Through the newly launched Corolla Cross, UMW Toyota Malaysia has finally plugged up a gaping chasm in their arsenal of vehicles offered here, but just because this newest model to join their line-up has arrived, its success is far from guaranteed.
That said, from what we know so far about the compact SUV, it does come into the ring ready to fight. With prices starting at RM124,000 (on-the-road without insurance), the Corolla Cross is simultaneously a rival to other C-segment class contenders like the Mazda CX-30, Subaru XV, and Peugeot 3008, but also the larger varieties of B-segmenters like the Honda HR-V.
Visually, it doesn’t take too many cues from the E210 12th-generation Corolla sedan, so despite the derivative relation, it could be perceived more independently as a standalone product. If anything, it resembles the handsome RAV4 most evidently among the other members of the Toyota stable. Uniting the two, however, are most notably the shared TNGA (GA-C) underpinnings as well as that 1.8-litre naturally aspirated 2ZR-FE engine.
Even dimensionally, the two models don’t correspond so neatly. Surprisingly, its the four-door sedan that’s longer overall (by 170mm) and has a longer wheelbase (by 60mm). However, the Cross is taller by 185mm and has 33mm more ground clearance.
Power and torque are equal here at 139PS and 172Nm, which should match up to fairly identical pace on the road given very similar kerb weights between the sedan and Cross. Drive is sent to the front wheels exclusively via a CVT, though manual override is available through 7 preset ratios.
At launch, UMW Toyota presents two variants starting with the 1.8G and more fully equipped 1.8V at RM134,000 (OTR without insurance). For the moment, both are fully imported but locally assembled units are confirmed to appear by the end of 2021.
Between the duo, only a few items worth mentioning set them apart. First of all, there are the wheels with the 1.8G receiving smaller 17-inch alloys on Bridgestone tyres. Meanwhile, larger 18-inch dual-tone ones are fitted to the 1.8V along with Michelin tyres for good measure.
Besides that, the entry-level G also misses out on those much nicer LED headlights and ‘Light Curtain’ type daytime running lights, having to make do with decidedly lower-rent looking halogen projectors and DRL bulbs instead.
Inside, both variants get a black interior with standard leather seats, though only the driver receives electric power adjustment. It’s no Lexus UX but there’s still an air of the ‘upmarket’ when sat in either of the Corolla Crosses. The dashboard, control layout, and general ergonomics are, again, a dead ringer for the Corolla sedan.
The 9-inch infotainment screen is a particularly impressive bit of kit given the sharpness of the LCD touchscreen panel and the responsiveness of the interface itself, which is also quite intuitive to use. Aside from the USB and Bluetooth audio support, smartphone connectivity is provided via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There are some omissions that stood out, though. It would have been nice for a more sophisticated climate control solution, but it’s a single-zone only for either the G or V, but at least there are rear air conditioning vents. Also, those looking to impress their friends with fancy graphics on their digital instrument display might be disappointed to discover a more old-school analogue cluster. Personally, we prefer the latter.
There are 7 airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. As you’d expect, Asean NCAP has given the Corolla Cross a 5-star safety rating. That said, one area where the Corolla Cross went above and beyond was in regard to active safety features. Typical practice for most mass-market automakers is to provide active safety (and/or driver aid) functions to upsell their most expensive variant, leaving the lesser specified ones empty handed.
Here, even the 1.8G receives a very impressive 360-degree around-view monitor with 3D perspective augmentation, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert as standard. Upgrade to the 1.8V, and the full Toyota Safety Sense suite can be enjoyed, adding such things as Pre-Collision (AEB), Lane Departure Warning, Lane Tracing Assist, and Dynamic Cruise Control, among others.
The more comprehensive list of safety features, clearly, is where the bulk of the 1.8V's extra RM10k asking price was spent.
Against its class competitors, the Corolla Cross’ practicality and credentials make it a rival most worthy. Rear passengers get ample leg and headroom with a bench that’s also reclinable by 6-degrees and folds down in a 60:40 split, behind which is a commodious 440-litre boot with a convenient kick-operated tailgate as standard.
Right now, there's no telling how exactly the buying public will respond to this new contender in an already packed SUV marketplace with so many good options. It very convincingly ticks all the boxes, but may lack that unique X-factor to seal the deal. The Corolla Cross certainly might be UMW's best - albeit late - foot forward, but is it Toyota's?
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