JOHANNESBURG - In 2020 Toyota announced plans to invest around R2.4 billion in building a new passenger car in South Africa, one of its executives hinting that this new vehicle would form part of the company’s new ‘Corolla strategy’.
And now, as we speculated last year, Toyota has confirmed that the new Corolla Cross SUV will be built at Toyota’s Prospecton plant near Durban. The vehicle will be built for South Africa as well as the rest of the African continent, in both right-hand drive and left-hand drive formats.
The Corolla Cross will be built alongside the Corolla Quest on Toyota’s passenger car line when production commences in October 2021, and although it will share an engine with the latter, the newcomer will be the first locally-manufactured product to be based around the newer TNGA platform.
So what is a Corolla Cross?
More than just a ‘Corolla on stilts’, the Cross model has its own unique body panels, and there is certainly more than a passing resemblance to the Rav4.
In size and positioning terms, the Corolla Cross slots between the Rav4 and CH-R. It shares its 2640mm wheelbase with the latter, but is 100mm longer and has a more generous luggage capacity of 487 litres.
The cabin, as you can see below, is very similar to that found in the latest-generation Corolla hatch and sedan models, which are imported to SA. Keep in mind, however, that the dashboard in the picture belongs to the Thai-spec model, and local specifics may differ.
Full local specifications have yet to be announced, but TSAM has confirmed that the Corolla Cross will be offered with two powertrain options: a normally aspirated 1.8 petrol and a petrol-electric hybrid variant.
The latter will be the first hybrid model that Toyota has produced in South Africa.
Toyota has not disclosed its volume ambitions for the new Corolla Cross, but its production is expected to create 500 new jobs at the Prospecton plant as well as a further 1000 in the supply chain.
Toyota SA President and CEO Andrew Kirby feels that the Corolla Cross is the right vehicle for the right time, given the recent growth in the SUV market.
"This is an ideal vehicle for our market. It provides an exceptional balance between drivability, roominess, comfort and high-tech features - truly a game-changing SUV.
“It combines everything you love about Corolla with the utilitarian and rugged aesthetics of a segment-leading SUV,” Kirby enthused
“Overall, expectation is that the Corolla Cross will not only contribute significant sales towards the Toyota brand, but also accelerate growth mini-SUV segment, increase overall size of the passenger market in South Africa and give momentum to electrification technologies.”