Believe it or not, there was once a time before every automaker had something resembling an SUV on their lot. Of course, that time faded with the Carter administration. Today, every mainstream brand boasts a variety of lifted wagons to grab at every possible sliver of the segment.
Arguably, Toyota was there at the beginning of the modern crossover with the 1995 RAV4 – pedants of course will bring up the beloved AMC Eagle, but that didn’t exactly light up the sales charts. The combo of wagon-like interior space with perceived capability has proven irresistible for a quarter century.
Toyota has gone back to the well once more with the Corolla Cross, which would be the eighth distinct crossover/SUV in the lineup. Keen observers will note the dimensional similarity to the oddly-styled C-HR. Do both need to be on the floorplan at the same time?
For perspective, let’s look at Toyota’s longtime rival Nissan. In 2010, the distinctly weird Juke appeared, bugeyed and bulging with pocket-sized charisma. I was intrigued – but found the sloping roofline interfered with important things like my head. Anyhow, it sold reasonably well for a new niche, averaging nearly 38,000 sold per year in the US over the four years between 2011 and 2014 as you’ll see from the chart below.
However, buyers (at least in the US) tired quickly of the Juke. Once the Kicks came around in 2018, sales nearly doubled – over 58,000 in both 2019 and 2020. Admittedly, there was little time where the two shared the same lot, but clearly buyers responded to the more conventional packaging of the Kicks.
Toyota could be in the same boat. The chart above shows the C-HR’s US sales topping out during the first full calendar year with 49,642 finding new homes. That’s a far cry from the class-leading subcompact crossovers.
Regarding sales projections on the new Corolla Cross, I spoke with Nicky Hamila from Toyota PR, who tells me they project “around 100,000 units in 2022.” That 100k doubles the current C-HR volume, and vaults the Corolla Cross ahead of the Honda HR-V, and into the realm of the class leaders: Subaru CrossTrek at 119k, Jeep Compass at 108k, and Chevrolet Trax at 106k. A couple of those leaders show that general automotive excellence isn’t necessarily a requirement for success in the subcompact crossover segment.
|Model||Calendar 2020 Sales|
|Buick Encore GX||42,240|
[Data from GoodCarBadCar.net]
While we don’t know specifics about Corolla Cross pricing or how it will be positioned against the C-HR, we do know that all-wheel drive will finally be available in this segment from Toyota. The C-HR famously eschewed all-wheel traction, which may be a factor in the relatively-low market acceptance. While most drivers in most conditions will do just fine with front-wheel drive, the extra peace of mind from four driven wheels is compelling.
And the styling of the Corolla Cross is much more conservative and bland. Handsome, but bland. Clearly I’m not a fan of the C-HR’s styling. I appreciate unique design choices, but the C-HR seems to be funky for the sake of funky. To paraphrase George Clinton, while we need the funk – gotta have that funk – it’s time to turn this mother out and move on to the Corolla Cross.
[Lead image: © 2018 Chris Tonn. Inline images courtesy Nissan, Toyota]