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Driven: Toyota Corolla Cross

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For nearly 60 years, the Toyota Corolla has been a household name. Synonymous with reliability, dependability and stellar build quality, the compact family sedan and hatch has found millions of buyers over the years; 50 million examples have been sold since the nameplate was introduced.

But as the ever-popular crossover continues to steal sales away from the hatchback and compact sedan segment, Toyota has added a sibling to the Corolla family. Called the Cross, it takes all the virtues of the original models and packages it into a trendy, SUV-aping body shell.

Proudly South African

The Corolla Cross is manufactured locally, at Toyota’s Prospecton plant. This is significant, as it is the first hybrid car ever to be built in South Africa. Aside from this, through building the Corolla Cross locally, Toyota has provided much-needed employment and an economic boost to South Africa. It may be the first Hybrid to be locally produced, but the Japanese company has been building cars in SA for decades now - previous-generation Corolla’s included.

What’s on offer

Toyota has five models on offer, starting with the Xi trim level. At R349 900, it forms the base model in the range - but don’t be fooled, it’s well-specced. Five airbags, cruise control, Bluetooth, keyless-entry and push-button start are all standard. Next is the Xs derivative. At R390 100, this mid-spec model nets you a few choice features; leather upholstery, LED headlamps and front fog lamps among the toys the Xi doesn’t receive. Lastly, the Xr sits at the peak. R425 400 gets you behind the wheel of the top trim level, which gains front parking sensors (the Xs gets rear only) adaptive cruise control and an electric driver’s seat. All models utilise the same 1.8-litre petrol engine, with 103 kW and 172 Nm of torque.

Don’t forget the Hybrids

Available in Xs and Xr trim are the Hybrid models. At R413 000 and R448 300, the Hybrid models are keenly priced and, in the case of the Xs, the Corolla Cross is the cheapest entry point to Hybrid ownership in SA. The 1.8-litre in the fuel-saving Hybrid boasts engine outputs of 72 kW and 142 Nm of torque. The electric motor produces 53 kW and 163 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption is pegged at a remarkable 4.3 L/100 km. A big difference when compared to the non-Hybrid’s 6.8 L claimed figure.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s really rather good, actually. The 1.8-litre petrol engine isn’t the last word in performance but it’s smooth and hushed enough for daily driving. After all, the average customer isn’t going to buy a Corolla Cross to test 0-100 km/h times. It has plenty of get-up-and-go for town driving and can hold its own on the highway. At 120 km/h, the cabin is quiet with minimal aural intrusion or wind noise.

Suiting the relaxed nature of the Corolla Cross is the CVT gearbox. Most of the time, it works beautifully - Toyota is one of the best at building CVT transmissions - but of course, there are instances where the revs rise, creating an unpleasant whining noise. This can be levelled at any vehicle with a transmission such as this one, though. For the most part, it aids the Corolla in being a refined and capable commuter. The ride is good, soaking up bumps that would leave some rivals juddering.

Practicality and value

This is where the Corolla Cross really shines. With a starting price of R349 900, it undercuts the cheapest Volkswagen T-Cross, a vehicle with a more compact interior and less power. It comes in cheaper than the smaller (and ageing) EcoSport too, while offering more space and daily usability. 

The larger body shell pays dividends when it comes to interior space. At this price point, it remains unmatched. Boasting a cavernous 440 litres of boot space, the Corolla Cross trounces the Mazda CX-3 in the practicality arena, along with myriad rivals. What’s more, the Cross is sold, as standard, with a three-year/100 000 km warranty and a six services/90 000 km service plan. Additionally, Hybrid models receive an eight-year/195 000 km hybrid battery warranty.

Verdict

Simply put, the Corolla Cross is a highly accomplished product. Melding the Corolla nameplate with a crossover body style - and pricing it so competitively - will ensure the newcomer will sell like hotcakes. Aside from the value perspective, it’s good to drive and is blessed with a well-built interior that not only feels solid but is well-appointed, too. We can easily recommend the Corolla Cross and look forward to spending extended time with the new model.

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