Toyota launches Toyota Corolla Cross

Toyota has reached yet another milestone with the launch of the Toyota Corolla Cross. What makes this vehicle unique?

Toyota has launched its first locally manufactured hybrid vehicle and the PR team is ecstatic and buzzing. Why?

Two reasons! This is its first locally manufactured hybrid vehicle. Secondly, they are also celebrating the Corolla heritage which has seen many a Toyota vehicle become a family heirloom.

The newly launched Toyota Corolla Cross will be available in five derivatives and three grades. Two will be hybrid and three will be standard petrol models with the top spec Cross Hybrid retailing for R448 300. Important to note also is that the Cross, including the hybrid, is manufactured in South Africa.

It is built on the TNGA platform which renders greater overall quality in terms of quietness and ride comfort. This was quite prevalent during the actual drive at Gerotek Test Facility outside Tshwane. Suspension is firm but very confident and comfortable through tight corners and even when changing direction mid-corner.


Power in the Cross comes from a 1.8-litre with VVT-i, with strong mid-range torque and response. It delivers 103kW and 173Nm and is linked to a seven-step CVT gearbox which offers a manual mode. I was quite content to let the CVT just do what it does best. In the hybrid model and using Atkinson cycle technology, the re-engineered engine produces 72kW and 142Nm. In the hybrid derivative, the electric motor delivers 53kW and 163Nm, and although the maximum kilowatt is 90kW, the hybrid’s response-to-accelerator input is certainly sharper than the standard petrol model. According to Toyota, the hybrid will be good for a 4.3l/100km fuel index.

The SUV and bakkie segments of the vehicle market are growing. Activity in the crossover segment is gaining momentum and its expected that the Corolla Cross will rejoice in brisk sales. Smaller in size and engine capacity than the Toyota Rav and not offering all-wheel drive, but benefiting from the hybrid technology, fuel economy and cleaner performance, Toyota can high-five themselves. 

What is the user experience like?

A small group of motoring hacks was invited to a mini scoop pre-launch drive of the new Cross held in Pretoria. The group was also privileged to drive some of the Toyota Corolla models of yesteryear. 

It was rewarding, in more sense than one, to appreciate the advances in technology (engine and suspension) and finish and fit. Remember those fiddly immobiliser systems and the hiding place of the switches? These days though, one really does not give a second thought to those, as vehicle security takes care of itself.

Suspension and steering systems and how they respond and adapt to road conditions are now light years ahead from when the first Toyotas were launched. The group drove the older models over the same route and boy, suspension noise, steering response, drivability and braking has come along just wonderfully. A note of gratitude to Toyota for the experience and the engineering milestones over the years.

It’s worth highlighting that Toyota has sold more than 50 million Corollas across 150 countries since it first launched in1966.

Here’s a short overview of the Corolla lineage, courtesy of Toyota:

The Corolla nameplate needs no introduction – first launched in November of 1966, it marked the start of great things not only for Toyota but Japanese automakers as a whole, as Japan experienced a period of rapid economic advancement, population growth and societal revolution. Named after the ring of petals on the central part of a flower, this was Toyota’s first mainstream compact car.

Featuring a compact yet sporty body shape and 1100cc four-cylinder engine, the Corolla found favour from day one. This model, along with the larger second-generation E20, went on to become global success stories, drawing in buyers across the globe. The second-generation Corolla also introduced additional body shapes offering buyers a two-door coupe and four-door van – in addition to the two- and four-door sedans of the pioneering E10.

The third-generation E30 grew once again, now adding liftback and fastback versions for a total of five body shapes. This was the first model sold (and produced) in South Africa, kicking off Mzansi’s love affair with the compact sedan in 1975. The “boxy” fourth-generation E70 model offered seven body configurations (the most in the brand’s history) with engines ranging from 1.3 to 1.8 litres. This generation helped Corolla clinch 10 million global sales in March 1983 and remains a firm favourite with collectors and Toyota fans to date, affectionately referred to as a “Baby Cressida”. The fifth generation brought a significant change with the switch to a front-wheel-drive platform and in South Africa introduced the Corolla hatchback badged as the Corolla Conquest. This model joined the familiar sedan alongside a liftback version (called Corolla Avante).

The fifth-generation model also introduced the famed RSi and GLi twincam-16 names on local soil and scooped the inaugural SA Car of the Year title in 1986.

This was followed by the sixth-generation E90 cars in both Corolla and Conquest forms. These models introduced a more upmarket feel to the Corolla range with the Executive and GLS trim levels – and offered a wide range of engines. In South Africa this model remained in production despite the seventh-generation E100 cars being sold overseas. The next local Corolla was the E110, which grew in size and particularly interior space. The bonnet of this generation also housed the famed 20-valve 4AGE engine in RSi format – earning cult status amongst petrolheads.

The year 2000 saw the debut of the E120 series of cars and the hatchback variant now carried the RunX badge on its rear flanks. The ninth-generation Corolla and RunX pairing employed a completely different design language and moved Corolla into a more luxury-oriented arena, while the RunX carried the sporty flag by including a high-power RSi variant. These models achieved considerable sales success on local shores.

In 2006, the Prospecton Plant switched over to the 140 series of Corolla and a new global direction saw the divorce of the hatchback Corolla variant, as it was renamed Auris and sold as a standalone model. This 10th-generation sedan would go on to become the Corolla Quest in SA, when the 11th generation went on to replace it in 2014. Uniquely, the Durban-based plant thus produced both E140 and E180 series in the factory simultaneously.

The 12th generation Corolla slotted into the market in 2019, featuring a bold new design and Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. It also marked the return of the hatchback variant. For the first time in SA, the hatch model was badged simply as Corolla (without a sub-name). This in turn prompted the switch to the 11th generation platform for the Corolla Quest in 2020, while the Corolla sedan and hatchback models were imported for the first time since 1975.


There is a lively debate going on about the viability of electric vehicles. With limited travel distances and a suspect power grid, there may be some merit for the resistance from the buying public. However, it’s also safe to say that when used for day-to-day in-town travelling, electric vehicles do offer an alternative to petrol.

Hybrid technology and CVT transmissions have come a long way and represent, at this time, an alternative option. The debate on which of the two technologies is the greenest is one for another day.

Be that as it may, the new Toyota Cross range and the hybrid in particular offer an excellent opportunity to get with the alternative technology programme.

The SUV and bakkie segments of the vehicle market are growing. Activity in the crossover segment is gaining momentum which will likely translate into the Corolla Cross recording brisk sales.

The Toyota Cross – and in particular the hybrid, should be on your Christmas shopping list if there is space for a new set of wheels…


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