With electric vehicles being the talk of the town at the moment, it's easy to forget that there is a middle ground between fully electric vehicles and cars with internal combustion engines. If you're looking for one of those, then the CKD Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is one of the best.
If you listen to Toyota, the world's leading automaker, they argue that EVs are not the most practical way of slashing vehicle emissions, but instead, hybrids would be the best choice for those that want to be more eco-friendly.
Toyota is not trying to say that EVs are a lost cause because they too are planning to produce EVs - but right now, with charging infrastructure being in its infancy in Malaysia, they believe that hybrid technology is the most practical way of going about things.
They do have a point, especially when hybrids are just logically a lot more practical than EVs, as it's easy to get them going again if they run out of juice.
The CKD Corolla Cross Hybrid is Toyota's way of putting its words into action. The SUV can do incredible things, such as use 36 litres of fuel to get you more than 600 kilometres of driving range.
With this attribute being the spine of the SUV, it's no surprise that Toyota's local distributor, UMW Toyota has decided to assemble the Corolla Cross Hybrid in Malaysia. The CKD Corolla Cross is also the first Toyota hybrid vehicle to roll out of a Malaysian factory (Bukit Raja).
But what is it like? Does it really do what it says on the tin and get you all of that 600km range from 36 litres of fuel? Are there some compromises made trying to achieve this incredible ability? We borrowed one out to find out.
Usually, we like to talk about a car's exterior and interior first, but since the Toyota Corolla Cross is most impressive when it comes to fuel consumption, we must talk about its powertrain first.
The Corolla Cross Hybrid uses Toyota's 4th-generation hybrid technology that combines a petrol engine and electric motor working in parallel to drive the front wheels via a CVT. The engine is a more efficient 2ZR-FXE 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder mill which produces 98PS and 142Nm.
On its own, the accompanying electric motor produces 71PS and 143Nm of torque, but when paired with the combustion engine, the total system output is rated at 122PS.
That might sound like a downgrade, especially compared to the ICE variants that produce 142PS and 172Nm of torque, but hold your horses, as the figures don't really paint the full picture.
Believe it or not, the powertrain feels more alert and spirited especially at low to medium speeds. It's also got better acceleration times over the ICE variants with the 0-50km/h time being 2.1 seconds faster and the 0-100km/h sprint being 0.9 seconds faster.
Okay, okay, that might not seem like much, but when you pair this with the refinement and silenced qualities that the electric motor brings to the table, it's a win-win all around. However, when pushed hard the E-CVT transmission does roar a bit more than the regular CVT found on the ICE variants, but if you've never driven the petrol-only variants, you'd be none the wiser.
Ultimately, however, the biggest advantage is obviously fuel economy. Toyota claims the hybrid Corolla Cross is able to squeeze up to 23.3km out of 1 litre of petrol. To test this out, we thought we would brim up the tank and drive to Penang and back from the Klang Valley just to see if it could do it.
Did we make it? We have a video coming out soon...so you'll have to be a bit more patient. The results were unexpected, to say the least.
Now that we've got the fuel consumption out of the way, everything else should go downhill right? Well no, because the Corolla Cross Hybrid is pleasant to drive.
Being a tallish SUV, most would expect the Cross to wallow all over the place, but on the contrary, the SUV felt flat and controlled in most situations. Because of this, the Toyota is one comfortable car as it seems to control everything thrown at it. The rebound is nice, it soaks up bad roads easily and generally, it feels smooth to drive. Is it engaging? Not really, but you can have some fun as the car feels nimble.
The materials, ergonomics, button placement, and even seating position are what you typically get from Toyota. It's not the flashiest of interiors, but it feels modern, well thought out, decently spacious and feels like it will last for the longest of time.
Predictably, the rear space and seats are not quite as big as bigger C-segment SUVs, but it can easily fit a child seat and two adults at the back without anyone complaining. The cupholders at the door armrest are also a nice touch, as you don't have to dig for drinks at the cubby space at the bottom of the door like in most cars.
Toyota should also be praised for offering comfortable leather seats and a pretty decent 9-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
We've left the exterior review last because we now have mixed feelings about its looks after seeing the new Honda HR-V, which will probably be its closest competitor. Before seeing the HR-V, there's no doubt that the Corolla Cross looks mighty and modern.
It looks bold, delivers a nice blend of stylish SUV appeal with a certain Japanese flair and has a lot in common with the RAV4, which some consider to be nice while others consider it too boxy. Whatever you think of its looks, there's no doubt that the SUV has a sense of might to its looks, headlined by that big grille at the front and muscular wheel arches all around, which gives it that rugged feel.
But does it have the je ne sais quoi? Yes, but not as much as the new Honda HR-V, which just oozes style.
Most hybrids do not seem to make a vehicle that much more eco-friendly than a regular car, but considering that the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid sips fuel instead of gulping it, it can be said that the Toyota SUV is friendlier to the earth.
A lot of buyers are usually concerned about the battery in a hybrid vehicle, but since UMW Toyota is offering the car with an extendable 8-year battery warranty (pay extra and get 10 years), it can also be said that the SUV continues Toyota's tradition of providing buyers with a worry-free car, one that is pleasurable, economical and practical.
Wants to live the simple life, especially when it comes to cars and bikes. That's what tech is for he reckons, to make motoring simpler