2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review - The Un-Car
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE Fast Facts
“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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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 is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.
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