2023 Corolla Cross Review by Truecar.com
2023 Corolla Cross Review
by Kelly Hellwig
The Toyota Corolla Cross takes all the best aspects of the long-running Corolla sedan and packages them into an attractive compact SUV body. The result is an affordable utility vehicle that delivers plenty of practicality along with a comfortable ride and a comprehensive set of standard safety features. Positioned below the popular RAV4 SUV, the Corolla Cross is slightly smaller in most dimensions. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive offered as an option. A four-cylinder engine pairs with a continuously variable automatic transmission to deliver good mileage, but acceleration is sluggish. New for 2023 is the option of a hybrid drivetrain that boosts efficiency even further. All versions of the Corolla Cross have a well laid out cabin that accommodates taller drivers. Rear seat passenger space is tight, but the cargo area is spacious and easily accessible. Base model options are limited, but the higher trims offer features such as heated seats, a power-operated liftgate, and a premium audio system.
The Honda HR-V has slightly more responsive handling, but no hybrid option. The Hyundai Kona has a nicer interior and a more powerful engine option. The Nissan Kicks has similar technology options, but its performance is less impressive.
A new hybrid option makes this year’s Toyota Corolla Cross even more attractive for buyers looking for a practical and efficient compact SUV. Tight rear seats and modest acceleration are its biggest drawbacks, but neither is unusual for the segment.
What’s New for 2023
The big news for 2023 is the addition of a hybrid drivetrain, which improves efficiency. The all-wheel-drive Corolla Cross Hybrid is available in five trim levels, including the range-topping XSE. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now wireless connections.
Trims and Pricing
The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross is available in three trim levels: L, LE, and XLE. The Corolla Cross Hybrid comes in five trim levels: S, LE, SE, XLE, and XSE. Front-wheel drive is standard on all gas models; all-wheel drive is optional for $1,300. All hybrid models have all-wheel drive. Pricing for the hybrid models has not yet been released.
We recommend the midrange LE gas model for most buyers. We’ll explain why.
The entry-level L model starts at $24,395 (including a $1,335 destination fee). Standard features include a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, continuously variable automatic transmission, 17-inch wheels, a 4.2-inch instrument display, a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two front USB ports, fabric seats, a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, road sign assist, and full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control.
This is the least expensive version of the Corolla Cross Hybrid. It features sportier styling with dark exterior trim and distinctive wheels, but is otherwise equipped similar to the L trim.
The LE starts at $26,725 and comes with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, a wireless charging pad, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, one front and two rear USB ports, and heated power side mirrors. Options include a nine-speaker JBL audio system, moonroof, and a tonneau cover.
This is our preferred trim level as it offers valuable upgrades such as the larger touchscreen, blind-spot warning, and automatic climate control for a modest price increase.
The LE Hybrid has the same features as the standard LE in addition to its hybrid drive system and standard all-wheel drive.
This trim is equipped similar to the LE model, but adds dark exterior accents and special wheels.
Priced at $28,500, the XLE model comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch instrument display, synthetic leather seats, heated front seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, rear cross-traffic braking, front and rear parking assist with automatic braking, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather shift knob, and a tonneau cover. Options include adaptive front lighting with auto-leveling and a power rear liftgate.
The XLE Hybrid features the same amenities as the standard XLE along with its hybrid drive system and standard all-wheel drive.
This trim is equipped similar to the XLE model, but adds dark exterior accents and distinctive wheels.
Engine and Performance
The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross is powered by a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. That’s not much horsepower, but this is a compact crossover, not a huge SUV. Acceleration is adequate in most situations, but it can feel sluggish. We drove our Corolla Cross XLE test vehicle from Idaho to Texas, a 1,500-mile trip, skirting the highest-elevation Rocky Mountains in favor of the 6,000-foot elevation foothill freeways. Our SUV was fully loaded with the contents of a college dorm room, plus a front passenger. Passing slower vehicles took some forethought, but we never felt seriously outmatched by other compact crossovers. And much like the Corolla sedan that it’s based on, the Corolla Cross has a comfortable ride that smoothes out rough roads yet doesn’t feel overly soft. It’s far from sporty, but the steering is precise, and the brakes are strong, so it always feels plenty capable.
Driving impressions for the 194-hp Corolla Cross Hybrid will be added to this review later.
Compared to the Corolla Cross, the Hyundai Kona is slower with its base engine but quicker with the optional turbocharged engine. The Nissan Kicks only has one engine, and it’s less powerful, making it less fun to drive.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross will return 31 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive. Fuel economy dips to 29/32 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive. The Corolla Cross hybrid has not been rated by the EPA.
Our front-wheel-drive Corolla Cross test car averaged 29.1 mpg during a long road trip that included significant elevation changes. Our car was also fully packed with moving boxes that added more weight than most drivers would transport during regular use.
The similarly sized Honda HR-V is rated at 28/34 mpg city/highway, while the Nissan Kicks is more fuel-efficient, earning ratings of 31/36 mpg.
The Toyota Corolla Cross seats five passengers, with front seats that are supportive and well-suited to long trips. All controls are in easy reach, and the door-mounted and center console armrests and 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support help reduce upper body fatigue. The rear seats can accommodate three in a pinch, but two fit more comfortably as legroom is tight. The Corolla Cross doesn’t feature genuine leather seat coverings and wood trim, but its quality fabrics look and feel better than its price suggests. The XLE’s synthetic leather seats and brushed metal trim add visual appeal. The 60/40-split folding rear seats provide adequate cargo space. Capacity measures 26.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and a low load floor and sizable rear opening make it easy to stow oversized items. Front-wheel-drive models have 66.8 cubic feet behind the front seats, and all-wheel-drive variants provide 65.5 cubic feet. We packed four medium and four small moving boxes into our front-wheel-drive test car, keeping our load below the window line to ensure maximum rearward visibility during our road trip. Adding to its versatility is the Corolla Cross’ ability to tow up to 1,500 pounds.
The Kia Seltos has a more upscale interior vibe with better rear seats, higher quality materials, and more cargo room. The Nissan Kicks has a less polished interior and slightly less cargo room behind the rear seats.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The entry-level 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross includes a 7-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and two front USB ports. All other trims upgrade to an 8-inch touchscreen, a wireless charging pad, one front USB port, and two rear USB ports. A nine-speaker JBL audio system with subwoofer is optional on the top trims. The system is easy to use, with tuning and volume knobs as well as a row of buttons below the center-mounted touchscreen. Shiny black plastic trim surrounds the setup and is prone to showing fingerprints.
The Kia Seltos has the option of an even larger touchscreen, as well as an upgraded audio system. The Nissan Kicks also offers upgraded audio, but its standard setup is less impressive.
The Toyota Corolla Cross has not yet been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2022 model a Good rating, the highest possible, along with its Top Safety Pick+ designation.
Standard safety features include a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, road sign assist, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beams. Optional features include a blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, rear cross-traffic braking, and front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.
Toyota Corolla Cross vs. the Competition
The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross is part of the popular and crowded subcompact crossover segment. It stands out for its low pricing, optional all-wheel drive, hybrid versions, and standard technology features. The Honda HR-V is its most direct and most modern competitor, having been completely redesigned for 2023. Another notable competitor, the Kia Seltos, offers a nicer interior, an optional turbocharged engine, and a great infotainment system. There’s also the Nissan Kicks, which has lackluster performance, but a solid list of standard safety features and higher fuel economy ratings than the non-hybrid Corolla Cross models.