2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid review by Ben Lewis

It’s interesting to see how Hybrids have changed. Previously it was a way to get great fuel economy, but you suffered along, with less performance and refinement.

But from the lowliest econocar to expensive European plug-in models like the Volvo S60 Recharge we recently drove, Hybrids are now the hot setup, giving more power, better fuel economy, great handling and smart value.

And here’s a perfect example – the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Is this the one to buy? Let’s take a look!

Sporty SAV

On the outside, the Hybrid takes a definite step up from the standard Corolla Cross. The transformation starts at the front with a unique front end featuring a bold, blacked-out Toyota logo that sits proudly between a slender upper grille opening. Giving some added menace is a large, black-mesh lower honeycomb grille. On XSE models like our tester,  you get slender LED headlights and lower fogs that really pop.

The profile is largely unchanged,  with bulgey fender flares, scooped-in side doors and a swept back C-pillar. We liked that Toyota carried over the  “Corolla Cross” engraved in the upper chrome panel. Our tester also got some added spice with a two-tone paint job, and unique 18 in. sport alloy wheels with a tasteful black-painted machine finish.

The rear picks up the sporty design cues of the standard model, with sleek horizontal LED taillights and a blacked out lower fascia for some added ruggedness. We do like the black-out badging for its added badness. And speaking of badness, we just loved our tester’s Acidic Blast (we kid you not!) paint scheme – sort of a pistachio metallic gone evil. It really turned heads and got lots of thumbs up!

Friendly Cabin

Inside, the Cross Hybrid retains the family resemblance to the Corolla sedan – with a taller, more upright vibe. Being a top-trim XSE, you get the plus treatment with SofTex (faux leather to you and me) trim, and a very comfortable, 10-way power adjustable driver seat. A chunky leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob along with stylish LED lighting also make you glad you opted for the XSE.

Hybrid drivers get a unique fully-digital gauge cluster with a cool center circular dial that looks like a tachometer ( it’s actually a power meter) along with a digital speedometer, drive computer, and crescent-shaped temp and fuel level gauges. Fresh and clean.

All 2023 Corolla Cross models get a new Multimedia System, which includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and on our XSE, wireless charging as well. While the 8-inch table style info-tainment screen remains– with thankfully a volume knob, the system is now state of the art with goodies like available Intelligent Assistant that responds to simple voice requests – just say “Hey Toyota” to wake up the system, and it can help you find points of interest, adjust audio and climate controls and more.

There’s also Cloud Navigation for the latest up to date info, and an available Wi-Fi system that can handle up to 5 devices. All in all, this is an impressive upgrade – in the past Toyota seemed to lag on even the basics of info-tainment and connectivity, but no more – this is as good as you’ll find anywhere, and it is seamlessly integrated for easy use as well. Our tester also had the optional 9-speaker JBL audio system and it did an admirable job of filling the cabin with quality sound.

While the Corolla Cross may be the company’s smallest offering (the C-HR has left the building), it is plenty spacious, with good room for adults in the back seat, and plenty of cargo room. The rear seats also fold easily and add to the cargo capacity. You’re probably losing a little volume with the hybrid system that features standard AWD, but it felt like there was plenty of room.

 Power? Efficiency? Why not Both?

The real step up for the Corolla Cross Hybrid is in the drive.

There’s a big bump in power, with the Hybrid kicking in an impressive 196 horsepower, compared to 169 hp for the non hybrid. That’s a good start, but what really makes improvements are the instant torque of the hybrid’s three electric motors, including one on the rear axle, giving you lots of punch off the line and for excellent passing power too. Toyota says 0-60 in 8 seconds, but we think it’s faster than that. It certainly feels quicker.

It’s also much more efficient – we were managing 44 mpg around town, and that was taking full advantage of Sport mode and zipping around like a sports sedan. We have no doubt you can reach the 42 mpg combined rating, which really is impressive for a good sized crossover with AWD. The non hybrid provides a reasonable 30 mpg – good, but the hybrid is a clear winner in the Econo sweepstakes.

The AWD not only serves up grip in slick conditions, but it also makes the CC more fun in just tossing it around corners. This is a fun vehicle to drive, reminding us of the Kia Soul and Hyundai Kona.

You’ll also find this hybrid to be very comfortable for the daily drive, with a comfortable ride, low noise level – especially when it’s running in pure EV mode – and good brake feel.

Adding to the comfort is the confidence of standard Toyota Safe Sense 3.0, that includes Pre-Collision with Pedestrian and motorcycle detection, intersection alerts and Lane Departure Alert along with Steering assist and Trace assist. We really like the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that lets you set your speed and even works in stop and go traffic. A real stress reliever. Our tester also had Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, both are really great at saving your bacon on a daily basis.

How High the Hybrid?

Pricing is excellent too. The Hybrid S starts at just $27,970, and with the zippy performance, AWD, impressive efficiency and updated tech and safety items it’s a bargain. Our Hybrid XSE started at $31,065, which for all the goodies it adds is still a great value.  Our tester had the Acidic Blast paint ($500), Convenience Package with options ($2,665) and $1,335 destination to the ring the bell at $35,565. (For reference, the non-hybrid Corolla Cross XLE starts at $29,015.)

Competitors would include the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, a great vehicle, but comparably equipped at $40,445, that’s a very large step up in price. The Kia Niro hybrid is closer at $36,215. It’s also fun, but it is more of a zippy city car, without the small trucky looks of the Corolla Cross – decide which works for you.

Stylish looks, much improved performance, amazing efficiency and loaded with tech, the 2023 Corolla Cross Hybrid is a great small all-around crossover!

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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