Let’s be honest here, the Toyota C-HR has always been something of a niche product: small, quirky-looking, lacking all-wheel-drive and not exactly bursting with power. The C-HR never caught on quite as well as Toyota had hoped, but the company aims to change its fortunes in the subcompact SUV class with this, the new 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, which joins the C-HR in Toyota showrooms later this year. It’s based on the same platform as the Corolla sedan and hatchback, but it sits higher, has more room inside and has surprisingly different styling that’s not nearly as aggressive as its sedan and hatchback siblings. We got an up-close and personal look at the Corolla Cross’ coming out party at Toyota’s North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, and while we didn’t get any driving time in the new SUV (that will come later this year), we did get some good first impressions of the new vehicle.
The first thing I noticed is that it actually seems to have more in common with the larger Toyota Highlander SUV than its Corolla siblings. The front styling is a smaller version of the big seven-passenger Highlander, and the Corolla Cross looks considerably different from even the one-step-bigger Toyota RAV4. The Corolla Cross is meant to slot below the RAV4 in size, price and sophistication, and will instead compete with the Volkswagen Taos, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Subaru Crosstrek and Kia Seltos. I think it’s a good-looking SUV with its standard front and rear LED lighting and bulging fenders. It could even be mistaken for a Mazda if you squint at it. Something to note: The chief engineer hid 22 stylized Corolla Cross icons throughout the vehicle as Easter eggs for buyers to find. I found a few of them but didn’t dig too hard through the car.
Inside is where the Corolla Cross bears more resemblance to other Corollas with a dashboard that looks similar to the other models. It’s plenty spacious inside, front or back, but doesn’t quite have the legroom found in competitors like the Taos. Material quality is perfectly fine, matching what’s found in the other Corollas. Three trim levels are available: L, LE and XLE, and you’ll likely want to splurge for at XLE model because lower models with their steel wheels and plasticky insides have a distinct rental car feel to them. The XLE I poked around in had a similar feel to high-spec Corollas with simulated leather seats and a faux-stitched dash that added a bit more zoot to the otherwise comfortable, if unremarkable, digs.
A 7-inch multimedia touchscreen is standard on the L trim level, while LE and XLE trims upgrade to an 8-inch screen, but it’s still the same system found in the other Corollas with old-looking graphics and teeny-tiny buttons surrounding the screen itself. At least it’s mounted high up on the dash so you don’t have to take your eyes too far off the road to operate it. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
The cargo area is also plentiful with 25.5 cubic feet of room available behind the second row in front-wheel-drive models, according to Toyota, and a bit less in all-wheel-drive versions. Toyota hasn’t yet provided a figure for the volume when the second-row seatbacks are folded. It puts the Corolla Cross nicely in the middle of a lot of its competitors, coming in just a bit behind the VW Taos, but well ahead of the smaller Subaru Crosstrek in terms of cargo space, according to manufacturer-reported specifications.
While Toyota wasn’t ready to reveal pricing for the new Corolla Cross, it’s safe to assume it’ll likely start a bit more than a base Corolla but a bit less than a basic RAV4. The Corolla Cross doesn’t have the same level of sophistication or power as the RAV4, and while there isn’t a hybrid version of the Corolla Cross yet, we’ve been told to expect some news on that front early next year. With an average combined fuel economy of 32 mpg with front-wheel drive, the Corolla Cross isn’t the most miserly offering out there, but neither is it all that thirsty — its power and efficiency align well among the pantheon of compact, entry-level compact SUVs. With plenty of standard safety equipment, it looks set to successfully expand the epically popular Corolla name into the hottest vehicle class in the country.