The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid adds a second and more economical powertrain to the compact SUV that debuted last year. Dropping Toyota’s well-proven and fuel-efficient hybrid system into the Corolla Cross boosts fuel efficiency to an estimated 42 mpg combined, against the 30 mpg combined of the standard AWD model. All hybrid versions of the Corolla Cross come with all-wheel drive as standard.

Toyota has priced the new hybrid starting at $29,305 and ranging into the mid-$30,000s for a heavily optioned top-spec version (including the mandatory $1,335 delivery fee).

Corolla Cross Hybrid design differences

Unlike some of Toyota’s other hybrid models, the Corolla Cross Hybrid is visually distinct from the gasoline-only version. In addition to distinct wheel designs, it has a grille blanking panel that stands out, especially in our test car’s new yellow-green paint color known as “Acidic Blast” that you’ll likely see in ads for the hybrid version. A two-tone treatment with a contrasting roof (black in that case) is also available.

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From the outside, the little SUV has proportions that split the difference between utility vehicle and compact wagon—though the W-word scares away buyers, so you’ll never hear it from the company. Inside, it becomes clear the little SUV is built to a price, with quite a lot of hard black plastic trim. Aside from hybrid info added to the displays, the interior is little changed from that of the conventional version.

Corolla Cross Hybrid performance and hybrid system

The hybrid Corolla Cross is fitted with a 150-hp, 2.0-liter inline-4 married to Toyota’s well-proven two-motor hybrid system, now in its fifth generation, with its planetary gear system taking the place of a typical combustion-vehicle transmission. The motors provide 152 lb-ft of torque, more than the engine’s 139 lb-ft. Total net output of the combined system is 196 hp, a boost over the gasoline model’s 169 hp. A 0.9-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack stores energy recaptured from engine overrun or regenerative braking, giving the car the ability to accelerate gently up to 20 mph on electric-only power—though if you need to get away more quickly, the engine will kick on.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

Unlike the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid we tested at the same time—or the Prius hybrid—the engine in the Corolla Cross Hybrid was apparent any time it switched on, and a disconcerting judder could be felt as the engine engaged and added power. That’s highly unusual for any Toyota hybrid; we’ll chalk it up to testing an early production model. The Eco drive mode was predictably slower, while the Sport mode added a bit of incremental perkiness at the cost of quite a lot more noise.

Overall, the engine-noise level of the Corolla Cross Hybrid was higher than we would have liked, especially given its average acceleration of 8.0 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. That’s more than a second quicker than the equally noisy gasoline version, but for the $4,000 premium over those other models some refinement is missing.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

Corolla Cross Hybrid comfort and ride: noisy but soft

The Corolla Cross Hybrid has a relatively soft and compliant ride, meaning it’s fine around town but not particularly rewarding to throw around twisty mountain curves. That capability isn’t necessarily top-of-the-list for shoppers seeking an affordable small SUV with good fuel economy and standard all-wheel drive. And the soft ride helps soak up small imperfections in the road surface.

In a combined drive that included a number of fast acceleration runs, some highway miles, and two-lane country roads, our test car showed a fuel economy reading of 36.7 mpg. Our driving wasn’t representative, but that suggests that in more predictable use around town, the 40-mpg level could easily be reached.

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Features and sportier trims

While the standard Corolla Cross comes in three trim levels ( L, LE, and XLE), the new hybrid lines up on the sportier side of the spec sheet, with S, SE, and XSE trims. The two lower grades come with 17-inch alloy wheels and a central 8.0-inch touchscreen display in the dash. Moving up from the Corolla Cross Hybrid S to the SE trim adds roof rails, tinted glass, paddle shifters, and both blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts.

The top XSE model includes larger 18-inch alloy wheels; LEDs for the headlights, taillights, and fog lights; a power driver’s seat; heated front seats; and a more premium upholstery material. Options include certain paint colors at extra cost, the contrasting roof color, a moonroof, adaptive headlights, a JBL audio system, and a convenience package for the XSE that bundles together multiple smaller features.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

All Corolla Cross Hybrids come with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Toyota has added USB-C jacks, and the model can now receive certain over-the-air updates to correct problems or add features down the line.

The hybrid system is warranted for 8 years or 100,000 miles, and the battery pack for 10 years or 150,000 miles. All Corolla Cross versions are assembled in a Huntsville, Alabama, plant that Toyota shares with Mazda, which assembles its compact CX-50 crossover utility vehicle there.

Toyota provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable Green Car Reports to bring you this first-person drive report.

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