The Corolla Cross-es into a bold new era

11 November 2021 | Motors
Yochanaan Coetzee

The Corolla brand has a rich and diverse history spanning 12 generations, and having racked up over 50 million global sales, it’s one of the most successful vehicle model ranges ever, and one with some of the most varied personalities as well.

Originally spawned as a compact city car in 1966, the Corolla has continued to evolve in line with the needs of the times and of the regions it’s sold in.

From starting out as a 1.1-litre engine, 59 horsepower two-door family saloon in 1966, its rise to the top was rapid, becoming the best-selling car worldwide by 1974. By 1997, it became the best-selling nameplate, surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle.

Over the next several generations, we saw a phenomenal evolution of the nameplate. Most memorably for me was the AE86, the ae92 1.6 twin-cam and RXI-era, which took family-favourites and made them performance pin-ups that could staan their man, even in a stacked deck of top-trumps.

Evolved and elevated

The Corolla Cross represents the first foray into the cross-over/SUV space and combines the respected core-product characteristics Corolla is known for with a new body shape that offers enhanced utility and bold new presence.

The Corolla Cross also carries particular significance for neighbouring South Africa, as the model is locally produced at Toyota's long-running Prospecton Plant in Durban.

The Cross thus continues the legacy of producing Corollas in Mzansi, but takes it in a brave new direction, thanks to their massive investment into making hybrid motoring technology more readily accessible in the region.

Firm footing

Underpinning the Cross is Toyota's acclaimed Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) modular platform. It is capable of underpinning hatch, sedan and SUV model ranges as seen in the C-HR, Prius, RAV4 and 12th-generation Corolla models.

As of August, 32 Toyota and Lexus models are using this platform and now account for approximately 70% of global Toyota sales. From a regional marketing perspective, the Corolla Cross is produced in both right- and left-hand drive variants and is also the first model to be produced en masse on the continent. It will be exported to more than 40 countries in Africa.

Why hybrid is a big deal

The introduction of hybrid technology in the Corolla Cross line has required altogether new assembly processes as well as vehicle testing systems, and these are now part of Toyota South Africa’s standard operating systems at the Prospecton Plant.

For the Toyota customer, hybrid technology has the obvious benefits of lower emissions and significantly reduced fuel consumption while reinforcing the overall driving performance, but for the SA plant, the introduction of the low-emission Cross in hybrid guise is significant in that it’s integral to the company’s roadmap towards carbon neutrality.

The launch of southern Africa’s first locally-produced, volume hybrid electric vehicle not only allows local customers the opportunity to accelerate their own change to green mobility far quicker than what was previously possible, but Toyota is so committed to the adoption of new energy vehicles (NEVs) in the southern African market that these new additions will even keep pace with the stringent green regulations in export markets such as the European Union and United Kingdom.

They are so invested in this mission - to the tune of N$2.6 billion for this model’s assembly line, in fact – that they’ve set a “very ambitious” target of selling more hybrid Corolla Cross models than traditional internal combustion engines models by 2025.

To put this into perspective, in 2020, 324 NEVs were sold in SA, and this year to-date, 322 have been sold. Incidentally, most of these have been Lexus models. So, there is still a long way to go, but this latest investment bodes well for this ambitious goal.

“We plan to fundamentally change the NEV landscape in southern Africa from a few hundred NEVs a year to well over 10 000 units per year,” Andrew Kirby, the president and CEO of Toyota South Africa, said.

And his sentiments are echoed by Toshimitsu Imai, the general manager of the Africa support division at the Toyota Motor Corporation and CEO at the Toyota Tshusho Corporation: “We are trying our best to make a significant contribution to reduce carbon emissions. We are currently proposing hybrid technology for southern Africa as it is important for local vehicles to have proper range or mileage”.

Line-up explained

Three grades will comprise the Corolla Cross line-up: The Xi, Xs and Xr. As the entry-level model, the Xi is fitted with all the basic technology and equipment to make it a worthwhile proposition. As such, it rides on 17-inch alloy wheels, has controls on the steering wheel, cruise control, all-round one-touch electric windows and Toyota Connect, to mention a few.

The Xs features much of the same, but adds a black leather interior, fog lamps and LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, two additional USB ports and a reverse camera with park distance control. Meanwhile, the Xr boasts 18-inch alloy wheels, Toyota Safety Sense, a choice of black or red 'Terra Rossa' leather interior and an LED interior illumination.

Toyota Safety Sense comprises of adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane trace assist and a pre-collision system.

Standard across the range is a comprehensive safety and security package, comprising of an anti-theft system, auto door-lock, Isofix anchor points, vehicle stability control, ABS, EBD and hill assist control as well as driver, passenger and side airbags across the board.

“They also only come in automatic, once again reinforcing the future-focused approach with this range,” Shaun Neethling from Indongo Toyota said during a recent open-day when they invited customers to see the new range up close.

The look

The Corolla Cross fuses the striking design language of the Corolla sedan and hatch models with an SUV-shape to provide a harmonious design.

Its large, elongated headlamps and elliptical tail lamps feature tons of high-tech detailing and trapezoidal design.

Its prominent radiator grille sets a bold presence perch above the broad 'upswept' lower bumper with its vertical accent lines. The fender flares create a sense of width, while sleek glasshouse and C-pillar trim with Corolla Cross detailing give it a sporty aerodynamic feel.

The interior

The interior space echoes that of its hatch and sedan siblings. Here, designers pursued an elegant design with excellent ergonomics and occupant space. The Corolla Cross has a premium feel with soft-touch elements and stylish metallic trim depending on the model. The double-stitched accent detail adds to its sporty feeling, while its large, centrally-mounted infotainment system underpin its focus on technology.

It also boasts a class-leading luggage capacity of 440 litres, with a 60/40 split rear seat and large passenger door entries to aid convenience.

Classy chassis

The Corolla Cross offers excellent ride quality without compromising agility thanks to its low centre of gravity, as well as front McPherson and rear Torsion beam suspension for enhanced comfort and handling.

The low noise, vibration and harshness levels make the spacious cabin a smart and serene space to inhibit, while its class-leading luggage capacity and meticulously designed cabin ergonomics guarantee stress-free commuting and road-trips.

The powertrains

As the Cross is poised to take Corolla into the 'new age', it is paramount that this model embraces the new-energy philosophy with the inclusion of both conventional petrol and hybrid petrol-electric powertrains.

Both are exclusively mated to Toyota's latest generation CVT transmission, aiding powertrain efficiency while offering the user convenience of an automatic transmission.

Petrol models will enjoy a 1.8-litre VVTi 2ZR-FE engine, producing 103 kW @ 6 000 rpm and 173Nm @ 4 400 rpm. Rated at 6.8 litres per 100 km in its fuel index and 154 g/km of CO2 emissions, even the combustion derivates won’t put a damper on your conscience.

In the hybrid model, owners take charge of a 1.8-litre 2ZR-FXE Atkinson cycle petrol engine which outputs of 72kW and 142Nm, however, with the addition of Toyota’s latest generation hybrid powertrain with a more compact, yet efficient battery pack, owners will enjoy smooth, immediate acceleration response with an instant torque boost up to 53kW and 163Nm, with an ultra-refined and quiet operation.

“You can also use it in dedicated EV mode where operation is restricted to near-silent, full-electric propulsion,” Neethling said. “And, best yet, the Corolla Cross automatically recharges the battery pack either via regenerative braking or by the petrol engine.

The closed-loop system means there’s no need to plug-in to recharge.

The pricing

The Corolla Cross range starts at around N$350 000 and tops out in the region of N$ 450 000. This is definitely one to watch, so do make a point of visiting your nearest Indongo Toyota dealership to find out how you can get your hands on this watershed vehicle for our market.

Additional reporting from MotorPress



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