2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review: First Drive

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 2.0L I4 + hybrid
Output: 196 hp, 152 lb-ft
Transmission: eCVT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 45/38/42
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 5.2/6.2/5.6
Starting Price (USD): $29,305 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $32,400 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $35,915 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $38,685 (inc. dest.)

This is the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Toyota’s slightly smaller SUV launched about 18 months ago, replacing the quirky C-HR with something a little more mainstream.

If anything, the Corolla Cross was too middle-of-the-road, with no real defining features in an increasingly crowded (and competitive) segment. The Hybrid changes that, as one of the few electrified options right now, improving fuel economy and power. In fact, it improves the whole driving experience—but sure enough, you’ll have to pay for the opportunity. Is it worth it? I spent a day in southern California driving it—along with the Prius Prime—to find out.

Get a Quote on a New 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review: What’s new?

Toyota has taken the latest Prius‘ excellent fifth-gen drivetrain and dropped it wholesale into the stubby nose of the Corolla Cross. Like the RAV4 Hybrid—or the Prius in Canada—it’s only available with electronic all-wheel drive. There’s no physical connection sending power between the axles, only a dedicated rear electric motor. The battery is now of the lithium-ion variety, and it takes up residence under the rear seats, for minimal impact on space.

Total system output is pegged at 196 horsepower. Toyota doesn’t quote a combined torque figure, but the gas engine is capable of 139 pound-feet, while the rear motor can produce up to 152 lb-ft on its own. The sprint to 62 mph (100 km/h) now takes 8.2 seconds—okay, more of a saunter.

To mark out the electrified member of the family, Toyota has given this Corolla Cross a unique front-end design. The gaping grille has migrated south, with a new body-colored insert surrounding the Toyota badge. In a move that’s sure to please Xzibit, the badge itself sits in a smaller, T-shaped gap. All hybrids get blacked-out badging, too, and this Acidic Blast paint is hybrid-only as well.

This differentiation reminds me of the mid-aughts Highlander and its unique hybrid schnoz. Strangely, Toyota justifies the unique look as a way for the hybrid to stand out on dealer lots, but keeps the Prius Prime looking more or less the same.

A better all-rounder

I’ve gotta say, I am a fan of this fifth-generation hybrid system. It switches pretty seamlessly between electric and gas, and because of the extra power with the electric motor way down, you actually run into less of the CVT moan that you get in the regular Corolla Cross. It’s a much better, much smoother experience. That’s still something of a rarity in this class: usually you have to accept some limitations buying a more affordable car, and this is pretty refined. Foot to the floor for highway merging, the CC Hybrid gets the job done with a bit of noise.

So the Hybrid has decent power, you’ve got steering that feels more or less the same as the Corolla Cross. As the quote-unquote sporty model of the family, the Hybrid has what Toyota calls a sport-tuned suspension. An engineer says it’s a slightly stiffer setup, but unless you’re hopping back and forth between the two, it’s unnoticeable. If anything, there’s a bigger difference between the base S and XSE, on account of the smaller, 17-inch wheels and the taller sidewalls. The Cross rides well, with no real leanings towards engagement or pampering. It’s right down the middle of the class, mild-mannered and predictable in operation. Sure, you can tug at the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, or toggle into Sport driving mode, but the Corolla Cross Hybrid feels better as laidback transport.

Fuel economy is the Hybrid’s big selling point: officially, it’s rated for 45 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, for a combined 42 mpg figure. (Canadian numbers are 5.2, 6.2, and 5.6 L/100 km, respectively.)

As is the case with most modern Toyotas, this is the way to go: hybrid powertrain, better powertrain.

SEE ALSO: 2023 Toyota Prius Prime Review: First Drive

No-nonsense interior

Beside the much-improved powertrain, the Corolla Cross Hybrid is pretty much the same interior experience as the regular car, and that’s both a good or bad thing depending on your priorities.

One positive I will say is that it’s very easy to get comfortable in the Corolla Cross. You get in, and all of the controls are easily accessible, very in reach, like the seat heaters just ahead of the shifter. The shifter is not trying to reinvent the wheel here either: it’s pretty straightforward.

The seats themselves are also pretty comfortable. I would say that the seat base could be a little longer, for me personally. But otherwise I really like Toyota’s SofTex material; I think it is wholly acceptable to getting actual cow leather. There’s a ton of headroom, though adults in the back might find legroom a little tight.

SEE ALSO: Toyota Corolla Cross vs Honda HR-V Comparison: Heavyweight Battle of Little SUVs

So what do I mean when I say it’s really depends on your priorities? Well as the name implies, the Corolla Cross does take a lot of inspiration from the regular Corolla for its interior. And that means a pretty basic design. There’s a big, bulbous dashboard, with not a whole lot of, well … anything, outside of the angular air vents. It’s not bad, but it lacks that premium design look that competitors like the Honda HR-V or especially the Mazda CX-30 have with their interiors. This is a safe design, and that’s going to be fine for a lot of folks. For those who are looking for a more stylish interior, the Corolla Cross is not it.

Cargo room is the same as the gas AWD model, with 24.3 cubic feet of storage (688 liters). Drop the seats and that figure balloons out to 61.8 cubes (1,750 L). Towing capacity is the same 1,500 lb as the gas model.

Useful tech, no surprises

The Corolla Cross Hybrid brings the latest Toyota Multimedia system to the SUV’s 8.0-inch central touchscreen. It’s a much better experience than Entune, with sharp graphics and quick responses. It does have a really thick bezel which kind of cheapens the look, but overall I can’t complain. It’s a pretty good system to use, and you’ve now got an accurate voice assistant to use. Many of the features do require active subscriptions, however. Like I mentioned in the Prius Prime review, the smaller screen can become a little cramped in certain menus, like the Sirius XM one.

The largely digital instrument cluster is an easy one to read, and has a unique look from the gas model.

SEE ALSO: Mazda CX-30 vs Mercedes-Benz GLA Comparison: Lofty Aspirations

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is one of the more robust assistance suites out there, and it’s standard on every Corolla Cross Hybrid. Improvements include more dynamic cruise control settings, better pedestrian and object detection, and an emergency driving stop system that can pull the vehicle over if it senses the driver is unresponsive.

One notable absence in the spec sheet: a head-up display.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid: Dollars and sense

The Corolla Cross Hybrid comes in three trims in the US, all three of which are unique to the hybrid. The lineup kicks off with the S model at $29,305 including destination, which comes with 17-inch alloys, a smart key, 8.0-inch infotainment system, and Toyota Safety Sense 3.0. Next is the $30,625 SE, adding blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, privacy glass, and other things. The XSE is the new range-topper of the Corolla Cross lineup at $32,400, adding 18-inch wheels, SofTex seats, and a power driver seat. An available convenience package bundles a moonroof with a power tailgate.

That does vault the CC past the HR-V, Kia Seltos, and Subaru Crosstrek, and around level with the fanciest non-turbo CX-30. The CC Hybrid will save buyers a couple thousand dollars in fuel costs over five years.

Canada’s packaging is largely the same, though the land in the North skips the entry-level S trim. Thus, you have the choice between the SE at $35,915 CAD, or XSE at$38,685 CAD. It’s placement in the market is about the same; the exception is the HR-V, which Honda Canada prices even higher.

Final Thoughts: 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review

I don’t have to tell you that we at AutoGuide have not been the biggest fans of the Corolla Cross. It felt like a box-ticking exercise, a course correction after the weirdo C-HR. The sub-compact segment has a deep bench of talent, and the CC struggled to stand out.

The 2023 Corolla Cross Hybrid gives Toyota’s lil’ SUV a unique angle in the market, transplanting the excellent new Prius powertrain into that market-friendly shape. The higher price buys you untouchable fuel economy, and a more refined drive along with it. If you can swing the extra cost, the hybrid Corolla Cross is now a small SUV we’d certainly recommend.


How much does the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid cost?

Pricing for the Corolla Cross Hybrid kicks off at $29,305 in the US for the S trim; Canada’s lineup starts at $35,915 CAD for the SE. Both prices include destination.

When can you buy the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid?

The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid will begin showing up at dealerships this June.

Does the 2023 Corolla Cross Hybrid come with AWD?

Yes, and only AWD.

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  • Better everyday drive
  • Much better fuel economy
  • Improved tech and standard safety kit


  • Smallish rear row
  • Now getting pricey
  • Meh interior design
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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 1 comment
  • Diane Bloch Diane Bloch on Apr 25, 2023

    I'm looking for a Toyota Cross Hybrid near me. I'd like to know why the MSRP prices you mention in this article are higher than on the Toyota website?