After months of hyping its imminent Malaysian launch, the 2022 Corolla Cross Hybrid has finally arrived priced at RM136,550, kicking off 2022 in style for local distributors UMW Toyota Motor.
This is, of course, the first time that a hybrid vehicle from the Japanese automaker has rolled out of a Malaysian factory (Bukit Raja) with much effort and expense going into getting the facilities there up to snuff. In even better news, its local assembly debut coincides with the availability of the rest of the Corolla Cross range in CKD form and prices.
Previously, since the range’s initial launch in earlier 2021, all units of the Corolla Cross sold here were fully imported from Thailand. Though there are minor enhancements, the CKD versions of these vehicles remain identical on paper, sharing an unchanged spec sheet and equipment levels.
Onto the star attraction here, the Corolla Cross Hybrid, which naturally sits at the top of the range for 2022. You’ll honestly be hard-pressed to find many visual cues to separate the 1.8V and Hybrid, unless you know what to look for.
It surely is a deliberate effort from Toyota to not distance the two very much as the brand wants the pair to be characterised - chiefly - by its differing powertrains. The 1.8V delivers this via a tried and trusted naturally aspirated motor while the Hybrid offers a more efficient, future-facing alternative through electrification.
From the outside, you’ll need to spot the blue-tinged cluster for its bi-LED headlights, the Toyota brand logo at the front and rear, and of course, the ‘HYBRID’ emblems on the front fender and rear hatch. There's also the Celestite Grey body colour, which is exclusive to the Hybrid variant.
Even inside, the Hybrid is nearly identical to the 1.8V save for some new buttons such as the blue-tinged push start button, variant-specific floor mats, USB-C rear seat charging ports, and two new buttons thanks to its petrol-electric drive system located just north of the gear lever: EV Mode, Drive Mode.
Elsewhere we find the 9-inch touchscreen infotainment unit that is now accompanied by a 7-inch Multi-Info Display within the instrument binnacle that displays hybrid-specific readouts. There’s also dual-zone climate control (finally!), though this remains a glaring omission in the 1.8G and 1.8V.
Toyota Safety Sense is also another standard feature with the 2022 Corolla Cross Hybrid, as it is on the 1.8V. This includes Pre-Collision (AEB), Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Tracing Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
The Corolla Cross Hybrid uses Toyota’s 4th-generation hybrid tech that combines a petrol engine and electric motor working in parallel to drive the front wheels via a CVT. The former is a 2ZR-FXE 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder that runs on the more efficient Atkinson cycle and produces 98PS and 142Nm.
On its own, the accompanying electric motor produces 71PS and 143Nm, but when paired with the combustion engine, pushes the total system output to 122PS. That might sound like a downgrade, especially compared to the 1.8G or 1.8V’s 1.8-litre four-pot producing 142PS and 172Nm, but the numbers alone don't paint the full picture.
In practice, and as we experienced during a media preview drive prior to the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s launch, this powertrain feels more alert and spirited especially at low to medium speeds, paired with the refinement and silenced qualities that the electric motor brings to the table.
Performance is measurably improved as well with better acceleration times over the petrol-only variants with the 0-50km/h dash being 2.1 seconds faster and the 0-100km/h sprint being 0.9 seconds faster.
Its parallel hybrid configuration, which differs from series hybrids such as PHEVs that have become more popular these days, is also inherently lighter and more compact, leading to only a modest weight increase of just 25kg (to 1,430kg) over the petrol-only variants. Another upshot is the packaging solutions this makes possible as the 440-litre boot capacity is also unchanged.
The biggest advantage, however, is obviously fuel economy. Toyota claims that the Corolla Cross’ hybrid electric drive system, which is all but identical to that found in the latest 4th-generation Prius, is able to squeeze up to 23.3km out of 1 litre of petrol.
That said, Toyota has had to reduce fuel tank capacity to 36-litres (from 47-litres) in order to accommodate the air-cooled 6.5Ah nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery beneath the rear seats, reducing its theoretical maximum endurance. Although, with the added efficiency of that hybrid powertrain, all 3 variants of the Corolla Cross are about level with regard to range on a full tank.
Knowing that Malaysians might need a little extra assurance when it comes to vehicle electrification tech, UMW Toyota will be supplying each Corolla Cross Hybrid with an impressive 8-year, unlimited mileage warranty that covers the battery, inverter, and power management control unit. Basically, the whole hybrid system.
This 'hybrid warranty' may be further extended for two additional years (for a total of 10 years coverage!) at a cost of RM2,950. The rest of the car, though, will be covered for 5 years (unlimited mileage) via the standard Toyota manufacturer’s warranty.
With the Corolla Cross being the first locally assembled hybrid offered by Toyota, how many more electrified models can we expect in the future from the Japanese brand? More importantly, will the appeal of Toyota’s flavour of hybrid cars successfully translate to the Malaysian market?
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.