The subcompact crossover segment is one of the most competitive and most important markets for automakers today. Almost every manufacturer has a model in the category. The Geely Coolray, Honda HR-V, Kia Stonic, MG ZS, Ford Territory, Volkswagen T-Cross, and the Mazda CX-3 are just some of the models you can choose from.

Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) entered that segment a bit late with the Corolla Cross. The model was only launched in August 2020. However, they did make up for it by being the first to offer a hybrid subcompact crossover. I already tested the Corolla Cross Hybrid last year, and I was genuinely impressed by what it had to offer. While it is pricier than all other models, it did make up for the price in fuel efficiency.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

But what about the entry-level Corolla Cross 1.8 G? It’s cheaper than the 1.8 V Hybrid, but it does lose the fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain along with several features. Also, how does it compare against other models in the segment? To find out, I borrowed the keys from TMP.

In terms of design, the crossover didn’t really change much on the outside despite being the entry-variant, and it still looks like a smaller RAV4. The body features the same stylish design with large headlights that flank a large mesh grille. There are slim LED taillights and a body-color skid plate on the rear bumper. Perhaps the biggest difference between this and the Cross Hybrid would be the halogen projector headlights and the smaller 17-inch wheels. There’s a noticeable lack of chrome as well. Despite that, it’s still a good-looking crossover. 

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

Step inside, and it’s the same as what you would find on the Corolla Altis sedan. From the dashboard to the center console, it’s all the same. Instead of a parking brake, however, the Cross uses a foot parking brake mechanism. No leather seats here, only cloth upholstery. I’m glad that Toyota decided to retain the all-black headliner and sidings, though. It makes the cabin feel more premium compared to ones that have a gray finish.

Sit in the driver’s seat, and there’s a simple analog cluster with a small multi-info display in front of you. The air-conditioning system is still automatic, although it's single-zone only. Despite not having dual-zone control, it was able to deliver cold air into the cabin. Even on a hot day, keeping the temperature at 24 degrees Celsius along with the lowest fan speed is more than enough. In the second row, passengers can sit comfortably with ample legroom.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

Even with those features the Corolla Cross feels lacking, especially if you’ve seen or ridden in the Hybrid. I did set my expectations, especially with the big price gap. However, it’s easy to see where Toyota did some cost-cutting. For starters, the head unit is the older 2-DIN system that still uses the T-Link system, which doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The speakers are great with clear sounds, but the head unit did let me down in terms of connectivity. Hopefully, Toyota decides to swap over the one in the Hybrid or at least the one in the Vios, which does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in the future.

Then there’s the huge blank panel on the center console. On the Hybrid, it was mostly blank too. But at least it had a USB port. Here’s it’s just a blank panel that makes the crossover look bare. Turning it into a din pocket would have cleaned it up and offered more storage for the driver and passenger. Speaking of USB ports, there’s only one, and it’s the one that’s integrated with the head unit.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

If you noticed the steering wheel a while ago, you’ll see that it has a big blank panel on the right side. On the Hybrid that’s where the cruise control function is. We’re not sure why Toyota decided to remove cruise control on the base model considering most of its competitors have it as standard already.

While the base Corolla Cross may lack features, I’m glad Toyota didn’t scrimp in terms of safety. It still comes with seven airbags as standard – two front, two sides, two curtains, and even a knee airbag (driver) for added protection in the event of a crash. There’s no Toyota Safety Sense, but that’s to be expected given the vehicle’s price point. It also comes with a reverse camera and backup sensors to make parking in tight spaces easier.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

Open the trunk, and there’s a very spacious cargo area for those that need to carry stuff around. If you need more space, fold down the second row. With the second row down, it’s easy to see Toyota engineered the crossover as a hybrid. Even without the hybrid system, the second-row seats don’t fold flat and that’s because of the raised section where the battery would be located. Interestingly, this model comes with a full-size spare instead of a space saver; a neat feature not often offered today.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

Aside from the big changes inside, the other major difference can be found under the hood. The non-hybrid Corolla Cross uses a 1.8-liter inline-four which has 140 PS with172 Nm torque and sends power to the front wheels via a CVT. It’s the same one used in the Corolla Altis sedan, and it’s more than enough for city use in the Corolla Cross.

Even without the hybrid system, I found the 1.8-liter mill in the Corolla Cross to be fuel-efficient. During my time with the car, I managed to average around 9.5 km/L in the city with an average speed of around 15 km/h. It’s great considering I wasn’t gentle on the gas pedal. On the highway, it was playing around 14km/L to 14.5 km/L at an average speed of 80 km/h.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

One aspect where I found the Corolla Cross really excels is the everyday drivability. It’s not the most exciting car to drive, but the steering wheel is light; for drivers, that’s a very big bonus. It’s easy to see out of the vehicle with the large windows, including rear visibility. You won’t have to depend on the reverse camera or the sensors to help back up. Because of its compact dimensions, it’s easy to squeeze through narrow streets and park in tight spaces. Driving at night, the halogen headlights are bright. You don’t even have to switch it on because of the automatic headlight function.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

Like the steering, the acceleration isn’t exciting and won’t push you back in your seats when you put your foot down, but it does have a good throttle response. There are no drive modes to improve acceleration either. But do remember, it is a crossover with a 1.8-liter mill, not a Gazoo Racing sports car. The brakes are very good too and can stop the crossover without any issue. The ride is comfortable, but it does feel a bit bumpier when I sat in the second row. Still, it’s a great car to use on an everyday basis, and for some, that’s an important factor.

So the Corolla Cross 1.8 G is a great everyday car that’s a bit lacking in features. But there is one other issue, and it’s no longer about the vehicle. It’s the price. Compared to other models in the segment, it’s on the pricey side at PHP 1,285,000 (PHP 1,300,000 for Pearl White). Considering the features it lacks against models like the Geely Coolray and the Ford Territory, add a bit more, and you can already get the top-spec variants of other crossovers in the segment.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

For some, especially those that don’t care much about features and tech, the Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G is more than enough for everyday use. I can’t blame them, it really excels in that aspect. It has a big trunk, spacious interior, comfy ride, and a fuel-efficient engine. It’s also a Toyota, which most associate with legendary reliability.

But with the other choices available on the market, the Corolla Cross could have been more competitive if Toyota only added more features. One option I could think Toyota could do to capture more market share is to offer another trim to slot between the 1.8 G and the 1.8 V Hybrid.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 G CVT image

Imagine a Corolla Cross without the hybrid system but with most of the features available like the nicer 8-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather seats, and possibly even Toyota Safety Sense. It would bump the price a bit, but at least it comes with tech and features that will allow it to compete better against other models in the category.

If you’re curious about the Corolla Cross 1.8 G, and whether it’s bare or not, why not visit a Toyota dealership and try one out for yourself. While there, check out the 1.8 V Hybrid too, and compare the differences between the two models. 

SPEC SHEET
  • Make:Toyota
  • Model:Corolla Cross 1.8 G
  • Engine:1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve Inline-4, Dual VVT-i
  • Max Power:140 PS @ 6400 rpm
  • Max Torque:172 Nm @ 4000 rpm
  • Transmission:CVT
  • Price as Tested:₱ 1,285,000
RATINGS

7/10

Performance

8/10

Design

7/10

Handling

8/10

Comfort

5/10

Value

7/10

Overall