(THE CAR CONNECTION ) — The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross seems familiar, like a new winter jacket that somehow smells like Grandpa. Toyota’s latest model doesn’t do anything new, but it welcomes buyers coming from Toyota sedans or downsizing from larger vehicles with a warm but uninspired greeting.
More like a smaller RAV4 than an upsized Corolla hatch, the small crossover offers a right-sized alternative to the funky Toyota C-HR hatchback that’s been paraded about as a crossover since 2018. The newest Toyota doesn’t feel so new, with its outdated infotainment system, buzzy powertrain, and analog gauge cluster. There’s even a stick in the gauge cluster to reset the trip meter like the old days. But Toyota has proven time and again that its conservative introduction of new vehicle technologies appeals to customers who prefer familiarity. That’s one reason it earns a solid TCC Rating of 6.2 out of 10, which will likely increase once crash-test results are finalized.
In my long weekend on the road with the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE with AWD, I was surprised to not find a CD player.
Hit: Looks like a smaller, calmer RAV4
The five-seat crossover shares styling features with Toyota’s bestselling RAV4, but without the sharp angles front and back. The split upper and lower grille distances itself from the more menacing scowl of the RAV4 with a smile that aims to please. Black cladding runs over square wheel arches, and curved fenders give it some heft from the rear without demanding to be taken seriously as an SUV. It’s not, and Toyota has struck the balance between over-designing some of its latest models with a more unified streamlined look in the Corolla Cross.
Miss: Dull, buzzy powertrain
There’s less to like under the hood, but it’s perfectly adequate for most drivers. The Corolla Cross uses a 2.0-liter inline-4 shared throughout the family, from the Toyota C-HR to the Lexus UX. It makes 169 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque, and paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission it’s not going anywhere in a hurry. That’s fine, but the noise it makes seems as if it’s straining for relief around every bend. More than anything else, the noise reveals its economy car roots.
Hit: Cargo volume
It remains to be seen if the Corolla Cross will replace the flagging C-HR, which still sold 35,700 units in 2021. The squat C-HR holds only 19.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats, or 37 cubes with the seats folded down. The Corolla Cross AWD model I tested had 25.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up, and the cargo hold easily handled a Costco run. Separately, it held my daughter’s big hockey bag with less of a problem than other small crossovers. In either model, there’s only about 32 inches of rear legroom but head and shoulder room is better in the Corolla Cross than the C-HR.
Miss: Outdated interface
Toyota has been rolling out its much-improved operating system and interface, but the entry-level Corolla Cross doesn’t get it. The font and graphics will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Toyota in the past decade or two, which gives it a familiar simplicity lacking in other new cars. But it’s dated, like an 8-bit game in a digital metaverse.
Hit: Available all-wheel drive
Top XLE models come with AWD, which you can’t get in a C-HR. This should appeal to winter weather drivers who want the added traction of AWD without the hassle of swapping out winter tires.
Miss: Should be a hybrid
The loud but efficient powertrain has an EPA-rated 29 mpg city, 32 highway, 30 combined. I came up short of that on mostly highway miles, but it’s good for an AWD crossover. It would be so much better—and quieter—as a hybrid. Maybe next year.
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD
Base price: $28,640, including $1,215 destination
Price as tested: $33,550
Drivetrain: 169-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 with a CVT and AWD
EPA fuel economy: 29/32/30 mpg
The hits: Calm styling, good cargo room, available AWD
The misses: Loud, outdated interface, would be better as a hybrid