2024 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE — Gas-sipping, budget-friendly SUV

By Jim Prueter

(November 3, 2023) Back in 2022 Toyota took one of its best known and popular vehicles, the Corolla and extended the brand by adding a SUV version to its product offering that slotted between the smaller and now discontinued C-HR and the larger, best-selling RAV4. Last year, for 2023 Toyota added the hybrid model that we review here as a 2024. Like the 2023, for 2024 the Corolla Cross remains a carryover vehicle with absolute minimal changes most notable an updated infotainment system with an 8.0-inch display screen and an updated Qi wireless charging.

We first reviewed the Corolla Cross when it launched in 2022 testing the top trim XLE and found it mostly likable with its attractive style, standard Toyota Safety Sense features, good cargo space and generally value pricing.

What we didn't care for was its anemic acceleration, unrefined course-sounding engine/transmission, small rear seat and economy-look interior. An overall decent new crossover offering but nothing that broke new ground or delivering any "wow" factors. Still, we agreed a solid offering that will please Toyota loyalists and certain they would sell extremely well especially drawing on the name of one of Toyota's most successful models for marketing purposes.

While generally pleased with its relatively attractive new design language, most people gave positive remarks regarding its appearance and seemed to like its looks. The size seemed right for most people as the larger RAV4 sibling has only grown physically larger and is no longer the Corolla size it once was. As a result, the Corolla Cross makes more sense to a large number of folk who don't need or favor the larger RAV4. For empty nester couples, a small new family or a single with a dog, it a near perfect fit plus there's enough room behind the second row seats to carry most daily or weekend cargo tasks.

But we were far less pleased with its on-road performance with its slow, anemic 169-horsepower and tepid acceleration that had us wishing for 30-40 more horsepower. The CVT transmission also lacked the smoothness of competitor models and cabin noise with too much wind, road and engine noise killed the driving comfort and pleasure. We were also hoping it would at least be economical but the best we could squeeze out during our week of testing was an overall disappointing 25.5 MPG with 29 MPG on the highway.  

With that as a background we were again eager to welcome the new hybrid powered Corolla Cross and hoping to really like the vehicle especially with a fuel rating of 42 MPG combined city-highway driving with cheaper 87-octane gasoline and nearly our desired 30 additional horsepower. That's 12 MPG better in combined mileage than the non-hybrid all-wheel-drive model.

The Corolla Cross Hybrid's powertrain combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with three electric motors good for a combined 196 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard. And kudos to Toyota for delivering a Corolla Cross that gets significantly better fuel economy with quicker acceleration that reaches 60 mph in just a tick over 7 seconds versus our previously non-hybrid Corolla Cross a sloth-like 9.4 seconds. The hybrid also adds a slightly sportier tuned suspension but don't think it has turned into any type of canyon carving sports crossover.

In our weeklong testing experience, we recoded 38.2 MPG combined city-highway driving, not the Toyota indicated 42 MPG but an appreciable improvement nonetheless. We also liked that the engine sounded less coarse, was more powerful, a satisfying combination to be sure. It also seemed the cabin was a bit more hushed but perhaps we were so pleased with the hybrid powertrain we just enjoyed the driving experience better.

This time around we also found the interior less staid aided I'm sure by bumping up a trim level to XSE from XLE. It's sill follows the basic Corolla sedan template for interior style and function which is mostly basic with features but the seating in our XSE comes with a nice appearing faux-leather fabric, heated front seats, a sunroof, ambient interior lighting and brushed aluminum-like accent trim.

For those who are more budget-minded the less equipped S trim level all-wheel drive hybrid starts at $29,320 and the mid-level at $30,640.

As the hybrid crossover SUV of Corolla overall we found it a much more agreeable choice over the gas-only powered offering. While driving, ride and handling are sufficiently improved vs the non-hybrid Corolla Cross, don't expect the all-wheel drive designation to accomplish much more than snow covered or mild gravel roads capability. Moderate to rugged off-road driving isn't part of the offering nor is sporty-thrilling, twisty road handling either.

Still, it scores high marks for its stated and intended use which is a decent driving, well constructed, functionally roomy, affordable with Toyota's legendary reliability, high resale and for most people that's enough for them.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $32,400
Price as Tested: $35,565
Powertrain: 2.0-Liter gasoline 4-cylinder paired with lithium-ion battery pack 3 AC electric motors combining for 196 horsepower   connected to a direct-drive automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy (MFR'S EST): 45/38/42 - MPG City/Highway/Combined
Seats: Five passengers
Crash Test Safety Ratings: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick.

Where Built: Huntsville, Ala.

Competes With:
Ford Escape Hybrid
Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
Kia Niro Hybrid
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

More power, better fuel economy than non-hybrid Corolla Cross
Excellent Toyota Safety Sense features standard
Traditional reputation for reliability and high-resale value

"Dynamic driving" isn't part of the offering
Tight rear seat room
Rent-a-car interior