Remember when hatchbacks and sedans were the bread and butter of SA motoring? Every family owned a Toyota Corolla at some stage and you definitely knew someone who drove a Golf. Well, those days are long gone and the space those cars once occupied is now inhabited by a slew of crossovers and SUVs. The latest to join the fray is the Toyota Corolla Cross.

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New appearance, familiar badge

The Corolla badge is, we’d guess, known to just about every South African, whether you know anything about cars or not. This famous nameplate has been on sale locally from 1975. Initially it was a boxy little sedan. In more recent years Toyota SA has added a hatchback to its offerings. As of this month buyers will be able to choose from a third bodystyle, that of an SUV.

Read our Corolla Hatchback driving review by clicking here.


With the Corolla Cross Toyota is trying to emulate the concept (and success) it achieved with the larger Fortuner SUV. This new model to the SA market is produced right here in Durban with Toyota South Africa Manufacturing (TSAM) making a significant investment to be able to do so. The aim is to offer a larger SUV at a price that is comparable to cars that are much smaller. Speaking of which… 

The Corolla Cross slots into Toyota’s SUV line-up between the C-HR and RAV-4. It features a similar unibody construction to those two vehicles ie it does not have the more utilitarian base as the ladder-frame Fortuner. Toyota considers smaller models from rival brands as the Corolla Cross’ main rivals thanks to its keen pricing. This list includes the VW T-Cross and Hyundai Venue, both good performers on the sales charts.

Two powertrains…

Toyota SA has kept the Corolla Cross range quite streamlined. There are just two powertrain options on offer. All derivatives are fitted with a 1,8-litre four cylinder engine that is mated with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A naturally aspirated 1,8-litre develops 103 kW along with 172 N.m of peak torque. In the combined cycle this powertrain returns 6,8 L/100 km.

That same petrol-fed engine has been re-engineered and mated with a hybrid component in versions that are badged as such. The electric motor, which is fed by a large battery pack located under the rear seats, provides 53 kW and 163 N.m for a total system output of 90 kW. The emphasis is placed heavily on fuel-saving in the Hybrid variants. Toyota claims the Corolla Cross Hybrid sips fuel at just 4,3 L/100 km in the mixed-cycle.

…three spec levels

The two engines are allied to three spec levels for a five car range (see below for breakdown and pricing). Corolla Cross is available in Xi, Xs and Xr grades. Xi is the entry-level derivative and the budget-friendly version. Standard specification on the Xi includes keyless entry, auto-folding exterior mirrors, LED taillamps and auto light control. Drivers benefit from remote steering controls, cruise control, manual air-conditioning, one-touch power windows on each door and a multi-information display.

A step up into the Xs variant adds fog lamps, LED headlamps, parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers. Occupants are housed on black leather seats and cooled by dual-zone climate control. A touchscreen infotainment screen, which doubles as the display for a standard rear-facing camera, features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality and a total of three USB ports.

Xs versions are distinguished by 18-inch alloys wheels as well as a black and grey grille. Buyers get to choose between black or ‘Terra Rossa’ (red) leather interior while the driver enjoys electric adjustment on his/her seat. There’s also an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a digital display ahead of the driver and LED illumination for the cabin.

On the go

We got to drive both powertrains on the South African media ride and drive event that was held in the Western Cape. Regardless of engine fitted the ride of the Corolla Cross is set up for relaxed motoring. We also got to experience both wheel rim diameters (17- and 18-inch) and given the choice, we’d opt for the smaller alloys as they provide a noticeably cushier ride, even when you take an inadvertent detour through a gravel track…

Between the two powertrains we spent more time driving the hybrid, and we are glad that we did. There is nothing wrong with the plain-jane petrol option, it just seems to lack a bit of punch, particularly when overtaking. The high-ish torque peak of 4 000 r/min may have something to do with that sensation as does the reluctant transmission.

The hybrid version feels far more suited to this application than the regular petrol. It is a refined set-up that can cruise along on the open road at a canter with, when needed, the hybrid component adding a bit more oomph to proceedings lower down in the rev range.


It was pretty smart of Toyota to slap a Corolla badge onto this SUV. There is plenty of brand value and loyalty that has been built up over the years to transfer to this new product. That it is a good vehicle that is also well priced is a boon for potential buyers.


Corolla Cross 1,8 Xi                 – R 349 900
Corolla Cross 1,8 Xs                – R 390 100
Corolla Cross 1,8 Xr                – R 425 400
Corolla Cross 1,8 Hybrid Xs  – R 413 000
Corolla Cross 1,8 Hybrid Xr   – R 448 300

All new Corolla Cross derivatives come with a six-services/90 000 km service plan and a three-year/100 000 km warranty as standard