Proffit at the Wheel: 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD

Toyota’s Corolla Cross is a Corolla like no other. The best-selling model on the entire planet, Corolla has been around longer than many of us have been alive – this writer excepted – and has been the mainstay of Toyota’s lineup since the 1970s. For the longest time, it was the boring four-door sedan you bought because it was what you could afford and it was pretty much bulletproof. But boring.

The same could be said for many of Toyota’s previous models, including best-selling mid-size sedan Camry and Avalon, but over the past decade, all Toyota products have been reworked and are now handsome, sporting, capable and interesting vehicles. With the addition of model-specific hybridization, many of them are also exceptionally economical.

These days many customers are looking for crossover (CUV) or sport utility vehicles (SUV), with their ability to hold copious amounts of cargo and their higher seating position that gives a lot better forward visibility. To satisfy Corolla buyers and introduce a new model to the Corolla range that includes a sedan and hatchback, Toyota produced the new for 2022 Corolla Cross, a compact sport utility vehicle with final assembly at Toyota’s Alabama plant.

It was a great pleasure to drive the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD from Chicago to Indianapolis and back, while working the Labor Day NHRA Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals. Dressed in Celestite Gray metallic with a parchment interior, the Corolla Cross is visually blessed with little overhang and has plenty of interior space.

Toyota equips the Corolla Cross with three trims: L, LE and XLE. We drove this top-of-the-line XLE AWD machine, which has 169 horsepower at 6,600 rpm, coupled to 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,400. Redline occurs at 6,750 rpm. The CVT transmission fitted to all Corollas is well-geared for both in-town and over-the-road traveling. MacPherson struts and multilink suspensions keep the Corolla planted, while it’s got super-precise electric power steering and vented/solid disc brakes. Apt P225/55R rubber rides on 10-spoke 18-inch alloy rims.

In XLE AWD trim, the Corolla Cross weighs 3,325 pounds. All-wheel-drive does force this vehicle to give away some economy, at 29/32/30 mpg from the 13.2-gallon tank; other models are rated at 31/33/32, but have a smaller, 12.4-gallon fuel tank. We refilled with regular each time. As the car had low mileage at pickup, our mileage wasn’t as good as it will be once the Corolla Cross gets some more miles on it. Still, we saw between 33-35 over the road and about 28-30 mpg doing in-town driving. We did a lot of both!

The body lines of this Corolla Cross are dramatic, with its forward-jutting egg-crate black grille, lower fascia with fog lights inserted and a division between the grille and lower fascia. This model has a roof rack attached that kind of breaks up the smoothness of the sides, whose enlarged wheel-well openings promise strength and agility, two things the Corolla Cross has in spades. A small rear spoiler helps keep the window a bit cleaner while the large horizontal tail lamps are sure to get the attention of a following car.

The interior of this Corolla Cross was of immediate concern, considering its very light parchment color. We do have a tendency to get dirty at a drag race, but managed to avoid putting any rubber on these truly comfortable and supporting faux leather seats. For the driver, there are two memories and 10-way full power; the passenger has manual settings; seat heaters are standard. There’s a single USB plug next to the seat heaters.

The cluster in front of the driver offers all blue-rimmed gauges with a tachometer to the left, speedometer at the center and both fuel and temperature gauges to the right. Trip information fits in the center of the speedometer and can be toggled through various options. We kept our info on miles-per-gallon and range, to make sure we never ran out. The gauge cluster also has outside temp, double trip odometers and clock. The leather-trimmed steering wheel has modest brightwork around the center Toyota emblem and horn, while the steering wheel includes info, phone and audio volume on the left, with cruise with following distance monitor and audio mode to the right.

This driver is not much of a fan of driver assistance, but since most folks don’t keep their eyes on the road, many of these helpers can be of value. The radar cruise control is not obtrusive and following distances can be set. The side mirror warnings that are now mandatory for manufacturers can be quite handy. Lane departure has both a warning and an assist, while road sign assist lets a driver know the speed limit at the upper left area of the dash, along with the cruise control setting. The auto high beams are very sensitive, turning on and off as other cars come into view.

The covered central storage offers a 12-volt inside and there’s more open storage forward of the gear selector, a perfect spot for phone charging. One feature we always enjoy is “auto stop”, which shuts down the engine at traffic lights, saving fuel and counting the seconds it’s active.

The Corolla Cross uses the current version of Toyota’s semi-modern infotainment interface, which is pretty straightforward. This particular Corolla Cross has Toyota’s Audio Plus system, which includes an eight-inch touchscreen, nine JBL speakers, a subwoofer and amplifier, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. it’s Alexa-compatible and has SiriusXM with a three-month Platinum subscription that includes a security alarm system.

The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD starts life with an entry price of $28,840 including freight. The above-referenced Audio Plus option group costs $1465, while Toyota charges $1,250 for the tilt-slide sunroof and the power back door at the hatch. Auto leveling adaptive front lighting system extracts $615, while carpet and cargo mats are listed at $249. Add in the frameless HomeLink mirror for $175, the door sill protectors for $179, cross bars for $299, rear bumper protector at $79 and an activity mount for $399 and the total comes to $33,550.

Altogether, this is a very usable package of items, one that’s very easy to live with. Wireless charging is at the base of the central stack and holds the phone well so it continues charging. That’s not always the case. The back seat passengers do get air flow and have a pulldown armrest. Because the Corolla Cross is slightly larger than the sedan and hatchback, there’s a bit more space in the rear seat and under the hatch, which has 25.2 cubic space with the rear seats in place.

The hatch area is totally usable, with its power lifting and closing, a retractable cover, small side storage and tie-downs. To close the hatch from the rear, one has two switches available: one can close and lock while the other will close and keep all doors and the hatch area unlocked. These two switches were easy to reach, there’s a real spare tire beneath the very nice hatch carpeting and the side area was perfect to stow gifts for the wonderful people who deliver these cars for media use.

Putting miles on this 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross was an absolute pleasure. It, like most Toyota vehicles, works well and works hard at its tasks and allows the driver to accomplish driving tasks instinctively. While Toyota’s limited warranty covers three yeas or 36,000 miles and the powertrain warranty includes five years or 60,000, it does include complimentary maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, which is always nice to have and ensures basic maintenance is performed in the car’s formative years, helping to keep its value.

I really enjoyed this Toyota and am pleased that, for 2023 the Corolla Cross is offered with a hybrid package. Toyota’s hybrids have been proven well over the years and, in these days of ever-increasing fuel prices, getting better mileage is always a bonus.

words and photos by Anne Proffit

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