While hybrid models are not new to the local market, the Corolla Cross is the first that fits the ‘mass market’ label and, while still more costly than we would like, is nonetheless quite competitively priced at R448 300 considering the technology.
The primary point of a hybrid drive technology is to make a positive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by significantly reducing fuel consumption and vastly reducing exhaust output in city driving situations, with the benefit the batteries are self-charging and do not need a wall socket.
Toyota claims an overall average fuel consumption of 4,3 l/100 km compared to the 7,5 l/100 km from the Haval Jolion 1.5T Super Luxury and 6,3 l/100 km from the Ford Ecosport 1.0 Titanium as two opposition vehicles in the same category as the Corolla.
Reality is a little different.
A long haul on the highway with cruise control set at a genuine 120 km/h returned a usage from the Corolla of 6,1 l/100 km – simply because the petrol engine was in use the entire time. Moving the test to rural roads and traffic, I managed to squeeze that down to 3,9 l/100 km in the city and 4,5 l/100 km as the traffic eased up.
This translates to an average of 4,8 l/100 km – not too shabby.
I have mentioned the consumption upfront because it is important to dispel any lingering myth that hybrids are some kind of panacea for our astronomical fuel prices.
They are not. Driven thoughtfully they will seriously make a difference in your wallet but driven with a heavy right foot on engine power all the time and this difference will dwindle to barely noticeable.
As much as changing to hybrid is a step to a cleaner planet you, as the driver, have to put in some effort as well.
The Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is the first hybrid model to be fully manufactured in South Africa and it is also the first being manufactured locally on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) and represents a modular platform, capable of underpinning hatch, sedan and SUV model ranges as seen in C-HR, Prius, RAV4 and 12th-generation Corolla models.
Driving through a CVT gearbox, the Corolla Cross Hybrid switches seamlessly between pure electric power and the engine, easing itself along in city traffic on electricity with zero emissions until the space opens up to accelerate to highway speeds.
On the outside, the Corolla Cross fuses the design language of the Corolla Sedan and Hatch models with a SUV-shape with large, elongated headlamps, a prominent trapezoidal radiator grille and large elliptical tail lamps with trapezoidal detailing and crease lines at the rear.
Inside, the Corolla Cross feels larger than it actually is, surrounding the occupants with soft-touch materials and, for the driver, an uncluttered and easily readable dash display with multiple options of what to view at any given time.
Although a small SUV it has a luggage capacity of 440 litres and the rear seat has a 60/40 split to free up more space and to house bulkier items.
The Hybrid model is powered by a 1,8-litre Atkinson cycle engine with outputs of 72 kW and 142 Nm in pure ICE mode. The electric motor outputs 53 kW and 163 Nm for a total system output of 90 kW.
It uses Toyota's familiar Xi, Xs and Xr nomenclature (also found on the Cross' Corolla stablemates) and the base Xi offers as standard colour coding, keyless entry, power-adjustable and auto-retractable exterior mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 215/60/R17 tyres, LED tail lamps and automatic light control, cruise control, air-conditioning, 12-volt power outlet and all-round one-touch power windows, multi-Information display (MID) for the driver and Toyota Connect.
The Xs versions – the one I drove – gain foglamps and upgraded LED headlamps, park distance control (PDC) and rain-sensing wipers, black Leather Interior, air-conditioning upgraded to dual-zone variant, multi-information display (MID) is upgraded to the TFT-type, Touchscreen audio with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, two additional USB ports and reverse camera.
All Corolla Cross models offer buyers an anti-theft system, auto door-lock, ISOFIX anchor points, driver, passenger and side crash bags across the board, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), anti-lock braking with EBD and Hill Assist Control.
The silent start with only the word ‘ready’ on the dashboard can be a touch unnerving for first-time users but everything else is as normal – move the shift lever to ‘D’ and off you go. If in traffic or at a slow speed the battery will provide the motive force.
As the speed and throttle pressure increases the engine kicks in and takes over with battery recharge happening under braking or trailing throttle conditions – all of which is instantly observable on a graphic on the dashboard.
The car comes with drive mode options including Power (essentially a Sport mode) that allows a little feistier motoring when required but, obviously, negating any real fuel consumption gains.
In fact, I switched over only for the purpose of testing and found the standard mode more than adequate for all driving conditions and purposes both in and out of town. Never a robot dragster, the Corolla Cross ambles from zero to 100 km/h in 8,6 seconds and tops out at 170 km/h.
On the road it displays handling similar to its Corolla siblings – the same solid stance and neutral feel through corners that is a Toyota hallmark. Admittedly it is not designed to break hillclimb records but it will press on happily to eat up the kilometres.
It has a 440-litre load volume capacity – more than enough for the ‘Mom’s Taxi’ role or for a relaxing getaway far from the madding crowd.
A six-services/90 000 km service plan is standard on all Corolla Cross models with service intervals of 12-months/15 000 km and a 3-year/100 000 km warranty. Hybrid model carries an 8-year warranty on the Hybrid battery and additional service and warranty plan extensions can be purchased from Toyota dealers.