Quick Review: 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in Malaysia, the proper benchmark for family SUVs

Adrian Chia · Mar 25, 2021 08:31 PM

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross is now finally launched in Malaysia and we had a brief session with it, bringing you a first drive review of Toyota’s latest SUV.

No matter how much “enthusiasts” complain about SUVs, consumers just cannot get enough of tall-riding, big cars, and I am completely on the consumer's side.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

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SUVs are practical, offer great outward visibility and generous ground clearance (especially for our roads). For a sensible family man like myself, what is there not to like?

Toyota is very late to the SUV market, especially in South East Asia. Honda topped the sales chart with their HR-V and even Mazda has the CX-3 and CX-30 to gain some precious market share.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Competitor

Before the Corolla Cross, UMW Toyota only had the Rush and the RM 200k RAV4, none of which are competitors to the HR-V. Well, there was the C-HR but at RM 150k, it was for a niche group of buyers.

After spending the day in the Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8G (UMW Toyota did not supply the range-topping 1.8V variant for this drive), we think that this may very well be the go-to family SUV in its class.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

Quick Review: 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in Malaysia, the proper benchmark for family SUVs 03

Corolla Cross, is it a B- or C-Segment?

Vehicle segmentation is becoming more and more irrelevant because car manufacturers are coming up with a lot of “in-between models”.

2021 Toyota Compact SUV

Any guesses which segment they belong to?

This actually makes a lot of business sense because spinning as many models from the same platform allows them to achieve greater economies of scale.

The Corolla Cross is based on the TNGA-C platform shared with the Corolla Altis which is categorised as C-Segment. However, the Corolla Cross is not quite the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V class of car. Instead, it is the same class as the Mazda CX-30 and Subaru XV.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Rival Competitor

However, UMW Toyota wants to target the mass market with the Corolla Cross hence they are positioning it against the HR-V.

Exterior & Interior – Underwhelming at first

Consumers are very spoilt especially after the arrival of the Proton X50. Sporty exterior design, premium interior and plenty of toys to play with. The market can’t help but benchmark every new car against the X50.

2021 Proton X50 Design

The Corolla Cross’ mellow exterior and functional interior pales in comparison to the X50 and even the HR-V. If you walk up to the Corolla Cross in a showroom, there is zero wow factor.

You’ll find the analogue instrument cluster a little basic, the floating touchscreen infotainment is nothing new (even the Perodua Ativa has one) and the lack of soft-touch material a little disappointing.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Interior

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Interior

However, I think this is what Toyota does best. Peeling back all the glam and focus on giving you a sturdy, well-built, and practical car.

The exterior design of the Corolla Cross will definitely stand the test of time better than something that’s aggressively styled (anyone else getting bored of how the X50 looks?).

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Malaysia Exterior Design

Although the cabin looks basic, it comes with all the necessary amenities for a family SUV such as hands-free powered tailgate, 360-degree panoramic view monitor as well as Apple CarPlay & Android Auto (not available on Proton X70 & X50). Besides, would you prefer to have a fancy looking interior that rattles and squeaks or a basic yet well-built interior?

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Exterior Design Malaysia

Identification of a 1.8G variant

It’s a practical family SUV

Boot space of the Corolla Cross is the largest in class at 440 litres. This is achieved thanks to the adoption of a torsion beam rear suspension set-up which allows for better interior packaging.

Quick Review: 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in Malaysia, the proper benchmark for family SUVs 11

Boot space
Toyota Corolla Cross 440 L
Honda HR-V 437 L
Mazda CX-30 430 L
Subaru XV 345 L
Proton X50 330 L

Rear seats are much more accommodating than compared to the C-HR with 3 tennis balls worth of knee room when the front seat is adjusted to my driving position (175 cm tall). Headroom is fantastic with 2 tennis balls worth, so taller adults will have no qualms in the back seats of the Corolla Cross.

Quick Review: 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in Malaysia, the proper benchmark for family SUVs 12

Quick Review: 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in Malaysia, the proper benchmark for family SUVs 13

Toyota has also highlighted that the Corolla Cross has best-in-class rear-seat accessibility with 785 mm of door opening height (calculated from the hip point). This allows for better ingress and egress. It’s especially convenient for parents to move their toddlers in and out of a child seat.

Quick Review: 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in Malaysia, the proper benchmark for family SUVs 14

Outward visibility is also significantly better compared to a Corolla Altis because Toyota has made the A-pillars slimmer and occupants are seater higher, raising the eye level by 121 mm.

Quick Review: 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in Malaysia, the proper benchmark for family SUVs 15

Is the 1.8L CVT powerful enough?

Yes, it is more than sufficient for everyday driving. It doesn’t blow your socks off nor is will it leave BMWs to dust. The USP of this powertrain is refinement.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Engine in Malaysia

The 2ZR-FE 1.8-litre naturally aspirated 4-cylinder DVVT-i petrol has been around since 2007 and in the spirit of Kaizen (continuous improvement), it has gone through countless refinement throughout the years.

In the application of the Corolla Cross, it pushes 139 PS and 172 Nm of torque driving the front wheels paired to a CVT automatic.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Transmission Malaysia

It provides an incredibly smooth, refined, and responsive power delivery. There is minimal rubber band effect from the CVT and suits the character of the Corolla Cross very well. At 110 km/h, the engine is hovering at 2,000 rpm which keeps the NVH and fuel consumption low.

Torsion beam, is the ride and handling compromised?

One of the selling points of a TNGA-C platform is the double-wishbone suspension. As much as enthusiast(s) rave about the benefits of double-wishbone suspension (us at the WapCar office too), the truth is, the majority of the consumers have very little appreciation towards this suspension setup.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Suspension

Torsion beam or double-wishbone it does not matter. As long as the car is comfortable, handles well, buyers will put their money down for it.

I’m happy to report that the ride quality and handling of the Corolla Cross is beautifully set up. Despite switching to torsion beam, Toyota has done a fantastic job in the suspension tuning to offer great road pliancy and road holding.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

Okay, it is not as sharp to drive as the CX-30 nor is it as surefooted as the all-wheel-drive XV. But the Corolla Cross has the best balance between comfort and handling.

Steering is well-weighted and body control is good. Ride comfort is the best among the lot. For a family SUV, this is the perfect set up.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

Pure silence inside the Corolla Cross

One aspect that really surprised us was the stellar NVH. The Corolla Altis that we’ve tested earlier had less-than-satisfactory insulation as the road noise was quite apparent.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

In the Corolla Cross, every area – wind, road and exterior noise are very well insulated. Subjectively, it’s the quietest car in the class but stay tuned to our objected WapCar instrumented tests.

We were told that the entry-level Corolla Cross 1.8G that we were sampling has lesser insulation compared to the 1.8V yet it is already very well insulated (check out our video to listen for yourself).

The 1.8V adds an acoustic windshield, engine hood insulator, under boot floor insulator and Michelin Primacy 4 tyres - all of which looks to offer an even quieter ride.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross NVH in Malaysia

L: 1.8G    R: 1.8V

Conclusion, the Toyota family SUV you’ve been waiting for

First impressions of the Toyota Corolla Cross are very positive. It is quiet, comfortable, and practical enough for families.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

The Subaru XV and Mazda CX-30 are more of a lifestyle vehicle whereas the Corolla Cross is clearly aimed to appeal to families shopping for an SUV. With the Honda HR-V at the end of its lifecycle and the replacement is not expected to arrive in Malaysia until 2022.   

Those looking for an SUV that impresses the friends and family with fancy gizmos won’t even step into a showroom to check out the Corolla Cross.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Review Malaysia

But if you’re looking for a capable family SUV, seats 5 comfortably, plenty of cargo space, great features and the all-important Toyota seal of reliability, the Toyota Corolla Cross should be at the top of your shopping list.


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Adrian Chia


Psychology graduate with over 4 years in the automotive industry, 3 in front of the camera. Occasionally seen at his family owned tyre shop. Will only buy cars that passes the big bottle test.

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