Toyota Corolla Cross rides aggressively high and is headed our way

From 1988 to 1992, when sport utility vehicles weren’t yet a certified category, Toyota sold a runabout known as the Corolla All-Trac in the U.S. Its proper four-wheel drive featuring a lockable center differential and its plucky wagon version proved popular in places like Colorado before the RAV4 introduced crossovers as an apex predator, and before the Subaru onslaught cleaned all the bones on all the carrion. You can think of the new Toyota Corolla Cross that debuted in Thailand as the spiritual successor to that neglected All-Trac ancestor, remade for crossover-obsessed times and certain to be humongously more popular.

The guiding principle for the new offering was “Corolla meets SUV.” The Corolla Cross enters the lineup below the RAV4 as the sensible sibling to the style-focused C-HR. Sharing the same TNGA-C platform and 103.9-inch wheelbase as the C-HR, the Thai-market Corolla Cross stands 175.5 inches long, 71.9 inches wide, and 63.8 inches tall. Those numbers make it three inches longer, one inch wider, and two inches taller than our C-HR. Information for the ASEAN market says the crossover can swallow 15.5 cubic feet (440 liters) when equipped with a spare tire, or 17.2 cubic feet (487 liters) when buyers elect to skip the spare. In the U.S. the C-HR can swallow 19.1 cubic feet, and the Corolla hatch takes either 17.8 or 23 cubic feet depending on the spare fitment. Word is the Corolla Cross will make it here eventually, we look forward to U.S.-market luggage numbers.

The looks add a big dose of RAV4 design to plenty of artistic license. Two elongated headlights terminating in a big grille create a slightly aggravated face. All around that grille, an eruption of black cladding continues around the wheel arches, skirting, and rear bumper, under swollen fenders carved out of the bodywork. It’s busy, but it works for a diminutive package that doesn’t want to get bullied by bigger vehicles on mean streets.

Toyota plans four trims with two engines in Thailand. The base Sport trim comes with a 1.8-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder producing 140 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, shifting through a CVT. It can be identified by its halogen headlamps and wheel covers on the 17-inch rims. The other three trims are Hybrid Smart, Hybrid Premium, and Hybrid Premium Safety. As one might guess, they all use a hybrid powertrain pairing a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder with 98 hp and 105 lb-ft to an electric motor that adds 72 hp and 120 lb-ft, shifting through Toyota’s e-CVT. The Hybrid Smart upgrades the Sport trim to LED lights and better wheels, the Premium installs front power seats, a powered tailgate with foot-operated opening, and driver assistance features like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The Hybrid Premium Safety gets Toyota Safety Sense standard, as well as automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, and pre-collision warning. On upper models, the nine-inch infotainment touchscreen works with Apple CarPlay.

Further under the skin, a MacPherson front suspension in front works with a newly developed torsion beam rear suspension tuned for comfort and handling.

When the Corolla Cross lands Stateside perhaps as soon as next year, it will enter a segment expanding with compact punchers like the Honda HR-V, Jeep Compass, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, and Ford EcoSport.

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