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Is a New Compact Toyota SUV Headed Our Way?

Art Michalik

Following industry trends, Toyota is further subdividing its SUV lineup with a new compact Corolla Cross.

Another Day, Another Crossover

With SUV vehicles continuing to expand, automakers have been looking for ways to squeeze one more model into their lineup. An example is the Mazda CX-30, which fits in the narrow slot between the Mazda CX-3 and the CX-5. To differentiate, it’s a little more stylish and feature-laden than the other two (at least in the base model).

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com
2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com

Honda has done the same by adding the Passport between the Pilot and the CR-V, in positions that didn’t exist until recently. And there’s the Toyota C-HR that slots below the CR-V. The new models have double the number of SUVs offered through Honda dealers. Toyota is also on the “more-is-better” SUV bandwagon with its new Corolla Cross. The company debuted its latest model to the media at a July launch in Thailand, where the Corolla Cross is manufactured.

A Little Background

1st Generation Toyota Corolla - toyota.com

1st Generation Toyota Corolla – toyota.com  |  Shop Toyota Corolla on Carsforsale.com

Before we get deeper into this new SUV, a little background, first launched in Japan in 1966, Corolla models have sold a cumulative total of over 50 million in more than 150 countries and regions worldwide. In fact, it’s been Toyota’s best-selling car. To say that Corolla is an essential model for Toyota is an understatement. To assign any vehicle the Corolla name, Toyota must be serious about this model. What we don’t know is if the Corolla Cross will be available in the US.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com
2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com

At the launch, a Toyota US spokesperson told the assembled media that there had been no decision as to whether the Corolla Cross will be sold in the US. We know that Toyota is rolling out the model in Thailand with other markets to come. There have been some strong indicators, though, that it will reach our shores sooner than later.


2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com
2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com

Styling is highly reminiscent of the RAV-4 (though smaller, of course) but with a much more aggressive front fascia. The rear fascia design is more in line with the RAV-4.

On the Inside

The Corolla Cross shares its dashboard with the regular Corolla models. However, the center console is more upright, and there’s a nine-inch touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay connectivity) propped on top of the dash. The Corolla Cross is offered with options that include power front seats, dual-zone climate control, a power liftgate, and a 360-degree camera system. The Corolla Cross also features Toyota’s full suite of Safety Sense features.

New vs Used: Toyota Corolla

Structure and Dimensions

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com
2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com

The Corolla Cross is constructed on Toyota’s TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) C platform, which it shares with the Toyota C-HR and Lexus UX. While the C-HR and Corolla Cross share the same wheelbase, the Corolla Cross is longer and taller, providing both increased cargo space and room for rear-seat passengers. In fact, Toyota claims the Corolla Cross has class-leading cargo space.

Engine and Drivetrain

The base engine for Thailand is a 180 horsepower 1.8 L four-cylinder. This is just about the same power (and torque rating) as the same 2ZR-FXE engine in the current US Corolla sedan. What separates the Corolla Cross from the C-HR is the availability of a hybrid drivetrain. The system develops a total of 122 horsepower, again nearly the same as the Corolla hybrid. Both gas and hybrid versions use the same shifter-less ECVT transmission.

Under the Corolla Cross

Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front, and a twist-beam rear axle, which is definitely a nod to reduced production costs over an IRS. Brakes are discs all around (with ABS, of course) and based on the Thai model, a 17-inch or 18-inch wheels choice.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com
2021 Toyota Corolla Cross - toyota.com

What’s not available (or just not yet) is AWD. The reasoning behind why Toyota decided to forgo AWD is apparent in their statement at the launch: “By adding a new model to the Corolla series to suit the growing demand of SUVs, the enhanced Corolla lineup enables customers to select the model that better suits their diverse lifestyles and life stages.”

Toyota Corolla Fast Facts

GM and Toyota had a joint venture agreement that saw Toyota Corollas and their new twins, the Geo (and later Chevy) Prizm. After the joint venture ended, GM closed the plant. It’s now been reopened and producing Teslas.

The entire sport of drifting might not have been the worldwide phenomenon it is today if it weren’t for the Corolla. The Initial D series of Japanese graphic novels’ protagonist drove a JDM AE86 Corolla, drifting on mountain roads to deliver tofu. It made public the secretive activity of drifting on public roads and by popular demand brought it to racecourses around the country.

In 1997, Toyota sold more Corollas since 1966 than the air-cooled VW Beetle had over its entire run.

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Art Michalik
Art Michalik

Art Michalik brings a career full of experience in the automotive industry to his writing. He has guided marketing at two major tire companies, represented some of the biggest names in the automotive aftermarket at an ad agency, built the enthusiast social media presence at a major online retailer and even managed one of the most famous racing schools in the world.

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