2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD First Test: Back on Its Boring
- Soft ride
- Easy-to-use controls
- Reasonably attractive
- Plodding dynamics
- Tight rear seat
The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross doesn’t look much like a Corolla, so you might be thinking Toyota is just being clever by slapping the widely known Corolla badge on its all-new compact SUV—much like Ford did with the Bronco name for its smaller, car-based Bronco Sport. Is the move a cynical play by Toyota to leverage the long-running Corolla nameplate in an effort to turbocharge sales? Maybe, but now that we’ve run the Corolla Cross through our full battery of tests, we think Toyota has manifested what could be considered “peak Corolla.”
You see, underneath its mini-RAV4 styling and all that plastic fender and bumper cladding, the Corolla Cross really is a Corolla. It shares its TNGA-C underpinnings with today’s Corolla sedan and hatchback, sits on the same shorter 103.9-inch wheelbase as the hatch, and borrows its 169-hp 2.0-liter I-4 engine from the sportier versions of those two cars. Opt for a front-wheel-drive Corolla Cross, and it’ll ride on the same strut-type front suspension and twist-beam rear axle as the front-drive Corolla sedan. But if you spring for all-wheel drive, as the Corolla Cross XLE we had in for testing was equipped with, Toyota swaps in a multilink rear suspension similar to that of the Corolla hatchback. The Cross even uses the same dashboard as the regular Corolla, and most of the rest of the interior is borrowed from that car, too, albeit massaged for the crossover’s taller height.
Does a Taller Corolla Make for a Better Corolla?
Not really. Despite towering 7.7 inches above a Corolla hatchback and stretching 3.6 inches longer from nose to tail, the Corolla Cross doesn’t feel much roomier. The rear seat remains tight on leg- and knee room (officially, rear legroom is 2.1 inches better than in the hatch), though the cushion is set at a decent height and the seat itself is relatively comfortable. Most everything aft of the front doors is hard plastic, including the door panel trim with fake “stitching” molded into it.
We’d recommend skipping the sunroof option if you can (it’s standard on the range-topping XLE we tested) as it cuts in on headroom noticeably. And the 25.6-cubic-foot rear cargo area, while certainly bigger than a Corolla sedan’s trunk (13.1 cubic feet), is only a few cubes roomier than the hatchback’s 17.8-cubic-foot cargo bay. The front-drive Corolla Cross does get slightly more cargo space thanks to its lack of rear-axle drive bits, which allows for a lower mounting of its underfloor spare tire.
So while this bigger, SUV-ified Corolla offers a few usable dimensional benefits over its car siblings, its extra size and mass yank its performance backwards. Look at our test numbers: The Corolla Cross sidles up to 60 mph in an agonizing 9.3 seconds and saunters through the quarter mile in 17.1 seconds—at which point it’s traveling at a mere 83.1 mph. Accessing this acceleration, such as it is, demands putting up with the engine’s coarse mooing noises as what little power it offers is siphoned through the continuously variable automatic transmission’s drive belt to the wheels. Toyota programs the CVT to mimic “shifts” as you accelerate, which come off more like needless pauses in the powertrain’s strained reach for more speed than a normalizing effect to trick the driver into thinking there’s a conventional automatic transmission doing the shifting.
When it comes time to stop or turn, the Corolla Cross generally flails about. Its 120-foot stop from 60 mph is OK, but it’s accompanied by plenty of nose dive, and little corrections at the wheel are needed to maintain course. The 0.80 g of grip we recorded on our skidpad puts the Corolla Cross in the same performance envelope as the Jeep Wrangler—a taller, truckier 4×4 with an archaic dual live axle setup. As with stopping, turning is accompanied by plenty of body lean, and its softly tuned suspension can lead to secondary bobbing motions that continue well after you’ve traversed a road imperfection or speed bump.
The Toyota’s performance figures situate it near the back of the small-SUV pack, roughly in line with the also slow and ponderous Jeep Compass. Within the Corolla family, the Cross only manages to outrun the sad-sack Corolla Hybrid, which is essentially a Prius with a Corolla body. Although the hard numbers aren’t that far off from a basic non-hybrid Corolla, they seriously lag behind those of the sporty-ish Corolla hatchback. Toyota made big strides with its most recent Corolla, and even the more basic versions drive with decent composure and pep. But with the Cross, Toyota has effectively turned back the clock on the Corolla’s recent evolution beyond basic, reliable transportation.
Are There Upsides?
Absolutely. Its squishy ride, while generally a liability on the road, is useful if you ever find yourself steering the Toyota down a gravel or dirt path. We pressed the 2022 Corolla Cross into service as a support vehicle for a photo shoot on a rural Texas ranch, and it surprised us by floating over some pretty bumpy, rutted surfaces with a minimum of head toss or cringe-inducing suspension thumps. It won’t challenge a Jeep, but for a crossover sharing its name and mechanicals with a compact car, it wasn’t bad. Mostly, the Toyota was held back from more ambitious trails by its utter lack of power, ground clearance, or a formal “low” setting for its transmission; there is only drive or a faux manual mode you can select from preset ratios for the CVT to jump to. It’s best to build up some speed before tackling any steeper hills—even on pavement.
We saw roughly 29 mpg over the course of our test, which included a few hundred highway miles, plenty of idling, and the aforementioned off-road abuse. Call it mixed driving. That figure is good and is just 1 mpg shy of the all-wheel-drive Corolla Cross’s 30-mpg EPA combined rating. That said, the Toyota’s fuel tank is quite small at 13.2 gallons, and it struggled to deliver even 300 miles of range per fillup, thanks in part to its conservative onboard range estimator. (At one point we put in just shy of 11 gallons despite the gauge displaying the tank was nearly empty.) By comparison, a regular Corolla can deliver as much as 40 mpg on the highway and mid-30-mpg combined, though you can’t get one with all-wheel drive short of the newly announced GR Corolla performance model.
To us, all-wheel drive is the only valid reason to consider a Corolla Cross over a Corolla hatchback, but there’s no denying many customers with SUV fever would probably rather have the Corolla Cross regardless. Given its built-in appeal as a crossover, we’re left wondering why—in its adaptation of the Corolla into something taller and more expensive—Toyota chose to largely strip it of the new-generation car’s sparkle. Surely Corolla Cross buyers would appreciate more verve as opposed to a boring-to-drive, comfort-focused appliance, especially given how they’re paying several thousand bucks more for the SUV version. This particular XLE, for example, starts at $28,840 and was optioned to $32,170—deep into one-size-larger RAV4 territory and way beyond any other Corolla variant.
As it sits, the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross is little too much like a Corolla—just the wrong Corolla. It’s a maximal facsimile of Corollas past, a safe choice with a big-time name and little else, which isn’t enough to move the needle in its crowded, ultra-competitive segment.
As Some 2021 Ford Bronco V-6 Engines Fail, NHTSA Gets Involved
2023 Honda HR-V First Look: The Small SUV Is All Grown Up
Ford Trolls Tesla With F-150 Lightning Accessory (Even if CEO Says It’s Not Trolling)
2022 Mazda CX-5 Turbo First Test: Not Trying to Be Everything to Everybody
How New Apple CarPlay Will Revolutionize Your Car’s Dashboard
Source: Read Full Article