Sprint Review: 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross GR-S

Have you ever met perfection? Although it couldn’t be any further from my ideal vehicle, I’d like you to meet the perfect South African car.

You should know: The Corolla Cross is only vaguely related to a proper Corolla, but this S.A.-built crossover with front wheel drive and a big boot quickly became the bestseller everyone hoped it would. For every person who seeks my approval to buy a new Chinese SUV, there’s a good dozen proudly telling me about their new upset Corolla.

More info: My powers of observation have also taught me that S’africans adore a Meat-lorry White vehicle wiff black wheels and depressingly dark interior, preferably in a sporty spec. For added flex, as the kids would say. And so, this must be the automotive dream of most local motorists: a white Toyota Corolla Cross GR-S.

Every ‘rollacross comes with a 1.8L petrol engine (or 1.8L hybrid) mated to a CVT, and Toyota claims average petrol consumption of around 6.8L/100km from the 47L tank. Thanks to the slushy gearbox, we saw almost double that in crowded city traffic; which obviously plummeted once this car was exposed to highway cruising.

What else? Alas, the GR goodies are only cosmetic and added at the factory to either this regular 1.8L model or the mild-hybrid version. All of them are front-wheel driven. When asked if I could have it with a bigger fuel tank, the dealer laughed and pointed at a RAV-4. And when I enquired about silver wheels, you could hear a pin drop in the showroom…

This press vehicle arrived as a gap filler between other cars but slotted into our lives perfectly. From the simple but efficient media system to its roomy cabin during school runs. Plenty of driving and safety aids (like seven airbags) team up with keyless or automated goodies, loads of storage and charging options, plus 161mm of ground clearance for mild off-road excursions.

Why you shouldn’t: Reasons not to buy this car range from trifling irritations (no Sport mode in a sporty model) to personal issues like the elongated front overhang or mediocre performance. One of our testers correctly identified that sporty vehicles should never have a CVT, as already proven by the Honda Jazz Sport.

Why you should: Because it’s the perfect car for our current local motoring scene. There’s also a dealer or workshop in every village, plus it’s competitively priced at just under half a million bucks with a 3-year/100,000km warranty and 6-interval/90,000km service plan. Those black wheels are mandatory though.


Engine:1,798cc in-line 4-cylinder petrol  
Transmission:CVT, FWD  
Max. Power:103kW @ 3,000rpm
Max. Torque:172Nm @ 4,000rpm
Avg. cons.:Claimed 6.8L/100km
0-100km/h:11.15 seconds (no claim)
Top Speed:Claimed 185km/h
List Price:R495,200  

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