stylish 18″ alloy wheels, heated front seats and steering wheel, with 8-way power adjustable driver seat. The instrumentation display jumps to an impressive crisp looking 12.3″, and audio buffs will appreciate the premium JBL audio system with no less than 9 speakers to rock your world. There’s a handy plonk spot for wireless charging, and getting in at night is all the easier thanks to the Atmos’s illuminated entry system.

With the convenience of a foot motion sensing power rear door, great for when you’ve struggled to pick up and carrying two large pot plants through the carpark of Waldeck’s as there’s no need to put them down to open the rear hatch. It’s nice to ease yourself into the premium leather accented seats and use the panoramic monitor view with see-through functionality to negotiate your way out of that ridiculously tight space, courtesy of the car who couldn’t park properly next to you. Enjoying the little bursts of warm morning sun as it peeks through the clouds through the panoramic sunroof, you needn’t worry about the odd sun shower as the auto sensing wipers will quickly remove any distracting droplets off the windscreen.

With eight exterior colours to choose from, you’ll be able to pick that perfect shade to reflect your personality and personal style. Do you prefer Glacier or Frosted White, maybe Stunning Silver, how about Eclipse Black, or Atomic Rush, then there’s Lunar Blue, Moondust Grey or how about Jungle Khaki?.

Around town and in city congestion, the Corolla Cross is a pleasure to drive, the front seats are supportive without being restrictive, and the interior’s ergonomics are well sorted.

Everything is within easy reach and logically laid out, making day to day driving relaxed.

The direct shift Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) works well, complementing both the torque of electric motor and power of the petrol engine, making the transition between both almost seamless.

The result is an effortless ride from point A to B and that’s what makes the Corolla Cross so endearing.

Driving around suburban streets or on open country roads, the standard 2WD petrol has an efficient 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine developing 126kW at 6,600rpm and 202Nm from 4,400-4,900rpm with a miserly drinking habit of 6L/100k. Given the petrol only variants have a 47L tank, you should be good for just under 800k.

The hybrid versions, on the other hand, employ a 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine. It’s more efficient at extracting energy but has reduced power output due to the way it manipulates the compression stroke through value timing.

However, the clever folks at Toyota have coupled it to an electric motor to balance that deficit and achieve eyebrow raising levels of efficiency enabling the Corolla Cross AWD hybrid to achieve a combined maximum power output of 146kW with an eye opening 4.4L/100k thanks to the hybrid supplementing work duties.

Theoretically, the 43L fuel capacity will return some 970ks. But as actual driving conditions or style, along with the load being carried, or even the number of accessories fitted will vary, so too will the fuel consumption.

So, the Corolla Cross is roomy, has great functionality, is accommodating and comfortable and will sip sparingly at the expensive fountain of fuel. What’s it like to drive?

Toyota’s latest small SUV is up against some stiff competition, with much more experience in this size/class of SUV. That said, hats off to Toyota for delivering a worthy competitor in what seems like an ocean of SUVs.

I was impressed by how well the Corolla Cross drives.

It’s no plush limo by any stretch of the imagination, nor would you expect it to be a sharp-edged sports car. But Toyota has done a superb engineering job that allows the Cross to sit somewhere nicely in the middle. It feels composed, it’s quiet, the suspension soaks up all but the biggest of bumps, the hybrid system never feels flushed or flustered in stop-start environments. The transition from electric to petrol is smooth, letting the Cross glide through most daily driving duties. The steering is light and direct, it responds nicely and predictably to deliver directional changes and it doesn’t feel like it’s leaning over in the corners. And the brakes have a reassuring firmness to them.

Overall, it’s a well-rounded and balanced package.

The Corolla Cross has capped price serving of $250 per service up to 5 years or 75,000kms, whichever comes first. With peace of mind knowing you’re covered by Toyota’s Warranty Advantage, which offers 5-year unlimited kilometre coverage extending to seven years on engine and driveline.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with a taller, wider body effectively running on a Corolla hatch back underpinnings. However, the Cross provides ease of manoeuvrability through traffic, better outward visibility, higher driving position, and it still manages to retain compact exterior dimensions for easy parking, while significantly improving dimensions for internal accommodation.

Add that to the array of tech savvy functionality for safety and security, convenient driver insights, and remote connectivity with Toyota’s extensive driver assist Safety Sense2.

The Corolla Cross really is a big-hearted little SUV and should be high on your list of must-see compact SUV choices.

Model: Toyota Crolla Cross Atmos 2WD Hybrid

  • Price: $51,579
  • Engine: 2.0 litre M20A-FXS Four Cylinder.
  • Output: 112kW/190Nm
  • Electric Motor: 83kW Permanent magnet synchronous.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
  • 0-100kph: 7.7 sec
  • Fuel: 4.3L/100km
  • Warranty: 5 Year unlimited km
  • Safety rating ANCAP 5 Stars

Drive Editor - Ray Cully

Drive Editor – Ray Cully

About our Motoring Editor: Ray has been passionate about all things automotive since he first started collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels models when he was five. Since leaving his executive role at General Motors (GM), he’s been sharing his driving experiences with Australian audiences for nearly 20 years, commencing his automotive journalist career with a popular WA-based magazine and was writing his own column in The West Australian for 8 years.

Ray’s strong love of automotive engineering and clever design has seen his articles and photography featured in prominent national magazines in Australia and the UK. He loves sharing his passion with other drivers, including via a long running stint as Senior Instructor for Land Rover Experience, providing training and education for new vehicle owners.

Recently Ray has been presenting on TV shows including Ready for Adventure and the very popular Caravan and Camping WA, to showcase some of the great products, vehicles and companies that make getting out and exploring Western Australia that much more enjoyable.