2022 Toyota Corolla Cross – Is It The Toyotabaru?

toyota motor company logo (transparent background)Most car writers have a preference for big, fast, expensive vehicles, and I get it. There’s something about the design and drive experience of a $100K+ vehicle that is pretty delightful. And those admiring looks you get from fellow auto enthusiasts aren’t bad either. But most people don’t drop $100,000 or more on a vehicle, and a whole category of buyers seek the least expensive auto that will work for their families and get them from that proverbial point A to point B without any fuss. A quarter-million-miles lifespan doesn’t hurt; lots of people really dislike buying a new car so want theirs to run forever. The first new car I bought was a mid-80s Toyota Tercel, after my Mazda RX4 (with a rotary engine!) went kaput. Suffice to say, I have a really long history with Toyota vehicles and a soft spot for entry level and budget vehicles.

All of this is to say that when Toyota offered me the chance to drive the 2022 Toyota Corolla “Cross” edition, I was definitely interested. Yes, it was a significant step down from the lovely Lexus NX 450h plug-in hybrid I had been driving immediately beforehand [read my review here] but plenty of people want to find out what the lower-cost vehicles are like too. The Cross edition is on the high end for the Corolla line, with an MSRP of $27,625. The LE starts at $21,500, and the Hybrid starts at $22,800, making it one of the most affordable hybrids available.

I hadn’t had any behind-the-wheel experience with the Cross edition, and it’s pretty interesting, with an exterior that seems to take design notes from the popular Subaru outdoor SUV line, as you can see:

2022 toyota corolla cross - exterior front

There’s no question, Toyota has mastered vehicle design in its decades of work, offering a lower-end vehicle that has some visible aspiration to the more expensive RAV-4 and other more expensive modest family cars. This is in Celestite Gray and features the stock 18″ alloy wheels and an acceptable 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive.

You’re not going to beat that Tesla Plaid off the starting line, or, for that matter, that souped-up Tacoma, but the drive experience is okay. Would it be more fun with a bigger engine? Definitely. But that’s not really the goal of this category of vehicle; a better drive experience involves a bigger investment in your wheels, for sure. On the bright side, it delivers good fuel efficiency for a simple ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, averaging 30mpg. Then again, one of the strangest things about the Corolla Cross is that it has a tiny gas tank, somewhere between 6 and 7 gallons. That helps with weight, I suppose, but severely hampers its range. You’ll be lucky to get 250 miles on a full tank of highway driving.

The logic of the car manufacturers seems to be that smaller commuter cars don’t need enormous gas tanks to get 400+ miles of range, and as a veteran of dozens of cross-country drives, there really are gas stations at least every 60 miles on almost every highway in America, but this tank was weirdly small, suggesting that even with the good fuel efficiency you’ll be stopping by the gas station every week.

Stepping into the vehicle you’ll find the standard Toyota dash layout:

2022 toyota corolla cross - main dashboard layout

I’m pretty sure this hasn’t changed since I had my Tercel back in the 80s, but one thing I’ll say for Toyota is that the interiors have a remarkable consistency. This undoubtedly gives them great efficiencies of manufacturing, but also feels a bit stale. Even my son’s new Toyota Tacoma TRD has a dash design that needs a facelift and update (though he loves his truck!). Notice the simple, straightforward gear shift and controls on the steering wheel crossbar. No heads up display in this model, but the main gauge display is easy enough to read with its focus on clear, simple design and bright colors:

2022 toyota corolla cross - main gauge

You can see here that it’s calculating 86 miles to empty with about 30% of the tank. That means full range is 3 * 86 or 258 miles (plus or minus). And that’s with average fuel efficiency of 29.5 mpg. Seriously, Toyota, why does this Corolla have such a small gas tank?

Did you notice what’s missing from the main gauge display above? No speedometer. It’s interesting that it still shows a tachometer with an automatic featuring that CVT transmission, but instead of the speedometer it just has a digital current speed display at the top. Since the camera setup behind the rear-view mirror is likely standard across all Toyota vehicles, it can detect and recognize speed limit signs, so it also shows the current speed limit in my area: 25mph.

What makes the display of speed limit even more surprising is that this model didn’t have a navigational system installed. Push on the MAP button and here’s what you’d see instead:

2022 toyota corolla cross - no map navigation system installed error

Nothing to stress about, however, because it does include wired Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. Plug in your smartphone and you’ll have Google Maps (or, with an iPhone, Apple Maps) on the screen. Thank goodness, as it’s a bit disconcerting to drive without a navigational system of some sort. Modern times, right?

Notice all the buttons on the sides of the infotainment display too. Top left to bottom right they’re Home, Menu, Audio, Map, Seek, Track, Phone, and Apps. Entirely functional and I like having physical buttons for primary navigation so you don’t have to decipher the latest redesign of buttons in the smartphone interface. The sound system also sounds surprisingly good, powered by JBL speakers. This, however, is part of a $1,465.00 optional Audio Plus – 8-inch Touchscreen with 9-JBL speakers – upgrade, which adds CarPlay and Android Auto, among other features.

Speaking of audio, there are two other issues I want to mention: The audio alerts are loud and annoying, and there’s a lot of road noise in the vehicle when running at highway speeds. The former isn’t that big a deal (but seriously, it would be nice to lower the volume 25% on these increasingly loud warning beeps), but we did find the vehicle quite loud on the highway. If you want to be able to have comfortable conversations with a rear-seat passenger, that’s something you’ll want to test for yourself.

Stepping outside, the Corolla Cross has typical tight legroom, exacerbated by me having the driver’s seat all the way back to compensate for my tall frame:

2022 toyota corolla cross - rear legroom

Baby in a car seat? No sweat. Four big adults? That might be an issue. Fortunately, there’s a decent amount of cargo space in the very back, allowing you to pile in the gear:

2022 toyota corolla cross - rear cargo space

Again, a curious design choice: the floor mat doesn’t actually cover the spare tire, leaving edges that I expect will end up full of bits and dirt as you use the vehicle for weekend adventures, or even just taking the little ‘uns to preschool. Perhaps there are third-party rear cargo mats you can purchase that better protect that underspace?

Close that rear hatch and we’re back outside, looking at a very attractive AWD compact vehicle:

2022 toyota corolla cross - exterior rear

While I had some complaints with the Corolla Cross, there’s really a lot to like in this affordable compact SUV from one of the most reliable car manufacturers in the world. You’ll get used to the small gas tank and road noise, ultimately appreciating the exterior appearance, cargo space, and Toyota’s excellent suite of safety features to keep you and your family safe and sound on the road. Definitely one to check out if you’ve a growing family or just want space and comfort for your friends en route to the hip new club downtown.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with continuously variable transmission. Celestite Gray. MSRP: $27,625.00. AD-ONS: Audio plus upgrade, tilt-and-slide moonroof, auto-leveling front light system, carpet maats, frameless homelink mirror, door sill protectors, cross bars, rear bumper protection, and activity mount. AS DRIVEN: $33,550.00.

Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the Corolla Cross for a week in return for this candid review. Thanks, Toyota!

dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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