In a market brimming with crossovers, Toyota’s locally-built Corolla Cross offers something different… and it may just count in its favour.

+ generously specced; spacious cabin; fuel consumption
– interior quality not quite on par with that of the Sedan

To say a fair amount has been written about the ever-increasing arrival of compact crossovers on South African shores will be an understatement. Writing about these vehicles has arguably become second nature for motoring journalists, with myriad car manufacturers continuously adding new compact crossovers to their local model line-ups. Case in point: in 2021 alone, more than half a dozen new compact crossovers (not accounting for the models that have received some cosmetic and tech enhancements) were introduced to our market. It’s no wonder why – South Africans have come to adore these tall-riding, SUV-inspired vehicles.

Since it was revealed, one that has especially piqued local interest was the Toyota Corolla Cross. So much so that even before its official launch in November 2021, 800 units were already signed for. (It’s worth noting that the local arm of the Japanese automaker aims to sell more than 20 000 annually.) So, with the Corolla Cross, will this motoring journalist stick to second nature when writing about a new crossover? Or has Toyota launched a car that’s truly distinct within its segment? Better start writing then…

Corolla Cross

Built on the strength of the Corolla brand and the moniker’s rich heritage, the Cross-badged variant is an important car for Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM). It is, indeed, billed as the “hero” of the local Corolla line-up. Manufactured in SA at TSAM’s Durban-based production plant, in which the firm has invested R2.6 billion, the Corolla Cross signifies a duo of firsts for the company: it’s the first vehicle built by TSAM that’s underpinned by Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform and the first new-energy vehicle (NEV) produced by the local arm of the Japanese automaker.

Based on the modular TNGA platform, the Corolla Cross measures 4 460 mm nose to tail, 1 825 mm wide and 1 620 mm in height. The wheelbase measures 2 640 mm long. In terms of exterior dimensions, the tall-riding Corolla slots in neatly between its smaller and larger crossover/SUV stablemates, the C-HR and RAV4. However, in terms of pricing, the Corolla Cross range not only leans towards that of the former; it undercuts the C-HR range’s average asking price by a significant sum. More importantly, however, is how well it’s priced compared with its rivals.

Corolla Cross

The Corolla Cross line-up is priced from R360 400 for the entry-level, petrol-only Xi model to R461 700 for the variant written about here, the 1.8 Hybrid Xr. The petrol-electric powertrain can also be had with mid-tier Xs trim (priced at R425 400, this derivative is the least expensive NEV available in SA), while Xr specification is also available with the non-hybrid, 1.8-litre petrol variant. As a reminder, the latest edition to the Corolla Cross line-up is the GR-S model.

Although bearing the “Corolla” badge, with the Corolla Cross, Toyota has, rather refreshingly, refrained from copying the exterior styling of the Sedan and hatchback and pasting it onto the crossover. This approach lends the Corolla Cross a distinct persona. However, like its Corolla counterparts, it’s a striking car, with its large, trapezoidal front grille and tapered LED headlamps, which incorporate LED daytime running lights. The Xr variants’ 18-inch alloy wheels add pizzazz to the package. Those with a keen eye might even notice some of the 24 Corolla Cross logos hidden around the car (we found four). Toyota certainly had fun when designing the Corolla Cross. Toyota also offers several personalisation packages.

Accessing the cabin (done via standard-fitment keyless entry) reveals a roomy interior. Larger than the C-HR, though not as spacious as the RAV4, the Corolla Cross offers ample room. There’s oodles of head- and legroom for front and rear occupants. Luggage capacity is more than generous at 440 litres.

Specified in Xr grade, the cabin can be had with the choice of black or Terra Rossa (red) leather upholstery. A few hard plastic trim elements are, however, present. An array of convenience and safety features are fitted as standard. Sited within easy reach of the driver and front passenger, the touchscreen infotainment system relays your favourite tunes via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to a six-speaker sound system. It also displays a video feed from the reverse-view camera, which is supplemented by park distance sensors. On the hybrid derivative, the software also includes hybrid-specific menus.

Safety items include seven airbags, Isofix child-seat anchorages, hill-assist control and Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS) package. The latter set-up comprises a suite of safety systems, such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist and a pre-collision system.

Corolla Cross

Thanks to the electrically adjustable driver’s pew, dialling in your preferred driving position is a cinch. The seating position is tall, allowing for a clear view of the road ahead. Pressing the engine start button, the petrol-electric powertrain, which produces 90 kW and 142 Nm, whisperingly makes its presence known. However, when an overtaking manoeuvre is required, depressing the throttle with gusto elevates this whisper into a pronounced drone as the rev needle ascends the tachometer. But the engine quickly settles down when you reach a steady cruising speed. The cabin becomes seemingly silent. Overall, NVH levels are commendable.

One could, however, argue the 1.2-litre, turbocharged petrol unit of the Corolla Hatch would be better suited to its crossover sibling. However, there’s no denying the appeal and reliability (not that the 1.2-litre engine isn’t) of a naturally aspirated Toyota engine. Only now, it’s coupled to an electric motor. This comes with an array of benefits, most notably fuel consumption. Toyota claims 4.3 L/100 km. Match this figure, and you’ll be able to extract 837 km from the compact, 36-litre fuel tank. For reference, that’s a distance of around 145 km more than what you’ll get from the petrol-only models.

Although riding on those striking alloys, the 50-profile rubber and McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension arrangement provides a comfortable ride. The Corolla Cross soaks up road imperfections with aplomb. The steering is light, allowing for easy manoeuvrability.

The verdict


The Corolla Cross boasts an array of characteristics worth writing about. It offers a generous amount of standard kit, oodles of interior space and comfortable ride quality. However, most notably, it offers all of this, including a frugal hybrid powertrain, in a value-based package. And this gives more local consumers the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a hybrid vehicle. Considering all of this (and, of course, Toyota’s extensive dealership network and standard eight-year/195 000 km hybrid battery warranty), the Corolla Cross certainly does give a motoring journalist something different to write about.

Deep data

Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 Hybrid Xr CVT

  • Price: R461 700
  • Engine: 1.8 L, 4-cyl, petrol hybrid
  • Transmission: CVT
  • Driven wheels: F
  • Power: 90 kW @ 5 200 r/min
  • Torque: 142 Nm @ 3 600 r/min
  • 0-100 km/h: n/a
  • Top speed: 170 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 4.3 L/100 km
  • CO2: 98 g/km
  • Length: 4 460 mm
  • Height: 1 620 mm
  • Width: 1 825 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2 640 mm
  • Weight: 1 385 kg
  • Luggage capacity: 440 L
  • Fuel tank: 36 L
  • Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km  (8 years/195 000 km for hybrid battery)
  • Service plan: 6 services/90 000 km

Published in issue 04 of APEX magazine.