2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review - The Un-Car

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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Fast Facts

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE Fast Facts

2.0-liter four with permanent magnet synchronous hybrid electric motor (196 total system horsepower)
Continuously-variable transmission, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
45 city / 38 highway / 42 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
5.2 city / 6.2 highway / 5.6 combined. (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$32,400 US / $39,358 CAN
As Tested
$36,158 US / $39,358 CAN
Prices include $1,335 destination charge in the United States and $2,063 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
2023 toyota corolla cross hybrid review the un car

“We don’t have Coke. Is Pepsi okay?” has become something of a meme lately, where consumers, thwarted in their attempts to acquire what they desire, are offered something less than. And for the record, I’m a Coke person, though Wilford Brimley’s favorite chronic disease has pushed me toward the Coke Zero end of the bubbly drinks spectrum.

7 Up, on the other hand, has long been a distant third or worse in the soda aisle. Recognizing that, and stymied by the forced removal of lithium from the recipe, the brand targeted Coke by labeling themselves the “Un-Cola” - the choice of the contrarian. Whether the scheme worked is hard to say - most restaurants will have either Sprite on tap, or whatever Pepsi has decided to label their clear lemon-lime drink this week (Starry, I think?) - 7 Up remains an alternative for those who want something light and refreshing, without challenging the palate. It’s a damned good mixer, too.

Very few people head into car shopping with the intent of buying something bland and boring, I’d imagine. They want something with excitement and flavor. But for many, reality sets in and a proper evaluation of their needs can replace the desire for wow in their garage. I really can’t see anyone lusting after a subcompact hybrid crossover. But for many drivers, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid might indeed be the light and refreshing mixer they need.

The Corolla Cross Hybrid is yet another extension of the Prius concept across the Toyota lineup. As I’ve mentioned before and has been stated elsewhere repeatedly, Toyota has done well with this plan as it brings additional fuel savings to drivers who don’t want to drive something that looks like a suppository. And I’d imagine there are quite a few drivers like that. Most of the country isn’t ready for widespread EV adoption, but can genuinely benefit from spending less money and time at the pump.

This is an excellent answer. While it’s not going to see the eye-popping figures of 50-plus mpg of the OG Prius due to the additional frontal area, mass, and rolling resistance of an AWD powertrain, the Corolla Cross Hybrid makes efficiency accessible to more people who have different commuting needs. And in my testing, the rated 42mpg combined seems pessimistic.

Styling is acceptably good, made a bit more handsome here by the lovely Acidic Blast yellow paint finished with a black roof. Yeah, there’s plenty of black cladding and a big honking black lower grille, but nothing’s offensive here. There’s no pretense of off-road machismo, and that’s ok.

I kinda dig the stripes on the leatherette (Toyota calls it SofTex) seating. It breaks up what could easily be a monotonous black cavern. Everything is laid out simply and intuitively. Dual-zone climate control, a real knob for the volume, and wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto are quite welcome, and work nicely. This top XSE trim has heated seats and a power driver’s seat, too.

It is quite numb to drive. While 196 total system horsepower is nothing to sneeze at - that’s 27 more than the non-hybrid version - the Corolla Cross Hybrid just wants to get you where you’re going without drama.

The line that comes to mind here is the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is the car to buy when you don’t want to buy a car. This is not a car for drivers. It’s boring. It’s not luxurious - but it’s comfortable, reliable, roomy enough for four to five people and/or a fair bit of cargo. If you live in one of those patches of the land where public transit is not enough to live without personal transport - namely, one of the 997 out of the 1,000 largest metro areas, as well as other places where even speaking the word “public transit” risks you getting shot - it’s an ideal piece of fuel-saving machinery. For those with the infrastructure and/or in-home charging, an EV might be slightly better, but for those who can’t or don’t want to plug in, this is the car to buy.

I’m not kidding. I’m not damning the car with faint praise here. If I had the wherewithal to sign a note for a new car for my soon-to-graduate high-school senior, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid would be at the top of my list. It has the cargo space to fit a dorm’s worth of crap, and I know that it will run damned near forever with the most basic maintenance. It’s a dull car to drive and a dull car to live with - and that’s a good thing. Too many things in our lives are exciting. Getting to work when everything else is a gamble doesn’t need to get your heart racing.

And, unlike the current formulation of 7 Up, this hybrid has lithium. Lithium-ion batteries, to be precise.

[Images © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC.com]

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Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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4 of 66 comments
  • Mendel Mendel on Nov 21, 2023

    I was mildly interested in this, but no spare, no sale. Also, can ANYONE make h/v controls, that can be safely operated without going off the road?

    editorial: the soft drink preamble went on a little long.

    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Nov 22, 2023

      Sometimes longer is better (especially when warming up).

  • DanielG DanielG 5 days ago

    I created an account only to tell "car enthusiasts" that their perspective on cars is not shared by the majority of people. "The truth about cars" should be called "the bias about cars". Because we, the average people, want a reliable, comfortable, nice, and reasonably quick car. For us, quick doesn't mean sports car acceleration on a small crossover. For us, a nice ride does not mean driving a car as if we were on a race track. We laugh when we see a BMW, a Land Rover or a Subaru WRX being towed cause it stalled. We have passions other than cars. But we actually LOVE our car when it is dependable and resilient. So far, I love my Corolla Cross Hybrid! Enjoy your rides, but, pleaaase, don't think we all need or want your precious cars. We really don't.

    • Marky S. Marky S. 35 minutes ago

      I agree with DanielG on his reply here. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD in Barcelona Red in Canada. I am very pleased with what my car offers me! It is not trying to be something it’s not.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.