The Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE AWD Gets Some Much-Needed Pep In Its Step

Discover why the 2024 Toyota Corolla Cross XSE AWD stands out as a dependable and efficient crossover. Explore its hybrid drivetrain, practicality, and more.

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Adam Allen Writer -

Words by: Adam Allen

The Toyota Corolla is, at times, the butt of many an unfair jab. Some snide remarks we’ve overheard:

“Toyota Corolla: The Official Car of Beige.”

“Toyota Corolla: The official car of all ride sharing apps.”

“Melba toast is more exciting than my neighbour’s Corolla.”

While these quips are not constructive and might even be a bit hurtful, there are some grains of truth to them which we’ll explain below. If anyone reading is eagerly waiting to deliver their own Corolla barb, perhaps we should remind them that there are very few cars out there that are as dependable as the tides as Toyota’s trusty nameplate. We would also like to point out that there are very few cars that have sold over 50,000,000 units since their debut. Wait- zero cars have performed such a sales feat, although the now defunct VW Beetle comes close. Moreover, it is our judicial duty to recap that when it comes to cars, there are some people who simply don’t want something flashy, uncomfortable, or complicated. For those and millions of other drivers, the Corolla has always been a dependable option and while it might not send pulses racing (OK, the GR Corolla we flogged last summer is definitely an exception) it simply gets the job done while not asking for much in return, except for maybe a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T once in while.

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Judging the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE AWD

Does the world need another Corolla variant? Toyota thought so and apparently so did a slew of buyers who wanted a Corolla but who couldn’t make the dollars and cents work to step up to the RAV4 they’d be eyeing. With the CH-R enjoying retirement and the Prius enjoying the deserved accolades on its latest generation, Toyota took a little from Column A, a little from Column B and placed it all on the Corolla platform and running gear. The latter is particularly noteworthy, because when the Corolla Cross made its debut a couple of years ago it came solely powered by a wheezy 1.8 litre inline four-cylinder engine. While adequate in most situations, it never liked to get the spurs from its driver and delivered tepid responses when asked to make a pass or to merge on the highway. The Prius gracefully donated one of its hybrid drivetrain to the proceedings, which not only gives the Corolla Cross a more agreeable turn of speed, but makes it even more fuel efficient- plus, with the addition of an electric motor on the rear axle, it now also boasts AWD. So, it’s safe to say that our sporty XSE-trimmed tester fixed many of the shortcomings of the past. Below, we make known our findings where the Corolla Cross is concerned so that you can make an informed verdict on your own.

The Highs

It’s been said that a car is an extension of its driver, acting as a de facto roadgoing avatar. If that’s the case, the Corolla Cross is the roadgoing equivalent to pressed chinos, a carefully starched button up shirt and sparkling clean brown Rockport shoes; in other words, it’s as sensible as a bowl of Bran Flakes for breakfast (Except that isn’t the case entirely as our tester was furnished in zesty XSE trim, so perhaps that button up shirt might feature an edgy pattern or maybe the Rockports have a subtle pop of colour, but we digress.)Why is that an asset to the C.C., you may rightfully ask? Here’s our answer: for the week we spent driving it, we became better citizens of humanity. Speed limits were observed fastidiously, turn signals were never forgotten and our fellow motorists were warmly thanked at every opportunity for their kindness. Perhaps our newfound sensibilities were spurred on by the excellent efficiency of the Corolla Cross on display thanks to its hybrid drivetrain borrowed from the Prius. Or maybe it was the newfound turn of speed since the addition of electric motors which make the Cross a fleeter conveyance than the ones without. Over the week spent driving the Corolla Cross, we observed a praiseworthy 6.9L/100km which we achieved by acting not so sensibly with the throttle- we reckon that figure would come down appreciably if we had been more diligent acting as fuel misers. Also, the act of merging and passing was downright pleasant, what with the extra grunt on tap thanks to the stouter drivetrain.

We have always expressed mild contempt towards hybrids because they don’t jive with our enthusiast leanings from a technical and philosophical standpoint. Toyota’s been in the hybrid game for a long time now, and their mastery of the technology makes it hard to hate. They’ve tuned the CVT as best they can to not moo and drone away, the brake pedal doesn’t exhibit the wonky feel you’d expect of stoppers tasked with regeneration and the complex dance between electric motors and gasoline engine is as seamless as they come. There are even paddle shifters you can play around with, although after a few tries we just left the transmission to do its own thing.

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The Lows

We can’t bemoan the CVT gearbox and the efforts Toyota made to make it behave like a conventional automatic, but there were times when the engine didn’t sound thrilled to be asked to spin near its redline for lengthy periods of time like shooting a gap in traffic so we won’t. Yet a regular ol’ slushbox would still be our choice, or even less likely, a manual gearbox might be added to the equation. It’s a longshot, but you can get other Corollas with the DIY transmission, so maybe that’s not such a pipe dream after all.

We noticed that the rear cargo area isn’t as commodious as the Corolla Cross’s shape might suggest- and those seated in the back will also chime in that a little more leg and headroom would be nice, too. The seats will fold down to accept larger items, but a Honda Civic hatchback is a better bet to swallow the goods from your recent trip to Costco.

Our last complaint is tougher to quantify, but we wish the Corolla Cross had a little more personality, just a wee bit of extra pizzaz- this has long been a complaint levied at the Corolla lineup in general. There’s two ways to look at this: one is that the Cross’s competitors are similar yet offer a higher fun-to-drive quotient and so the C.C. should be able to follow suit. On the other hand, when one decides to purchase a Corolla of any kind (again, save for the GR model) fun-to-drive isn’t topping the must-have list and that there’s more captivation at the promise of years of trouble-free motoring- what you see is what you get. Those kinds of buyers, both returning and those new to the Corolla will not be disappointed. While embracing our newfound sensibility, it served as a good reminder as towhere those folks are coming from when shopping for a vehicle.

The Verdict

There is not going to be a game changing judgment here because just like the Corolla Cross, our verdict will have no surprises. What you get when you buy a Cross or any Corolla for that matter- predictability, safety, durability and comfort are all model specific values that remain intact. It’s just that with the Cross model, you get more ground clearance and a car that straddles the classification of economy sedan and compact crossover. The Corolla might be accused of being boring or the Official Car of Beige, but for some folks that will be enough to seal the deal- and you can bet that’s a sensible decision that even we can appreciate.

We should take a moment to point out that Toyota was right, and we’re referring to their decision to pump the brakes on the runaway planning so many other manufacturers have chosen towards their adoption and production of electric cars. Many thought that was a crushing mistake several months ago, but a quick glance at recent EV sales figures these days shows that Toyota’s decision to not go all in on EVs was a good one. Their hybrid and PHEV models will be around for a while longer until the infrastructure needed to make an EV purchase a viable one gets built. It’s proof that their choice to methodically stay the course was, well, a sensible one.

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2024 Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE AWD - Specifications

  • Price as tested: $39,549
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.0L Atkinson-Cycle inline-four with 3 AC motors
  • Total System Horsepower: 196 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Total System Torque (lbs-ft.): N/A
  • Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Curb weight: 1,530 kg (3,373 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 6.9L/100km (34 mpg)