The Toyota Corolla Cross is the SUV for people who choose the "no spice" option when ordering Indian. It's a supremely inoffensive conveyance focused on value and familiarity over standing out. That's okay, but its internal-combustion powertrain is as weak as pre-spinach Popeye, and its fuel economy doesn't tell such a happy tale either. That's where the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid comes in, adding a trio of electric motors for some much-needed horsepower and netting better fuel economy too.
Instead of making do with the 169 horsepower of the Corolla Cross, the Hybrid bumps that figure to 196 ponies. As in the all-wheel-drive 2023 Toyota Prius, a 150-hp Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter inline-four pairs with three electric motors: two up front that combine for 111 horsepower and a 40-hp motor on the rear axle that enables standard all-wheel drive. There's a small lithium-ion battery under the rear seats, and front-axle torque arrives via a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Even with its newfound power, the Corolla Cross Hybrid promises far better fuel economy than the nonhybrid model. Toyota estimates 45 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 42 mpg combined, versus 29, 32, and 30 mpg (respectively) for an all-wheel-drive Corolla Cross. Acceleration is improved too; Toyota's estimate of 8.0 seconds to 60 mph would slice more than a second from our test results with a nonhybrid variant.
But you don't need a Racelogic VBox to know the Corolla Cross Hybrid is the quicker horse in the barn. A sensitive throttle and instant electric torque combine for more off-the-line snappiness than before, and the hybrid doesn't give up the ghost on inclines like the gas version does. The new model is far more acceptable for joining highway traffic, although as we've seen in many hybrids, performance suffers with a depleted battery.
Since the hybrid has more vim than any other Corolla Cross variant, Toyota saw fit to shove in a bunch of sporty elements into the hybrid—and it's available only in the jauntier S, SE, and XSE trims, forgoing the more pedestrian LE and XLE. This includes a standard "sport-tuned" suspension, which offers a slightly flintier ride than what we've experienced on the Corolla Cross's non-S trims. Thankfully, it's not too sharp; aiming for mass appeal keeps things relatively soft, and the steering is overboosted to a fare-thee-well.
The cabin is nearly the same as in the standard Corolla Cross and barely different from that of the Corolla. There's a lot of unused space atop the dashboard, but otherwise, it's a cozy interior with more than enough hidy-holes to store whatever tchotchkes fall out of your pockets. Visibility is solid on all sides. The S and SE offer some comfortable fabric seats that sadly lack heat. If you want seat warmers, you'll have to step all the way up to the XSE, which adds frippery such as LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a power driver's seat.
Toyota also gave the 2023 Corolla Cross Hybrid its latest and greatest infotainment system, which is good, because the old Entune setup left much to be desired. Toyota Audio Multimedia is a snappier, snazzier piece of software that includes standard wireless phone mirroring, over-the-air updates, and—with a subscription—cloud-based navigation. It resides within an 8.0-inch touchscreen on all three models.
Toyota's driver-assist systems are combined under the banner of Toyota Safety Sense 3.0. This standard bit of kit includes automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beams, lane-departure warning, and traffic-sign recognition. Blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-traffic alert are added to the mix on SE and XSE grades.
While the Corolla Cross Hybrid is more expensive than its gas counterparts, it's still a few thousand below similarly equipped RAV4 Hybrid models. The base S Hybrid sneaks in below the 30-grand mark (at $29,305). Bumping up to the better-equipped SE raises the window sticker to $30,625, while the XSE tops out at $32,400.
Expect the hybrid to make its way to dealerships this summer. Given that most SUVs this small don't offer hybrid variants, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid could make a sizable splash with buyers who want the same thrifty experience as a Corolla Hybrid but in a taller package.
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base (S): $29,305; SE: $30,625; XSE: $32,400
DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4, 150 hp, 139 lb-ft + AC motors, 111 and 40 hp, 152 and 62 lb-ft (combined output: 196 hp; 0.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack)
Transmissions, F/R: continuously variable automatic/direct-drive
Wheelbase: 103.9 in
Length: 176.8 in
Width: 71.9 in
Height: 64.8 in
Cargo Volume, behind F/R: 70/22 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3400–3450 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 7.5 sec
1/4-Mile: 15.9 sec
Top Speed: 115 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (MFR’S EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 42/45/38 mpg
Cars are Andrew Krok’s jam, along with boysenberry. After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009, Andrew cut his teeth writing freelance magazine features, and now he has a decade of full-time review experience under his belt. A Chicagoan by birth, he has been a Detroit resident since 2015. Maybe one day he’ll do something about that half-finished engineering degree.