Rather than being just another traditional sedan or hatchback, the latest Toyota Corolla is a brand new, compact sports utility vehicle which is manufactured entirely in South Africa. Expect to soon see thousands of Crosses on our roads, writes Ronel Steyn.
Most South African middle-class families were served by the Corolla somewhere along the line during the past 50 years.
First the sedan and then the hatchback ruled our roads. They were trustworthy, well-built and affordable.
The era of the sedan and hatchback, however, seems to have reached an end and their successor appointed in the form of the compact SUV – a class of family vehicle with more space, higher ground clearance and a higher seating position.
Popular models such as the Hyundai Creta, Ford EcoSport, Volkswagen T-Cross, Renault Duster and the Mazda CX-3 are already bestsellers.
They now have reason to be nervous with the Toyota Cross hot on their heels.
The largest launch of the year was a clear indication of the gravitas of Toyota’s latest release.
More than 35 cars were on display in the parking area of the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, with the entire who’s who of South African motoring journalism eager for an opportunity to get behind the wheel.
The Cross is entirely manufactured in Toyota’s Prospecton plant in Durban and offers a choice between two engine types - a conventional petrol, 1,8 litre supported by 103kW power and 173 Nm torque, and a hybrid 1,8 litre combined with an electric motor.
This is the first hybrid car to be built in South Africa, and the first one I have driven.
It was also my preferred choice between the petrol and hybrid engines.
The electric engine is so quiet that it took me a few seconds before realising that the engine was running, and the acceleration is smooth and quick thanks to the extra torque offered by the electric motor.
The battery pack is charged through the petrol engine and renewable brake power, bypassing the need for a charging station as in the case of a fully electric car.
According to Toyota, the Cross has a fuel consumption of 4,3 litre per 100 km, significantly less than the 6,8 litres of the conventional petrol engine.
On our drive from Cape Town through the Swartland and Boland, I was impressed by the comfort of the drive, the surface finishes, the spacious interior and the comfort equipment included in the standard purchase price.
Don’t expect a performance car. This is a comfortable family car with an engine and CVT transmission that deliver effective rather than extraordinary power.
The Cross is available in three surface finishes, starting with the entry level Xi at R350 000 and culminating with the XR Hybrid, with extras such as leather seats and 18-inch alloy wheel rims at around R450 000.
Standard to every model is an array of protective systems such as airbags for the driver, passenger and side airbags, stability control, ABS brakes, an electronic brake system, ISOFIX anchor points for child seats, doors with automatic lock function and an anti-theft system.
The large decorative grille, protective cladding along the sides and modern, sharp lines won’t necessarily make it a standout in the shopping lot parking area, but the overall look is not to be scoffed at.
The robes of its predecessors, the Corolla hatchback and sedan, may be long faded, but we predict the Cross will soon be crowned one of South Africa’s top sellers.
The king is dead. Long live the king!
Engine 1 798 cc petrol hybrid
Power 72 Kw @ 5 200 r.p.m.
Torque 142 Nm @ 3 600 r.p.m.
Gearbox Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Fuel consumption (claimed) 4,3 l /100km
Ground clearance 161 mm
Warranty 3 years / 100 000 km
Service plan 6 years / 90 000 km
Service intervals 15 000 km/12 months
Hybrid battery warranty 8 years/195 000 km
Price R448 300