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Toyota Corolla Hybrid 2023 First Drive Review: Improved Fuel Efficiency and Power

Image Source: otomobil / Shutterstock

The compact SUV market is becoming increasingly crowded as car manufacturers target potential buyers of compact sedans. Almost every major automaker has an offering in this segment, but Toyota has now introduced the standout contender – the 2023 Corolla Cross hybrid. The Corolla Cross hybrid stands out as the only small hybrid SUV currently available, boasting a combined rating of 42 mpg and more power compared to the standard Corolla Cross hybrid.

The 2023 Corolla Cross hybrid is based on the standard Corolla Cross, which received lukewarm reviews primarily due to its underwhelming powertrain. The good news is that the Corolla Cross hybrid not only delivers improved fuel efficiency but also offers more power than its non-hybrid counterpart.

Equipped with Toyota’s fifth-generation hybrid powertrain also found in the 2023 Prius, the Corolla Cross hybrid features a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and two front electric motors, with an additional motor powering the rear wheels. This powertrain delivers a combined 196 horsepower, a significant increase over the 169 hp of the regular version.

This additional power enables the Corolla Cross hybrid to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in eight seconds, making it one of the quicker models in its segment. While this acceleration may not be groundbreaking, it certainly provides more punch than competitors like the Honda HR-V. The inclusion of electric motors also enhances acceleration from a standstill and makes merging onto highways a less daunting task compared to the non-hybrid version. If more power is desired, alternatives like the Kia Seltos or Mazda CX-30 are available; however, these options may require more frequent visits to the gas pump.

Similar to its non-hybrid counterpart, the Corolla Cross hybrid experiences noise-related issues under heavy engine load. Despite this drawback, it remains a lively small SUV that offers a more enjoyable driving experience than the regular version. While the sport-tuned suspension enhances performance, it may not deliver the same level of driving pleasure as the CX-30. Steering feedback is somewhat lacking but sees slight improvement in sport mode. Fortunately, most buyers in this segment prioritize fuel efficiency over sportiness in an SUV.

The Corolla Cross hybrid achieves fuel economy ratings of 45 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 42 mpg combined, a notable improvement over the standard Corolla Cross AWD model with its 29/32/30 mpg rating.

Externally, the hybrid closely resembles the regular version but features subtle distinctions like a different grille, revised lower front fascia for a sportier appearance, and black badging for added visual appeal. The interior mirrors that of the standard version, with the exception of different upholstery. However, the interior may lack the premium feel offered by competitors like the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-30.

Interior space is adequate, but taller passengers in the rear may find their knees rubbing against the front seats, with rear legroom of 32 inches falling short of competitors like the HR-V with 37 inches. Cargo space measures at 21.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up.

In terms of technology, the Corolla Cross hybrid features an eight-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s latest infotainment system as standard. The top XSE trim level includes a digital gauge cluster, while the S and SE trims come equipped with analog gauges. On the safety front, the Corolla Cross hybrid is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, offering features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, and traffic sign detection. The SE and XSE trims add blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.

The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross hybrid is set to hit the market in June, with prices starting at $29,305, including the destination charge. It is available in three trim levels: S, SE, and XSE, with the SE trim starting at $30,625 and the XSE at $32,400. The Corolla Cross hybrid carries a premium of approximately $4,000 over the regular version. While this price increase may seem substantial based solely on fuel savings, the added horsepower enhances the driving experience, making it more enjoyable than the standard version.

The S and SE trims feature 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8-inch touchscreen, a sport-tuned suspension, LED headlamps, and smart key access as standard. The SE trim level adds privacy glass, roof rails, paddle shifters, a blind spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert. The XSE grade includes 18-inch alloy wheels, premium LED headlamps, taillamps, fog lamps, Softex-trimmed seats, heated front seats, and a power driver’s seat.

In conclusion, due to the scarcity of hybrid options in the small SUV segment, the Corolla Cross hybrid is likely to attract buyers easily. It emerges as the top choice within the Corolla Cross lineup, offering an improved fuel-efficient powertrain, sportier aesthetics, and a slightly more engaging driving experience.

Image Source: otomobil / Shutterstock

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