BEST TESTS ’22: Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Proves a Reason For Being

Suppose it was apt that we were driving a Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid both those days. We were up in Delmas to race and set off early into the sunrise each morning. Those sunrises were stunning. But what made them like that is actually quite horrible. Delmas sits bang in the middle of the western Mpumalanga coal fired power station belt that fires the dirtiest power grid on the planet.

Acrid Smog PONG Pulverises the Nostrils

You dodge coal trucks crisscrossing every byway hauling tons of dodgy fuel to those stations. But that isn’t the real issue. The acrid stench of that smog pulverises your nostrils, the taste confronts your tongue as you breathe in the pong of thick emissions of the many stations providing the vast majority of South Africa’s power, when it flows.

This tarlike air is also in part the result of Eskom mustering up the power to charge your allegedly squeaky clean electric car. So to be driving this fine little hybrid through that terrible muck really hammered home how fickle this electric car shift really is in this country. Or in any other second or third world state, for that matter.

Anyway, getting back to this petrol-electric Corolla Cross Hybrid. It brings a most compelling option below the RAV4 and above the Corolla Hatch. It’s a handsome and stylish car that’s neither flashy nor too basic. Boasting auto-levelling LED daytime running head and LED tail lamps, power-retractable wing mirrors, automatic light control and Bridgestone 225/50/R18 tyres on a neat set of alloys, it’s well hung.

Ergonomic, Spacious Cross A Breath of Fresh Air

Its dual zone air-conditioned black leather cabin is accessed via a Smart Key. The Cross is ergonomic and spacious inside as it echoes its Corolla siblings’ elegant and ergonomic style with even better visibility out, thanks to that extra height. Pleasant soft-touch surfaces and double-stitched details abound and there are one-touch power windows, rear vents, four cupholders, stowage binnacles and a 12-volt power outlet.

Settle in behind the multifunction wheel and you’re confronted by clear dials ahead and that 8-inch TFT touchscreen to the left. It has CarPlay and Auto mirroring, USB, and C ports. The reverse camera complements PDC and ours had 9-speaker JBL sound. The system is easy and intuitive, but suffers its ageing tech. A gesture power liftgate accesses class-leading luggage capacity behind the 60/40 rear seats is accompanied by an overbearing chorus of warning whistles, chimes and bells. Enough already!

But the gist of this story is what’s under the bonnet, and how it actually contributes so well to greening motoring in South Africa. Quite literally a breath of fresh air, the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid has a 70 kW 142 Nm 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine joined at the hip with an electric motor. Toyota’s latest more compact, more efficient generation Hybrid has 90 kW total system output.

Hybrid Harvests its Own Electricity

See, this Hybrid harvests electric power while braking, coasting, and freewheeling and stores the energy in a small, highly effective battery. The e motor can drive under full battery power. It boosts petrol performance too, like a like a turbocharger. And improves economy by a third. Which also means that you don’t have to plug it into our dreadfully dirty old coal and diesel powered Eskom grid so you can drive it.

Hybrids are not compromised by antiquated power grids and interrupted African electricity supply. Unlike heavy EVs, they need not wait for future local infrastructure before they will operate at their best either. And this car is based on the Prius, which sold a million units in 20 years. So it’s rock solid too.

Push the Button to Start and Corolla Cross Hybrid is easy to drive. It is refined, rides comfortably and is for the most part, quiet too. Best of all, this hybrid adopts none of the bulky feel and handling ills associated with excessively heavy battery electric vehicles. In fact, its poise really impressed. Precise and inspiring, there’s little body roll. A low center of gravity, beefed-up McPherson front and well fettled Torsion beam rear suspension make for an engaging drive.

An Ever Present HYBRID Bonus

A tad wooden in feel, driver feedback could be sharper. And it’s no rocketship. But there’s sufficient power, with that ever present electric bonus. It makes overtaking faster, easier, and dare we say, safer, too. Fuel economy is good. Toyota reckons Corolla Cross will sip an average of 4.3l/100 km on a good day. In the real world, we maintained a quite satisfactory 5.8 l/100. And it gets up to the sevens pushing on, on the freeway, This car prefers city driving, as hybrids do. And it can drive on silent battery power too.

It’s a touch cheap. Our sample Corolla Cross had a few little rattles, and there’s a tinny sound on shutting the door. And like most hybrids, it sounds a bit like a vacuum cleaner. Well safety stacked, Corolla Cross has everything from stability control to ABS EBD brakes. Add Hill Assist, all the airbags, ISOFIX, anti-theft and auto locking. Toyota Safety Sense includes Cruise Control, Blind Spot, Lane Trace, Rear Cross-Traffic and Pre-Collision systems.

So there’s very good reason why the made in South Africa Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is flying off the shelf. At R425K, this XS is almost impossible to beat. Yes, there’s a small Hybrid premium. You’ll win it back in fuel savings in 18 months. And pocket that third from there. It also means that every three Corolla Crosses represent one real zero emissions car. No lies, no smoke and mirrors and no dirty power net needed to power it.

a Huge Effect in Curbing Carbon Emissions

An economical and practical family crossover that’s easy to drive and live with, and handles superbly, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s biggest plus must be price. This car’s strongest suit is exceptional value for money. Over and above its many other strengths. And with over 1000 sold a month versus the handful of EVs, the hybrid is having a far more positive effect on curbing carbon emissions in South Africa right now Think about that for a second! – Michele Lupini

Photos & Data: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XS
Engine: 70 kW 142 Nm 1.8-litre Atkinson petrol
Electric Motor. Total system output: 90 kW
Drive: CVT FWD
0-60 km/h         4.69 sec
0-100k m/h:       10.66 sec
0-120 km/h        15.16 sec
400m:             17.5 sec @ 129 km/h
80-120 km/h:      7.83 sec
VMax:             170 km/h
Fuel Average:     4.3 l/100 km
CO2:              98 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/6 service 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R425K
RATED:            9
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