If there’s one vehicle that made hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) mainstream in the Philippines, that would be the Toyota Corolla Cross. Sure, the Corolla Altis also popularized hybrids in the Philippines, but it wasn’t until the Corolla Cross that we started seeing these electrified vehicles everywhere. What we have here though is the Corolla Cross GR Sport (GR-S)–a sportier version of the electrified subcompact crossover SUV that we’ve come to know and love. But with more than P100,000 separating the GR Sport and the standard hybrid model, is the extra cash worth it?
You know what, just from the way it looks, it’s more than worth it. Okay, so styling is always subjective, but with the GR Sport treatment, the Corolla Cross suddenly looks rather handsome instead of simply looking like every other crossover SUV out there. The sporty 18-inch wheels, black hexagonal grille, bespoke front bumpers, satin faux skid plates, clear LED taillights, and black contrasting roof all make the Corolla Cross look sporty without looking too ostentatious.
Next to the standard Corolla Cross, this GR Sport model looks properly handsome in all the right places. Not only does it look better, but it also has better functionality through a powered tailgate. The Corolla Cross, therefore, is one of the only few subcompact crossovers to have such a feature.
However, while the exterior looks significantly better to our eyes than the standard model, the interior changes are much more modest. The overall dash design is similar to the Corolla Altis (they share the same basic architecture after all), which means that the interior looks far less interesting than its exterior. It is functional, sure, but there’s no sense of style that breaks the monotony of its black interior.
Some of its interior upgrades include various GR Sport emblems on the push-button start, floor mats, and front seat headrests. Other than that, the interior is more about function rather than style. However, while this isn’t a deal breaker, it’s just worth noting that the Corolla Cross oddly doesn’t come with an electronic parking brake. Instead, it uses an old-school foot-type parking brake, which somehow makes me miss the auto-hold function of the electronic one (though adaptive cruise control still works in stop-and-go traffic).
Features and Infotainment
Speaking of functionality, the user-friendliness of the Corolla Cross’s interior is refreshing. In a sea of automakers who are in relentless pursuit of removing all interior buttons and switches, the Corolla Cross is a breath of fresh air. There are dedicated hard buttons for the climate and even the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s not the clearest or the most modern at this point, but it gets the job done much better than past Toyotas with a third-party AVT-sourced infotainment. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The infotainment works in conjunction with the 7-inch partly-digital instrument cluster, which is configurable to some degree. Other features that you get include rear aircon vents, rear USB ports, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat.
Space and Practicality
The space at the front is great, and as with many other Toyotas on the TNGA platform, the seats are one of my favorites in the business. Moving towards the second row, however, you get less space compared to the Corolla Altis. That’s because the Corolla Cross is dimensionally shorter in terms of length and wheelbase compared to the aforementioned sedan, and while it isn’t cramped by any means, I find the Honda HR-V to have greater legroom compared to the Corolla Cross.
As for cargo space, you get 440 liters behind the rear seats. This is actually less than the Corolla Altis, though being a crossover, its square space is much more usable. This increases to 1,891 liters with the second row folded down. Compared to other subcompact crossover SUVs, however, these numbers are competitive.
As mentioned, the Corolla Cross variant we’re driving is the GR Sport, which only comes with a 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle gasoline engine that produces 98 hp and 142 Nm of torque. This is mated to an electric motor that provides another 72 hp and 163 Nm of torque. In total, the whole system produces 121 hp and 207 Nm. This is mated to an eCVT (electronically controlled continuously variable transmission) that drives the front wheels. Do note that the total hybrid system output is simply not a matter of adding the two power sources.
The engine is shared with the Corolla Altis, and with that, acceleration behind the wheel feels practically similar. This means that the hybrid powertrain is smooth and refined. While the horsepower figure sounds underwhelming, the electric motors provide readily-available torque that non-electrified vehicles are simply not capable of. It’s not a fast car, however. Instead, the hybrid powertrain is very responsive to your throttle inputs–especially when overtaking.
Since the electric motors already produce decent power on their own, the hybrid system is able to aggressively keep the Corolla Cross in purely electric mode while driving at low speeds. As a result, hybrids post astronomically high figures when driven in the city–to the tune of 28.3 km/l at my best. You also enjoy the silence of driving in electric mode for the most part during your city commute.
At higher speeds, the gasoline engine is utilized to a greater degree. Naturally, fuel economy is lower at high-speed driving, but they’re still impressive nonetheless. For my entire week’s use, I averaged at exactly 20 km/l. Having a vehicle with this high of a fuel economy figure will always be comically amazing to me–especially at times of high fuel prices.
Comfort levels with the Corolla Altis are also largely the same. Road and wind noise is well kept to a minimum, while the ride quality is also largely similar even if this is riding on GR Sport suspension. There’s a degree of firmness, but it might be placebo and it’s something that I have to validate on a back-to-back drive.
That said, in terms of handling, I find the Corolla Altis to handle better. While steering feel is largely the same, the slightly taller ride height will obviously mean a bit more body roll. More importantly, however, due to the Corolla Cross having a torsion beam rear suspension as opposed to the Corolla Altis’s independent multi-link setup, its handling limits are easier to reach. But for most people, the two vehicles will feel similar behind the wheel.
The Toyota Corolla Cross, as a whole, is a well-engineered subcompact crossover SUV, though it’s not exactly what you’d call an exciting car. However, with the GR Sport treatment, the Corolla Cross suddenly looks like a properly handsome crossover SUV. But, is the added coin worth it? For most people, they’ll be content with the standard Corolla Cross hybrid. For me, however, the extra P100,000 is worth the added street cred and functionality.
Regardless of whether you go for the Corolla Cross GR Sport or just the standard model, you get a vehicle that’s perfect for the moment. In the midst of high fuel prices, there’s no other subcompact crossover SUV that offers a comprehensive amount of features as well as being perfectly sized for most Filipino consumers. You might argue that the Nissan Kicks e-Power might have something to say about the Corolla Cross, but spoiler alert, I just had a week’s time with it and it’s not as fuel efficient as I hoped.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.4 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.