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Juliet McGuire

First drive in the new Toyota Corolla Cross

The motoring world the past two years, like most industries, has been pretty strange. Traversing through unchartered territories, the landscape of the flamboyant car launches changed so drastically that most motoring journalists were left with so much extra time on their hands they didn’t quite know what to do. When things started to open up somewhat, launches kicked off, but they were nothing like what we were used to. Social distancing, driving alone, only a handful of journalists from your own hometown. Some of the biggest cars launched these past two years were reduced to the humblest of showcases. And then…enter the Toyota Corolla Cross.

BIG BASH

Toyota has been one of the most conservative manufacturers during the Pandemic, in terms of live launches that is. Most cars were revealed via the web. So it was surprising, but also maybe not that surprising, when I arrived at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel only to be met by more than 70 journalists. From all over the country! I didn’t quite know where to put myself. Smiling behind a mask, polite small talk, the old chestnut of “how’s the Pandemic treated you?” and so on. I was almost overwhelmed. Thank goodness for wine, but enough about that, let’s chat about the Corolla Cross.

THE BIG CHEESE

The reason for the long-winded intro about the actual launch, which I seldomly do, is to showcase just how important this model is for Toyota. To book out 85 rooms in one of Cape Town’s oldest and most popular hotels (John Lennon even stayed there), you must know what a big deal the Corolla Cross is. And so it should be. The Corolla name is hugely successful, but we have to admit to ourselves that times are changing fast and the decline in sedans and even hatchbacks is something we cannot ignore. And where there are already 31 players in the compact SUV game, Toyota was yet to enter it. Sure, there is the Urban Cruiser (thanks Suzuki) and the RAV4, but the space in between was left empty.

Corolla Cross

BIGGER AND BETTER?

The Corolla Cross, which is the hero of the Corolla range, is said to compete with the likes of the Volkswagen T-Cross, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-3 etc, but its dimensions make it stand out among this crowd. It is rather roomy! Even the boot is at 440-litres making it the biggest of the lot. So not only does it have a Toyota badge on its bum, but it has the biggest bum there is…families are going to plutz!

There are five derivatives to choose from. I am not going to go in to all the detail, but basically the entry-level model is the Xi and the top of the range is the Xr. They are relatively well specced and the Xr leaves you wanting little else. But most important is the engine line-up. There is a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine and, the one Toyota wants to punt, the 1.8-litre petrol-electric motor.

Corolla Cross

NOT BIG ON HYBRID

What are the reasons most customers would buy the Hybrid model? To reduce their fuel costs? To be kinder to the planet? Probably a bit of both, but certainly, the big drawcard is the supposed fuel cost savings. I need to be the bearer of bad news (and perhaps have Toyota on my back), but the Hybrid model is not going to do this for you. Sure, Toyota did a calculation of how much it would save you to drive the Hybrid model over a year versus the naturally aspirated model. It was claimed that you would save R14 490. Sure. If you were actually able to achieve the claimed fuel consumption. And not forgetting that the Hybrid model costs you more than R23k more, so it will take you some time before you even break even. And then…if you really want to get critical, which is what I am doing, one just needs to look at any of the competitors that have a small turbo engine and you will more than likely be able to achieve a lower fuel consumption than you would on the Corolla Cross Hybrid. Look, I am not wanting to bash Toyota here. I love that they are one of the few manufacturers who realise that most customers in SA are not ready for full on EVs just yet and that Hybrids bring them a step closer. No range anxiety and they’re cheaper. But I feel that I would be doing my readers a disservice by not being completely transparent about my feelings on the Hybrid vibes.

BUT I LOVE THE CAR

A part from that little hiccup, the Corolla Cross is everything you would expect it to be. It has Toyota’s quality feel, it is comfortable, and like I mentioned, very spacious. I think it would make for a fantastic family car. And who are we kidding, most Toyota fans wouldn’t even dare look elsewhere, and those who might have been on the fence about which of the 31 models to go for, have probably been waiting for this Toyota-badged product. And I think it will have been worth the wait.

PRICING OF THE COROLLA CROSS

  • Corolla Cross 1.8 X: 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

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