My wife, Diana, expressed a keen interest in acquiring a new car, a request that made me shiver with fear. Over the past 40 years together, during which they’ve tested nearly 2,000 cars, SUVs, vans, and vans, they’ve happily maintained no interest in 99.9 percent of them. When my co-workers ask her what I’ve been driving for any given week, her answer will be along the lines of “It’s something blue, I think.”
This is just a trifle. The real issue comes down to two factors. The first is that Diana—and I’m walking cautiously here—”isn’t tall,” because she needs a pair of thick wool socks to go up to five feet. Manufacturers satisfy their products for the largest percentage of customers as engineering and design allow; 4-foot-11-1/2 drivers are generally out of parameters. But the thicker seat cushion, which DI uses in the Subaru Impreza hatchback, mitigates that problem.
The second factor, the crux of the matter, is that Diana has disabilities that must be accommodated. She does not hear out of her right ear, nor in her right eye. (Despite these “issues,” she’s been a safe and careful driver for 45 years.) But it complicates the buying process. Her desire for new wheels has nothing to do with any resentment of eight-year-old Sobey – she loves the car – but with her desire for something with the latest safety devices; Cameras, sensors, whistles and warnings are lacking in a hatchback. Oh, and while she doesn’t want anything with a much bigger footprint than her car, she does want something that rides a little higher, which got us looking at secondary crossovers.
Rather than flooding my wife with an increasingly long list of potential candidates, I initially chose three new/redesigned models that have caught my eye over the past year or so. Of course, Subaru’s Crosstrek was on the list, the company’s best-selling product essentially a top-riding version of its Impreza. I also picked Hyundai’s best-selling Kona and its fraternal twin, the Kia Seltos. But then Toyota announced the Corolla Cross, a crossover based on the Corolla sedan – as its name so vividly describes it. And since D has fond memories of her 2006 Corolla, it became a last-minute addition, albeit due to immediate availability, the first to be checked.
Switching positions in any car is practical for us because I’m 6ft-1. With Di behind the wheel, the Corolla Cross seat went as far forward and as far as possible. The steering wheel height and distance have been reset, as have all mirrors. Immediately there was a problem, with the high chair back, and headrest interfering with her rear view. Can the headrest be removed? She asked. Yes, it was possible, and it was. better. The seat back was still high enough to have neck support. Anyone who is much taller, though, is not by much. But now the rear seat headrests had to be removed as well to give them as unobstructed a rear view as possible.
We went, and despite D’s initial impression that the Corolla Cross was “much bigger” than the Impreza – it’s actually 100mm shorter overall, although a bit longer and wider – I quickly got comfortable with the way it drove. “It runs beautifully and is very smooth.” (In my view, the Corolla Cross and Impreza both have a “moderate demeanor” in that neither exhibit what I would describe as shimmering acceleration. And since they both have continuously variable transmissions, Toyota’s leisurely gearshift will feel and sound similar.)
Road Trip Review: 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross
Crossover Comparison: Kia Seltos, Toyota Corolla Cross, Volkswagen Taos
Two minutes later, she was frowning. She complained: “I can’t see out of the hood.” Annoyed, she stopped the Toyota, got down, took off her winter coat, folded it up and put it on her seat. Better, albeit a temporary measure, and we ended up meandering through the side streets to our house, where she removed her seat cushion from the Impreza and put it in the Corolla Cross. Satisfied with the improved front sight, the problem became that the higher elevation left her neck unprotected without returning the headrest into place. (Without fault on her part, Diana has been hit from behind three times over the past 12 years, twice requiring rehabilitation as a result.) By accepting this fact, we continued our path.
Parking is a lot of concern for Di as she finds it difficult to judge the distance between her car and any passenger-side vehicle because she has no depth perception. Fortunately, the Corolla Cross tested was the Topline XLE (MSRP $33,990), which, in addition to Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of safety features, comes standard with “Parking Assist with Auto Braking” (cameras and sensors above Acoustic to take guesses (outside parallel parking lots and tight parking spots), blind-screen display with rear cross-traffic alert, and back-up camera that displays an image on the touchscreen, complete with guidance lines.
However, since this was her first experience with all of these enhanced features, I found it overwhelming at first, and wanted to continue with the shoulder checks and slowly get back into places. “It’s counterintuitive to look at the camera screen while backing up,” she complained. “But I love the parking sensors.” I made several attempts at parking where I explained how to use the backup camera and guide lines to its best advantage, as well as pointing to the display in the dashboard that provided visual cues. It was a process, but Dee slowly gained confidence.
With it being the first crossover to be driven in multiple tests of compact models over the next several months, getting an idea of which vehicle will best serve its needs will take time.
However, there are some notes on the Corolla Cross. On the plus side, Di liked the cabin layout, especially the simple and logical placement of the various controls on the dashboard. I loved the way it was driven and the XLE model came with a heated steering wheel.
The things that matter to her. First of all, “When I stand next to it, it feels big and full of boxes compared to my Subaru.” (While we were doing the parking drill, someone in a Hyundai Kona—another of our considerations—dushed into the next parking lot. The Toyota is much taller.) Another issue is the rear hatch window size. “The important thing is that the rear window looks small. It’s easier to do the shoulder checks on my Subaru, but the Corolla Cross’s backup camera makes up for that.”
Diana’s last thoughts on staying on the Corolla Cross on my shopping list: “There’s something I like about it. I really wish I didn’t have to use a pillow. But with the pillow and all the sensors, it’s definitely a contender.”
Next up is the Kia Seltos. stay tuned