I’m a pretty firm believer in the concept that there is someone in this world who will love every car. You might have totally hated the 2013 Mazda2, whereas I adored it because it was totally perfect for my needs at the time. But when I got behind the wheel of the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross for a brief test drive, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me who would like this car. So I’m going to walk you through my thought process as I experienced it, one step at a time.
(Full Disclosure: The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross was one of several vehicles I had the chance to test drive at a get-together for women auto writers hosted by A Girls Guide To Cars around the LA Auto Show. The Corolla Cross was one of the cars I was assigned, meaning I was the one responsible for picking it up, dropping it off, and doing a majority of the testing.)
If you want a full review of the Corolla Cross, José Rodriguez Jr. gave it a spin for Jalopnik in September. I don’t want to repeat anything he said — and that’s why I’m trying to find this car’s ideal audience.
The Corolla Cross left me stumped. Nothing about it really stood out to me. It’s not a great car, nor is it an awful car. It’s not a ton of fun, but it’s also not boring. It’s like the tap water of cars: It provides a life-sustaining service, but there are more premium options on the market, and people are always going to argue about the taste.
I’m not the only person to have that response, either. Just look at the comments on José’s post or on the ones on my What Do You Want To Know post. A lot of people asked why we needed another crossover, and what this one does that differentiates it from other crossovers on the market. A lot of people argued that the vehicle was slow or that it wasn’t slow. Some people said it looks fine while others thought it was ugly.
The overriding attitude was pretty “eh,” and that’s how my drive went. If you’ve ever been in a modern base- or mid-tier model Toyota, you can accurately guess how my drive in the LE trim went. It was definitely a car. It got me from Point A to Point B.
But why opt for the Corolla Cross when you could get the Mazda CX-30, which is more fun to drive? Why not go for the Hyundai Kona or the Kia Soul, which are both cheaper? Why not opt for the Kia Seltos’ interior charm?
That’s when I started to realize that a lot of car buyers aren’t interested in most of those things. They don’t have interest in something with zip or something with personality. The whole goal is to have something that’s mostly nondescript, cost-effective, and doesn’t require them to stop at the gas pump all the time.
People got mad at me when I pointed out on the Consumer Reports “Talking Cars” podcast that, for many people, cars are more like tools or appliances, and I think the Corolla Cross embodies that more than any other car (though I will admit the irony in it taking me a few days to think of this vehicle that way).
You probably have a list of practical concerns you want from a washer and dryer — cost, size, noise, longevity, draw on utilities — that you factor into your final purchase. You’re probably way less concerned about the fact that it looks cool, has some all-new technology that you’ll never use, or provides a certain number of rotations during a spin cycle.
That’s the same attitude a lot of folks bring to the table when they’re car shopping, and that’s why the Corolla Cross will have appeal. I don’t mean this to sound harsh, or to frame this as a criticism; instead, I think Toyota accurately looked at the demands of the market and figured out a way to meet them. I also don’t think it’s a bad thing that people aren’t super interested in the minutiae of the vehicles they buy. As an automotive journalist, I’m honestly ashamed I wasn’t more attentive to that when I first got behind the wheel of Toyota’s new Corolla.
The more I think about it, the more I think the Corolla Cross will be a hit with the contingent of the car-buying population that just doesn’t give a shit about horsepower or torque or a fancy infotainment system or luxury trappings. It’s not an exciting car. That’s the entire point. It’s a great teen car. It’s a great commuter. It’ll cart a family and work on a highway and in the suburbs. It’s not huge, but it’s bigger than a sedan for people who feel like they need that extra space. It’s not in your face. It’s not also totally ugly. It just is, and that’s what people want.
Honestly, I think the Corolla Cross is really going to find its stride much more confidently when the hybrid version comes out. With an already-impressive 32 mpg combined fuel economy for the FWD model and 30 mpg combined for the AWD model, a hybrid version of the Corolla Cross could easily bolster those numbers and give people a very clear reason to buy. Until then, I’ll be waiting to see sales figures to see if my guess on the buying market was correct.