Imagine not needing to gas up your daily driver every week.
Not only will you be happy, but your wallet will be too. That's what I was thinking when Toyota Motor Philippines lent me the keys to the 2021 Corolla Cross 1.8 V Hybrid for a week. More often than not, I end up refueling my loaner vehicle for the week at least once. So I was surprised when this hybrid crossover still had more than half a tank left when the guys over at TMP came to pick it up. It’s just one of the many surprises Toyota’s newest model. It even has a bit more to offer than its sedan counterpart – the Corolla Altis Hybrid.
I’m sure the people reading this are wondering about its efficiency. Well, we’ll get to that later. Let's take a closer look at Toyota's latest crossover first.
While it does have the Corolla name, it isn’t merely an Altis turned crossover. It doesn’t look like Toyota's previous hybrid models either – the Prius and Prius C – which had their own distinct look.
Compared to the other two hybrid vehicles, the new Corolla Cross Hybrid blends in with traffic better thanks to its more traditional crossover styling. Some have even pointed out that it looks like a smaller RAV4 due to its shape.
Despite having the Corolla name, Toyota’s new crossover looks nothing like its best-selling model of all time. That's a good thing because who would want a sedan on stilts? Instead, it has its unique appeal with large headlights up front, a pair of slim taillights at the rear, and lots of black cladding all around for a more rugged look. As this is the hybrid variant, Toyota made it stand out a bit more by painting a part of the headlight blue together with hybrid badging on the fenders. Like all hybrid-powered Toyota models, the blue halos on the emblem are here too.
While the exterior of the Cross is unlike the Corolla Altis, it's not the same story inside. From the dashboard, screens, and air-conditioning controls, it's a lot like its four-door counterpart. Interestingly though, this model comes with a foot brake instead of an electronic parking brake like its sedan sibling. It also doesn’t have an automatic brake hold feature that would be perfect for traffic. Nonetheless, all the buttons, including Toyota Safety Sense features, can be found neatly across the steering wheel, dash, and center console.
The all-black interior adds a bit of class, with the black pillars and headliner giving the Corolla Cross a more upscale look. The same can’t be said about some materials, though. The dashboard has a lot of hard plastic, but at least it's mixed with soft-touch materials. While the stitching found on the door cards are real, the same can’t be said for that on the dashboard. Given the already upscale black look, It would be even better if it had richer-feeling materials too. However, both front and rear seats looked and felt great. More importantly, it keeps your butt happy even in standstill traffic.
It’s quite hard to tell from photos, but there is a lot of headroom inside the cabin. However, it does feel a bit cramped sitting in the second row with not a lot of legroom to go about. Even if the driver and front passenger move the seat a bit forward, it is a bit of a squeeze. This mainly due to the batteries being located underneath the seats hence the raised floor in the second row. It also leads to the second-row seats unable to fold flat. Nonetheless, the trunk still offers plenty of cargo space even with the second row up since there are no third-row seats and mechanisms in the way. Not like third-row seats would fit anyway.
Undoubtedly, my favorite feature inside the Corolla Cross Hybrid is the infotainment system. Toyota finally ditched the archaic 2-DIN system in the old T-Link system used on the 2020 Corolla Altis Hybrid we reviewed. Instead, they fitted a modern 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that looks exactly like what you would find standard in other countries.
Aside from having Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the system also displays information about the hybrid system. You can even compare average fuel consumption from the previous days.
The real reason why someone would buy the Corolla Cross Hybrid, however, would be its powertrain. Under the hood, it uses a 1.8-liter engine paired with an electric motor system that produces a combined output of 122 PS. The only transmission option is a CVT. Some might say the figures are low, but from my experience, it is more than enough for the city and even the expressways.
Now, the part everyone has been waiting for – fuel-efficiency. During my time with the Cross Hybrid, I managed to average around 15.1 km/L in an urban environment with medium to heavy traffic averaging 19 km/h. To give readers some reference, my usual travel time from the house and office often takes around 15 to 20 mins. However, I drove the Corolla Cross Hybrid a lot further. Instead of quick 5 kilometer trips every day, I was doing about 30 to 40 kilometers a day. I even got stuck on EDSA for over an hour, crawling at an average of 1 to 2 km/h…twice.
If I were, to be honest, the figures are not the best when compared to the Corolla Altis Hybrid. Still, 15.1 kilometers per liter around the city beats some diesel crossovers and SUVs. Unfortunately, due to quarantine restrictions, I didn’t get to drive it out on the highway as much as I would have wanted. I assume I could have easily doubled that number going on a quick day trip to Clark or Tagaytay.
For comparison, our editor tested it out too and was able to get 21.1 km/L in lighter traffic and a higher average speed.
Compared to driving a conventional vehicle with an internal combustion engine, the Corolla Cross Hybrid feels, well, very normal. To be frank, it feels as if you were driving any other compact crossover. Well, that is apart from starting up the car. There is no sound when you start it which either amuses or surprises your passengers. It's not library quiet though. From time to time you can hear the generator recharging the batteries, and it is quite loud.
While it does drive like a conventional crossover, the challenge with the Cross Hybrid is driving efficiently. The digital cluster takes a bit of time to adjust to, but it does "coach" you to drive efficiently. Just drive within the green zone, and you’re bound to get some high numbers. Seems easy, right? Well, not really. It takes a bit of practice to keep a steady foot and the needle in the green zone. The moment you hit the gas a bit too aggressively, the internal combustion engine will immediately spring to life.
Just like the sedan, the Cross Hybrid also comes with Toyota Safety Sense. I was allowed to experience it in full at one of TMP’s demonstration events last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try out the full suite of driving tech given the slow speed of the Metro Manila traffic. However, the system did save me from getting too close to other cars in gridlock.
As the newest member of TMP’s lineup, the Corolla Cross still has a lot to prove. But, I am starting to see more of them on the road, well, the non-hybrid variant at least. At PhP 1,650,000, (PhP 1,665,000 for White Pearl), the 2021 Corolla Cross 1.8 V Hybrid is a bit pricey for a crossover of its size especially compared to the non-hybrid 1.8 G CVT variant which costs PhP 350,000 less.
It does make sense when compared to its four-door sibling, the Corolla Altis Hybrid. The Cross Hybrid-only costs PhP 70,000 more. if you won’t have to pay that much more to go from a sedan to a crossover while retaining the same hybrid powertrain.
For that same price, however, customers can easily buy a pick-up, larger crossovers, or entry-level mid-size SUVs. Just comparing it to TMP's lineup, the Cross Hybrid is even more expensive than the Hilux Conquest (non-4x4) and cost as much as the Innova 2.8 V. For a little bit more, you can even get yourself a Fortuner. The thing is, do you always use seven seats or haul heavy equipment regularly? If not, then a crossover should be just fine for you.
If you don’t need the larger vehicle or 7-seats, why not give the Corolla Cross Hybrid a chance. It will certainly save you on trips to the gas station and because it's a crossover, it's still a practical proposition. Better yet, why not take one for a test-drive at dealerships across the country. If the price really doesn't still doesn't sit well with you, there's always the non-hybrid version with fewer goodies for around PhP 350,000 less.