August 20, 2020 By Carl S. Cunanan Photos by Nicolas Calanoc

First Drive: 2020 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

When Flagships Aren’t Always That Large

The argument was put forward, as we were driving the 2020 Toyota Corolla Cross, that this should be considered their flagship model by one of our editors, Nics. While it doesn’t necessarily follow the strict definition of a flagship being the ship in a fleet that carries the commanding admiral, the Corolla Cross can certainly be looked upon as the vehicle that carries Toyota into the future. And for potentially more people.

Driving up to meet us, the Corolla Cross was certainly eye-catching. We try to avoid making comments from photos alone, because modern shapes and lines and curves often don’t do as well in photos as they do in person. The little new compact SUV (Toyota says “Corolla Meets SUV”) is an excellent example of getting pretty much everything right. Just like the larger RAV 4, the looks are sleek and pleasing. You see similarities in details such as the way the rear quarter is shaped, but the Corolla Cross seems a little more tight and energetic. There are swells in the haunches that are obvious looking from the front, but from the sides you can’t really tell what creates the look. It’s just there. I personally like the front three-quarters angle the most, then the straight-on side view. From that side view, you may actually see the Corolla “cross” in the way the lines of the haunches are shaped. That side-view shape is kind of like a “hidden Mickey” you will see in some surprising places around the car. And while some may say that front grill is a bit large (a rather unfortunate trend in many cars nowadays) it is almost a non-issue in person. Everything seems rather balanced.

The Corolla Cross is “Corolla Meets SUV” but that isn’t what you would say when you see it drive up. Visually it has its own identity entirely, at least externally. The A-pillars are tighter, for example, but really you would be hard-pressed to link the two vehicles when standing outside.

Getting inside though is another story. The interior will feel very familiar. The shapes, the sweeps, the feel, the positioning of the center digital screen will all put you at home, but will also seem a bit…better. The driver’s instrument panel is a digital/analog combination, but one that is very well executed and quite matching in color. Unless you choose sport mode, in which case the central screen (driver instrumentation, not center console) gets a red highlight treatment while the analog gauges that flank it stay blue.

The center console screen is a permanent fixture, and certainly gets attention when compared to some more modern designs that integrate the screen quite well. While I personally wish more screens were more fluidly integrated into car designs (my current favorite is in the new BMW 1) I do understand that you couldn’t easily integrate a screen this large into anything easily. And it is a great screen. With, in the hybrid, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that both worked wired and seamlessly. We found the “find food” virtual button particularly useful, or at least hopeful. Nice to see these systems now coming into cars so fully integrated and usable. And yes, I am slowly converting into someone who appreciates these systems more. So yes, the center screen is large and unmoving, but it does keep the information high and within easy driver view.

And how does it drive? Basically, probably the best shot at getting people into Hybrids yet. While the Corolla as a sedan Hybrid is familiar, intelligent, sensible, the Corolla Cross as a hybrid is fun, exciting. It doesn’t scream performance, but it isn’t a slouch by any means. It uses a 1.8 liter DOHV 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine combined with a CVT transmission. A CVT that, by the way, is done right. Others should take note. The electric motor generator comes in smoothly with its max 72 PS. The car seems to be able to spend forever sitting with the air-conditioning on without having to revert to internal combustion. Heading out from start is smooth and all-electric, and this car seems to be far more skewed to being more electric more of the time than earlier hybrids which is nice.  You can choose EV Mode, which is allowed if the battery is at a particular minimum level, but don’t expect neck-snapping acceleration from all-electric sportscars. When you hit the throttle hard, the fuel engine comes in to make the requested power come in.

What impressed us a lot was actually how well sorted the suspension was. The Corolla Cross takes full advantage of the TNGA platform (in particular GA-C). This allows the efficiencies of the same base but still lets engineers fine-tune the car the way they want to. In this case they chose a new torsion-beam rear that allowed for a more cushioned ride. This additional cushioning did not result in anything too soft. Sudden lane changes at speed had no wallowing or bouncing, rather the car settled quickly into wherever it should be (in terms of wight transfer) making everything stable. Even if we increased speed or jiggled the wheel as we went around wide corners, we induced nothing scary or unpredictable.

Oddly enough, tight corners were even better. We had to repeatedly accelerate hard, brake hard, turn hard then accelerate hard again in a corner that at first required a three-point turn. While this isn’t exactly what you would do on a regular basis, doing so does allow you to kind of separate the men from the boys in terms of handling. The Corolla Cross was surprisingly consistent through all this, so much so that we could fine-tune body position and swing with a good amount of joy. And energy. It’s always nice to hear someone say “well, you certainly looked like you were having fun” when you exit a car.

The Hybrid is meant to be the premium buy of the Cross family. Officially named the Corolla Cross 1.8 V HV, it is priced significantly higher than the all-fuel-engine 1.8G CVT. The Hybrid though comes with all the better tech. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bi-Beam LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, leather seats and so on. The digital/analog instrumentation is Hybrid-only, the gas is full analog. The gas also doesn’t get the 7 inch TFT screen or the dual-zone auto climate control. A key key point (yes we are emphasizing this) is that the hybrid gets a full suite of safety features including Pre-Collision System, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and more. Both cars though do come with ABS, Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control. And here is a very important spec. The combined max power output for the hybrid is 122PS, the Max output for the gas-only is 140PS. Toyota clearly believes that efficiency and smoothness of the drive are the main forces for the premium power systems at this level. This is good. Hybrids, done right, are a premium product.

Who is the new Corolla Cross Hybrid for? In terms of marketing, younger buyers, new buyers, starting families, entrepreneurs, so on. In reality though it is pretty much right-sized for almost anyone. It has nice leather but it isn’t plush. It’s comfortable and smooth but not soft and over-isolating. It handles nicely and consistently but isn’t a sportscar or dedicated sports SUV. For all that, well, you have Lexus.

In terms of buying new cars nowadays, there are many brands that are great to drive or own for a bit, but then you get hit with maintenance costs or problems or sadly the sheer inability of some brands to properly take care of their buyers. That’s why many people default to brands like, well, Toyota. Especially after buying their fun cars or their quirky cars, they want something that they feel they can live with for decades. Honestly, most companies aren’t building cars with that in mind anymore, and that is just a reality. Happily, Toyota still seems to believe in all the good old stuff while still, even though sometimes conservatively, pushing the right new ideas in the right way.

Check out our video review of the Toyota Corolla Cross: 

Specifications

Engine

Engine Inline-4
Location Front, Transverse
Displacement 1,798 cc
Cylinder Block Aluminum
Cylinder Head Aluminum, dohc 16V, 4 valves per cylinder, Chain drive with Dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-I), Atkinson Cycle, 600-volt electric motor
Fuel Injector Multi-Point Indirect Injection
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 120 bhp @ 5,200 rpm combined with EV
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 105 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm combined with EV
Drag Coefficient (cd) 0.32 cd
Transmission Electric Continuously Variable Transmission

Engine

Suspension System Front: MacPherson Strut, Rear: Torsion Beam
Brakes Front: 10.8” (274 mm) Ventilated Discs, Rear: 10.2” (259 mm) Solid Discs With ABS, EBD, Vehicle Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, Toyota Safety Sense
Wheels 17-inch Alloys
Tires 215/60 R17 Alloy

Weight and dimensions

Length 4,460 mm
Width 1,825 mm
Height 1,620 mm
Wheelbase (mm) 2,640 mm
Curb Weight 1,385 kg (3053 lbs.)

Performance

Top Speed 180 km/h (112 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 11.2 sec

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Capacity 50 liters (13.2 gallons)
Fuel Milage (km/l) 23.3 km/L Overall

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) PhP 1,650,000.00
C! Editors Rating 9.5/10
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