But here we are: the Toyota Corolla Cross and Volkswagen Taos are each manufacturer’s latest arrivals in the ever-expanding small/compact (some may say “subcompact” – I’m not quite sure with these ), and they are two similar, but also divergent fighters.
They’re both aimed at probably active young families, and both are powered by four-cylinder engines from two manufacturers familiar with a number of crossover/SUV segments. They also have a trademark pedigree, most evident with the Toyota – we all know how successful the Corolla range of compact cars have been over the years – but the Taos has to be taken a step further, as we we’ll see in a moment. So on paper, these are each perfectly viable choices for buyers.
This is interesting in that the Taos is clearly a VW with its big and famous badge on the nose, its boxy silhouette, its shiny and very GTI-esque “Floret Blue” paint and its somewhat bold 18-inch two-tone wheels. I find the Corolla Cross more reminiscent of a Jeep Cherokee than anything else from Toyota.
The square fenders, the smoked grille, the shape of the leading edge of the taillights, the shape of the C-pillar – even the headlight lenses – are reminiscent of the famous Jeep product and in all honesty, I like it. It looks a lot bigger and more useful in person than I ever thought it would, and the Cypress paint job matches the mold well. I really like the exterior styling of this car, I think more than the VW, as nice as it is.
What I like about the Taos, however, are its overall proportions. It’s reminiscent of the Tiguan before the North American version of this big-selling Veedub became a three-row crossover, by which I mean the Taos is more Golf on stilts, like the Tiguan once was. That stands to reason, because if you know anything about VW, you know they canceled both the Golf and the Golf Sportwagen for the North American market (not including the halo GTI and Golf R models), and there therefore falls to the Taos to sort of pick up the slack left by these two models. Incidentally, this is where the Taos’ “all-new” designation takes a bit of an asterisk, as it’s very similar in size and range to the old Tiguan. The Corolla Cross, on the other hand, is something we haven’t really seen before from Toyota in that it sits between the smaller C-HR and the larger RAV4. The important designation between it and the C-HR, however, is that the Corolla Cross is available with AWD and the C-HR is not.
Inside the Taos, there’s no denying it’s a VW—same climate controls, same infotainment system with weird MS-DOS-style font, same tuxedo vibe, especially when it’s is finished in black leather, as seen here.
I’m a big fan of the digital gauge cluster and the ability to connect wirelessly to Apple CarPlay, though, two features the Corolla Cross can’t claim. The Toyota gets a decently sized TFT display between its analog gauges, though.
While I like how the Taos’ interior is a bit classier, the Corolla Cross’s interior is a bit more airy with more flared surfaces, a less cluttered center console and larger seats. On the one hand, I like it, but there’s something to be said for how enveloping the interior of the Taos is. Add to that the fact that it receives an optional panoramic glass roof, while the Toyota is content with a more traditional sunroof.
Performance, ride and handling
Although these both have four-cylinder engines, the Taos gets a turbocharger that pushes its torque up to 184 lb-ft, a pleasing number considering the size of the Taos.
The Corolla Cross, however, produces more horsepower, like most others in this class. Which, it has to be said, is a bit of a problem for the Taos – on paper.
In practice, however, the Taos has an extra trick up its sleeve that helps make the most of that power, and that’s its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Which, it must be said, can only be had if you spec AWD because FWD models get an eight-speed torque converter automatic. The result, coupled with that generous torque, is an athletic progression past a bit of turbo lag that only a quick-change dual-clutch can provide. Seems a lot faster than the numbers suggest, and that’s just a tip. The torque curve really comes into its own once, at high speed, the multiple ratios are there to allow for great power application across a wide rev band.
The Corolla Cross – like its so-called sedans and hatchbacks – gets a CVT automatic. Sure, these types of transmissions are good for fuel economy and they can provide smooth acceleration, but they rarely provide what I would call hard acceleration and, unfortunately, the Cross is no different.
Dabbing the accelerator pedal will elicit a response, but not particularly athletic and the more you press it, the tighter you feel. It might have more power than the Taos, but unlike the Taos which makes the most of the power it has, the Cross is quite the opposite, as its 2.0-liter four-cylinder feels limited by that drivetrain. . I don’t expect a vehicle like this to put out its power like a sports car, but I do expect it to leave me wanting when it comes to menial everyday tasks like pass a truck on a two-lane lane or enter a freeway. I won’t say the Corolla Cross can’t do that stuff. I can only say that I found myself thinking about it a lot more before attempting such tasks and the powertrain just doesn’t inspire as much confidence as the Taos.
What the Corolla Cross does, however, is a more comfortable ride than the Taos. Even the toughest bumps are smoothed out nicely by the Cross’ shocks and it flows over most roads with grace and comfort. Add a slippery shape and clever sound deadening work around the wheel arches and front bulkhead, and you’ve got a serene drive.
The Taos, for its part, has the better handling of the two. The steering is nice and direct (if a bit woolly to the touch) and the shocks have been tuned for a driver looking for a more athletic and responsive ride. Again, if you want to go after buyers who yearn for their Golf, that’s the kind of thing you need to do.
That suspension tuning and big wheels, however, make for a firm ride that gets riled up over repeated bumps such as what you might find on a pockmarked city street. Also contributing to less-than-smooth progress, the fact that the DSG box is slow in traffic with dual-clutch boxes is often a challenge, and that’s the case here. Aggressive shift mapping will cause swerves that you need to be prepared for. When you really move, however, ‘oh my God, Taos is a willing dance partner.
When it comes to interior comfort, these two models exceed their weight class, but in somewhat different ways.
As mentioned earlier, the interior of the Cross has more open space, feels a little easier to breathe in, and provides really comfortable and supportive seating that will pamper both front and rear passengers on long drives.
The Taos, however, offers the rear seat roomier in terms of headroom and legroom, while the Corolla Cross betrays its connection to the smaller C-HR with what’s a bit short of headroom. legs at the back. It’s not a knock on just the Corolla Cross. I’ve driven most of the competition in this segment, I can safely say the Taos cleans the clock of most of them when it comes to its backseat generosity.
Less generous, it must be said, are the VW’s seat cushions. They provide ample support, but not as cushioned as the items found in the Toyota, so in the sense of comfort, each of them gives and each takes away.
And how VW found all that rear-seat space becomes apparent as it doesn’t have the deepest cargo bays. On paper, it has more space behind the second row than the Corolla Cross, but the Toyota’s bay is deeper and easier to load.
Weird as the Taos’ infotainment system might sound, it’s pretty quick, pretty intuitive, offers the previously mentioned wireless connectivity and is your conduit to the Beats by Dre audio option on my tester. VW enthusiasts will know that VW’s old sound system of choice was Fender – yeah, like the Stratocaster – and this new system doesn’t quite pack the punch I expected from VW.
The Cross system is also an upgraded JBL part and while that sounds pretty good, the Corolla Cross still benefits from Toyota’s old infotainment system with its somewhat fuzzy graphics, fussy, alphabet soup-like navigation and its slower response to touch inputs. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay is there – albeit hard-wired – and seems to respond better. That’s where I kept it most of the time.
The Taos starts around $2,000 more than the Corolla Cross, and that’s with fewer speakers and a smaller infotainment screen. Add to that the Toyota’s better fuel economy, and it’s hard to argue against it being the value champion here.
I think now it’s pretty clear; for me, the choice is Taos. I’m willing to spend the extra cash for that performance and interior dimensions, not to mention the beefier infotainment.
I like the styling of the Cross, though, and those seats are top notch. It’s just that I had a hard time getting past that powertrain, no matter how good the thing looked. Many will dig the Corolla Cross for its comfort and ride quality; I choose the Taos because I miss the Golf, and it works as a replacement – for the most part.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle ratings were not subject to approval.
BODYWORK: Compact five-door crossover
CONFIGURATION: Font Engine, AWD
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo, 158 hp @ 5,500 rpm; 184 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LOAD CAPACITY (L): 790-1,866
FUEL CONSUMPTION (L/100 km): 9.5/7.4/8.5 city/highway/combined
BASE PRICE: $26,695
TESTED PRICE: $36,695
Toyota Corolla Cross
BODYWORK: Compact five-door crossover
CONFIGURATION: Front engine, AWD
ENGINE: 2.0-litre inline-4, 169 hp @ 6,600 rpm; 150 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm
LOAD CAPACITY (L): 724.9
FUEL CONSUMPTION (L/100 km): 8.1/7.4/7.8 city/highway/combined
BASE PRICE: $24,890
TESTED PRICE: $33,990