Honda HR-V vs. Toyota Corolla Cross: Small SUVs, Big-Name Beginnings
Toyota’s recently introduced Corolla Cross has expanded the long-running Corolla nameplate into the small SUV space—using the Corolla hatchback as its mechanical starting point, no less. Honda just re-upped its HR-V, which swims in the same subcompact crossover waters as the Toyota, and in doing so shifted from using the now-defunct Fit hatchback’s underpinnings to the latest Civic’s bones. Put another way, the Corolla Cross and HR-V are, in essence, SUV versions of two of America’s most popular compact cars, the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic. Naturally, we should compare the two, no?
The Civic and Corolla connections for these two SUVs matter, mainly because of the strong name recognition and reputation both vehicles command, but also because the HR-V and Corolla Cross nameplates are relative newcomers. Honda’s HR-V has only been around since 2016, and the Corolla Cross is all-new this year. Both compete in the subcompact SUV class, which is exploding in popularity; their Civic and Corolla cachet is sure to help them stand out amongst segment mainstays such as the Kia Soul, Jeep Compass, Nissan Rogue Sport, and Chevy Trax. Here is how the Honda HR-V and Toyota Corolla Cross compare, on paper:
Platforms and Styling
In adopting the newest Civic’s platform, the HR-V takes a big step forward. This component set sits underneath the excellent new Civic sedan and hatchback, delivering sharp handling and a stiff body. The Civic is one size up from the old subcompact Fit that Honda leaned on to support the old HR-V, and that larger footprint is evident in the new HR-V’s longer, wider stance. Gone is the Honda’s chubby, dumpling-like profile; in its place is a more sport-hatchback-ish shape with a more defined hood and a squarer body. The jury’s still out on the mouthy looking grille—which we’ve seen people liken to the Ford Escape’s “oh” face—but the Civic-like slim headlights, strong shoulder line, and fastback rear with Civic hatchback-style taillights appear upscale and handsome, especially compared to its Toyota rival.
The Corolla Cross breaks almost no new styling ground, instead assembling a mishmash of various elements from the one-size-up Toyota RAV4 crossover into a blander result. While the HR-V borrows from the Civic on which it’s based, the Corolla Cross eschews any visual association with the current Corolla sedan or hatchback. That said, the upcoming next-generation Honda CR-V is likely to share a lot of styling with the HR-V (as well as the Civic), and Toyota is probably wise to pilfer styling from the RAV4, which is the best-selling non-pickup in America. Still, the Corolla Cross is inoffensive to the point of blandness.
Both SUVs borrow heavily from their car siblings’ chassis setups. The HR-V perches atop the same strut-type front, multilink rear suspension as the Civic, albeit with a shorter wheelbase than the Civic sedan or hatchback. Toyota employs nearly the same basic layout, but substitutes a less sophisticated twist-beam rear axle for the multi-link arrangement on entry-level front-wheel-drive Corolla Crosses. (All-wheel-drive models get the multi-link rear.) Similarly, the Corolla Cross sits on the stubbier wheelbase of the Corolla hatchback, rather than the longer version used by the Corolla sedan.
Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Honda upgrades the 2023 HR-V from last year’s relatively weak 1.8-liter, SOHC I-4 to the entry-level Civic’s 2.0-liter, DOHC I-4. Once again, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard across the board. Front-wheel drive is standard, too, with all-wheel drive available on every HR-V trim level. With its new engine, the HR-V’s output springs up from 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque to 158 hp and 138 lb-ft, figures identical to those in 2.0-liter-equipped Civics.
Similarly, Toyota reaches into the Corolla’s arsenal for the Corolla Cross’s 2.0-liter I-4 engine, which until this coming year was an upgrade engine for Corolla sedans and standard on the hatchback. (The refreshed-for-2023 Corolla sedan will get this same 2.0-liter standard, ditching its entry-level 1.8-liter I-4. ) The Corolla Cross has the HR-V beat on power, with 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, though it mashes that output through a CVT to either the front or all four wheels. We’ll need to test the new HR-V to see how quick—or not—it is, but in our testing the more powerful Corolla Cross wasn’t particularly quick, reaching 60 mph in a slowish 9.3 seconds. A lighter, less powerful last-gen 2019 HR-V did the deed in 9.6 seconds.
If you had guessed that the new HR-V’s mightier engine and slightly porkier curb weight, up about 200 pounds depending on the model, would impact its fuel economy—you were right! The 2023 HR-V sees about a 2-mpg drop across the board compared to the 2022 HR-V. The 2023 HR-V’s 27-28 mpg combined is still decent, but it’s well off the Civic’s EPA figures, as well as the Corolla Cross’s 30-32 mpg combined. And for 2023, Toyota is introducing a Corolla Cross Hybrid with not only more power than the regular Corolla Cross, but a claimed 37 mpg combined. Honda may just follow Toyota’s lead—we hear an HR-V hybrid is possible, perhaps plausible.
Dimensions and Cargo Space
The 2023 Honda HR-V is notably larger than the Toyota Corolla Cross. Not only does it ride on a longer wheelbase (104.5 inches to the Toyota’s 103.9-inch span), but it’s 4.2 inches longer and half an inch wider, too. That extra exterior size is put to good use inside, where the HR-V boasts 98.7 cubic feet of passenger volume (which drops to 97.3 cubes on the range-topping EX-L trim). The Corolla Cross makes do with 88.4 cubic feet of space (the available sunroof chops 1.1 cubes from that figure). Delving into headroom, shoulder room, hip room, and legroom, the HR-V handily beats the Corolla Cross in most measurements save for front seat legroom (the Toyota has 42.9 inches, 1.0 inch better) and headroom (by a negligible 0.1 inch in front and 1.1 inches in back). Honda carves way more legroom out of the back seat area—37.7 inches, 5.7 more than you get in the tight-feeling Corolla Cross’s back seat. By the way, this interior roominess comparison shakes out almost the same when considering the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic sedans.
Toyota delivers slightly better cargo space, however it’s not a clear-cut win. The Corolla Cross offers up to 25.5 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats (which drops to 24.3 cubes on all-wheel-drive models), compared to the HR-V’s 24.4 no matter how many driven wheels it has.
Both the Honda and Toyota betray their Civic and Corolla connections inside, as both SUVs essentially plagiarize the dashboards of their car cousins. In the Corolla Cross’s case, the dashboard, steering wheel, and touchscreen are literally the same units fitted to the Corolla sedan and hatchback, albeit grafted into the Cross’s taller cabin and mated to a different center console. The HR-V adapts the Civic’s sleek dashboard design with a few minor changes, most notably softening the edges around the cool full-width honeycomb mesh strip that hides the center and passenger-side air vents.
The Honda interior is unquestionably more premium-looking and feeling than the Toyota’s, which isn’t bad, but also isn’t nearly as stylish. In both SUVs, the cabins grow more plasticky the farther back you move, but Honda dresses up the parts you face and look at most often in ways that trick you into thinking the HR-V is from a class above. This impression is backed up by that nifty vent, as well as the snickety-snick precision-feeling climate control knobs.
In the touchscreen wars, let it be known that the Corolla Cross comes standard across the line with the same 8.0-inch display; while it suffers from aging graphics, it’s being replaced with an identically sized, altogether sharper-looking and snappier display running Toyota’s latest infotainment setup for 2023. The HR-V, meanwhile, gets a smaller 7.0-inch touchscreen standard and offers a 9.0-inch unit; neither screen is particularly cutting-edge, but they are simple to use. Both the Toyota and Honda get standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with next year’s Corolla Cross update bringing wireless capability, which is currently included on the HR-V’s larger screen.
Pricing and Features
The Corolla Cross is less expensive across the board than the HR-V, starting at $23,660 to the Honda’s $24,895. That gap continues all the way up the trim ladder to the Corolla Cross XLE ($27,790) and HR-V EX-L ($28,695). On the Toyota, add $1,300 to every trim’s base price for AWD; on the Honda, that upcharge is $1,500.
Both SUVs come well equipped with standard active-safety features (Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 for the Corolla Cross, Honda Sensing for the HR-V) that include automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, and available blind-spot monitoring. Similarly, both get full-LED exterior lighting; pushbutton ignition; automatic climate control; and power windows, door locks, and mirror controls. Honda includes aluminum wheels on every HR-V, ranging in size from 17-inchers to 18s, whereas Toyota fits steel wheels with plastic hubcaps on entry-level Corolla Cross L models. Sunroofs, leather seats, heated seats, and more are available on the HR-V and Corolla Cross, making the feature comparison something of a wash.
Where does that leave the HR-V and Corolla Cross? If you want a roomier cabin and an overall less boring experience—though we haven’t driven the HR-V yet, assuming it keeps even an iota of the Civic’s verve it’ll be more satisfying to drive than the Corolla Cross—the Honda is likely worth the extra dough. If you value ultimate fuel economy and can sacrifice some space and visual stimuli to save some cash, the Toyota has your back. If these takes sound familiar, it’s because they traditionally have applied to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla; now, they apply to those cars’ SUV cousins.
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