I’ve been waiting for Toyota to join the crossover battle since the entry-level segment exploded in the country. I expected them to because they’re one of those who made the segment back in the late 90s with the RAV4 (that’s now bigger and more expensive), and they’ve always dipped their toes in the hottest categories – midsize SUVs, pickups, entry level hatchback, subcompact sedans – which made them the top car brand in the country. I was wondering when they would make their move and it finally happened in August 2020 with the launch of the Toyota Corolla Cross.
It sits at the middle of the pack with a P1,285,000 price tag for this G-trim. It’s understandable given that Toyota has to protect the Vios as it rakes in a lot every year, even during this pandemic. The downside to that is it’s up against stiff competition in this price point from the likes of Chery Tiggo 7 Pro, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Tracker, and Ford Territory just to name a few. Can it survive this onslaught? Well, it didn’t come out unscathed, that’s for sure.
Design-wise, the Corolla Cross isn’t something I’d look at again after parking it. The front face looks like Bane with smaller eyes while the rear looks like an animated Batman trying to squint. But I appreciate the mix of body color panels on the front and rear bumpers, while the cladding on the sides don’t just follow the bottomline of the body. Still, I feel sorry that it has to look that way.
Inside is an interior that’s almost the same as the Altis, save for some accents here and there. It still has the microwave-looking touchscreen, while the Corolla Cross does away with the lines on the dash. What I also love about it is the linear shifter that for me, is much more beautiful than the gated shifter they used in the Vios or Rush. There are no toys at the back save for the center armrest and bottle holders on both doors.
Space is something Toyota emphasized with the Corolla Cross. It already has a generous room in front and at the back but they made efforts to make it seem like there’s more. The center console between the front passengers is as low as the lowest seat height setting so it doesn’t feel like a divider. The backseats are flanked by tall glass and a sizable quarter glass panel giving more light and lessening the cramped feeling.
As for leg and headroom, the backseats are already spacious enough for the average Filipino. For the legs, we could’ve gotten more given the Corolla Cross’s wheelbase but they opted to give that to the cargo. It’s the right decision too since it can easily fit all the belongings of all five passengers plus any common additional items they may have like ecobags filled with snacks or pasalubong.
Driving the Corolla Cross is very comfortable, save for some minor issues—biggest of which is the lack of an electronic parking brake with auto hold that its competitors have. In place of that is a bulky foot brake that’s not such a bad alternative, but my laziness is complicated. I’d rather move my right arm twice than be bothered to move my left leg for the foot brake. Then there’s the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which is easy to amend like what they did with the Vios, so no biggie. But what I’m really surprised about is that at this price point, there’s no basic cruise control for the Corolla Cross. I guess the budget for that went to the Push Start button.
If you can look past those, the Corolla Cross is a treat on the road. It’s a very smooth drive with a solid ride comfort thanks to the 17-inch wheels that have higher aspect ratio, resulting in better absorption of road impacts. Tight corners are also no problem as the steering wheel is at the sweet spot of having a nice weight and just light enough to lessen fatigue.
Passenger comfort is also stellar for the Corolla Cross. My mom, who’s already used to riding my test units, was particularly fond of this crossover’s height. She’s already a senior citizen so she’s not fond of sedans and hatchbacks anymore since it’s a bit of a struggle getting in and out, having to heave your way through. But the Corolla Cross allows her 5-flat frame to get in smoothly without having to bend so much, and also get off easily.
Back to the drive, the CVT is flawless especially for a crossover of this size. It’s also tuned well to match the 1.8L engine. It doesn’t struggle whenever you want to rev up and do some quick overtakes even on flyovers.
Speaking of the engine, some people might be put off seeing that the G variant has a 1.8L gasoline engine but I’m telling you, this is surprisingly fuel-efficient. It might be because it’s a Dual VVT-i or that the output of 138hp and 172Nm of pull is just enough to carry the whole body with ease. Either way, it managed to get 8 km/l in the city with traffic and 18.5 km/l on the highway. Could be more if I was more chill and didn’t do lots of overtakes, to be honest.
Aside from those, it doesn’t really have anything else in its sleeve. It’s feature-set is lackluster in its segment but Toyota gave it a great safety package: 7 airbags, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, Stability Control, Traction Control, Hill-Start Assist, ISOFIX tethers, rear camera and sensors. Basically, all you’ll need for a safe drive and just the right amount of aid for daily driving in and out of the city. It’s just sad that there’s no cruise control but oh well, that’s life.
The Toyota Corolla Cross is not a lot of things. It’s not techie, sporty, nor even eye-catching and yet, I kept coming back to it. I drove lots of times without a definite purpose just because I want to experience it more. As the mileage racked up, I realized why I wanted it – it felt natural.
The Corolla Cross stays in the background when you’re driving. Its lack of features became an advantage because there’s no information overload from a digital gauge cluster, no plethora of buttons, and none of those modern features that keep beeping when you’re stuck in traffic. What’s more, it has the right set of safety features to keep my mind at ease, the perfect driving position is easy to find, and you can be a bit throttle happy without worrying of an immediate trip to the gas station.
For P1,285,000, it’s not the entry-level crossover I was hoping for from Toyota, but I don’t mind anymore. They’ve perfected the fundamentals for a city dweller in this G-variant and I’d take that over modern tech with bad execution. I could pull the trigger for this if only I don’t have expensive hobbies that drain my wallet. That’s how much I like it.