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Forget the rest; the made in Durban Toyota Corolla Cross GR Sport is the new “Peoples’ Car”

Volkswagen once had the People’s Car, but today, Toyota knows how to tug at consumers heartstrings. To understand this, look no further than the new SA-built Toyota Corolla Cross GR Sport.

Santa dropped in earlier when Toyota South Africa brought the Toyota Corolla Cross GR Sport home on December 9 for festive musings. It was an excellent way to settle in after the delightful Danie Human surprised me with a ravishing BMW M240i xDrive before the terrific Toyota trotted to my abode.

Due to a combination of factors, the young Prashirwin mooched around in the Beemer more than I did. He was in BMW heaven, that is why I chuckled; no Christmas gift was necessary since Danie made him grin from ear to ear every day for a week. He got his Christmas. Prashirwin is still beaming.

A week later, Danie texted to ask if his A-Team could fetch the Beemer: “Sure, after Christmas,” I joked. I was getting the hang of this R1.5 million beauty. The steering wheel seemed perfect in my hands. What a great car but more on it from Prashirwin once he rediscovers his mojo.

I had plenty of fun being my surly self in the Corolla Cross GR Sport. Regarding rivalries, Toyota has competitors from the Volkswagen and Ford stables in South Africa. As a brand, they have been in existence for 60 years. They have seen the good, bad, and ugly from apartheid to democracy and post-apartheid shenanigans. If only their cars could tell stories. That may happen. After all, they have Buddy, the cutest talking dog seen in its splendid television commercials.

Volkswagen once had the People’s Car, but today, Toyota knows how to tug at the heartstrings, buddy. And their cars are back among the top sellers in South Africa. Last month (December 2022), the Toyota took the top two spots on the November sales charts, with the Hilux shifting 3 048 new vehicles, while the Corolla Cross sold 2 109. On their tail is the impressive new Ford Ranger I was fortunate to get a taste of pre-launch at its factory in Pretoria.

Built-in Durban,, the Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 CVT GR Sport gives new meaning to the term homespun.

The Polo has seen better days, falling to sixth and seventh place, beaten even by the rapidly rising Suzuki Swift. Kudos to Toyota and Swift’s marketing team for recognising that to grow, you have to reach out to different audiences rather than focusing on the select has-beens. Save for a few; not many are that influenced by what they say or write. It’s one thing having the “People’s Car,” but when you don’t treat all people the same, customers get that message too. But this is not about the beautiful folk at Uitenhage; it is a festive season, and they could still return to number one when they shake off the complacency that resulted in them falling from the top spot. Maybe it will teach them that humility is always something you carry through on the way up and keep on the track down. But it should not be an excuse for poor or non-existent public relations, especially when the brands in that German stable are top-notch. But that’s a battle for another day when they take communication seriously.

This piece is about the real contender for the tag “People’s Car,” that stunner from Japan. Built-in Durban, at Prospecton, near Isipingo on the South Coast of Durban, the Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 CVT GR Sport gives new meaning to the term homespun. Indeed, local is lekker. The signs were not good when production stopped, and Toyota sales suffered after the April 2022 floods in KwaZulu-Natal. But you cannot keep a good brand down, especially one so ingrained in the history of South Africa.

The latest Corolla Cross with the GR Sport badge ramps it up another notch. While it’s based on the current XR trim level, the GR Sport was given a quick spruce job to ensure it conforms to the vehicles using this badge. The front fascia is aggressive in appearance, ensuring it lives up to having GR in its moniker. The LED headlights merge into the styled split front grille with the same mesh you’ll find on other GR-styled vehicles. But the side of the car retains the standard Corolla Cross vibe, though to rub it in that this one is special, you will find a GR badge on the fender. More of this branding is spread throughout the vehicle, in the back, for example, hard to miss. Striking in looks, the GR badge gives it an edge.

Standout features include an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Toyota Connect Wifi and Smart Entry among others.

This vehicle has a look but handles well thanks to 18-inch allow tyres, new front and rear shock absorbers, coil springs, chassis bracing, and readjusted steering, giving it a good solid, fun, and secure feel. The drivetrain remains the same as the XR trim. Under the bonnet is a 1.8-liter petrol engine paired with a CVT gearbox. Power figures remain the same at 103 kW / 172 Nm, which is enough to get the crossover going, but many will tell you that the GR is a tad let down by the CVT gearbox.

Compared to its rivals, this vehicle has plenty going for it at just R453 200. Santa has been kind. But compare it to the likes of the larger elder sister, the RAV 4, the Jeep Compass, or the Mazda CX-30. This Toyota Corolla Cross GR Sport emerges tops.

From apartheid to democracy, Toyota in South Africa has a presence with a reputation for high standards and durability, with the Japanese firm ranking 7th out of 37 other brands in the J.D Power and Associates, thanks to its consistent delivery of safety, affordability, and trustworthiness to its consumers.

Tech-wise inside; you get the exact specs you’ll find in the XR trim. Standout features include an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Toyota Connect Wifi, Smart Entry (This allows passengers to enter or lock the doors without the key fob leaving the driver’s pocket), Toyota Safety Sense System and Auto rain sensing wipers.

Bound to set tongues wagging, thanks to its built quality and competitive price point.

The Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 XI CVT starts at R360 400, but the stunning Corolla Cross 1.8 CVT GR Sport sells for R453 200. Santa may have come early, but already in the New Year, this is the vehicle to set the tongues wagging because of price, quality, and the fact that this vehicle was built in Durban, contributing to the economy and job creation. When it returns to Toyota on 11 January, it will have left happy memories.

I now declare that this Toyota Corolla Cross is the People’s Car. Over the past month, the Corolla Cross 1.8 CVT GR has become my personal favourite, even if Prashirwin continues to salivate over the beautiful Beemer. Happy New Year!

◾️Catch Edwin Naidu talking about the latest cars on Capricorn FM on Fridays at 12:30 pm and with Leroy Gopaul on YouFm on Saturdays at 8:25 am.

Edwin Naidu
Edwin Naidu
Jack-of-all-trades journalist Edwin Naidu talks about cars on Capricorn FM during the urban lunch adventure with King Bash on Friday.
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