2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review - The Un-Car

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

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.

“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 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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2 of 69 comments
  • Marky S. Marky S. on Dec 10, 2023

    I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.

  • Joerg Joerg on Feb 22, 2024

    I just bought a Corolla Cross Hybrid SE a few weeks ago, and I regret it. But not for any of the reasons stated so far. It drives well enough for me, gas mileage is great for a car like that, the interior is fine, nothing to complain about for normal daily use. I bought this relatively small SUV thinking it is basically just a smaller version of the RAV4 (the RAV4 felt too big for me, drives like a tank, so I never really considered it). I also considered the AWD Prius, but storage capacity is just too small (my dog would not fit in the small and low cargo space).

    But there are a few things that I consider critical for me, and that I thought would be a given for any SUV (and therefore did not do my due diligence before the purchase):

    It can’t use snow chains per the manual, nor any other snow traction devices. Even with AWD, snow chains are sometimes required where I go, or just needed to get out of a stuck situation.

    The roof rack capacity is only a miniscule 75 lbs, so I can’t really load my roof top box with stuff for bigger trips.

    Ironically, the European version allows snow chains and roof rack capacity is 165 lbs. Same for the US Prius version. What was Toyota thinking?

    Lastly, I don’t like that there is no spare tire, but I knew that before the purchase. But it is ridiculous that this space is just filled up with a block of foam. At least it should be made available for additional storage.

    In hindsight, I should have bought a RAV4. The basic LE Hybrid version would have been just about 1k more.

  • FreedMike They're highly important to me, particularly for navigation.
  • Bill Wade No Android Auto, no car. How else would I listen to Radio Paradise. ;)
  • KOKing "One of the most interesting parts of this situation is that Stellantis, and by extension, the Chrysler Group, is increasingly considered a foreign company instead of a traditional American automaker."Does that mean Simca and Hillman are coming back?
  • Redapple2 34 yr in Michigan salt?
  • Mike-NB2 Zero. Not interested at all. I often don't have my phone with me, and if I do, I completely ignore it. Unless it were to catch fire, of course. But I'm old, so that has to be taken into account too.