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Surprise! A different Toyota Corolla Cross breaks cover with fresh styling and other changes - but is this the right look for Australia against the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona?

Toyota refers to the revised front end of the Japanese-market Corolla Cross as "sophisticated". It certainly looks different.

Toyota has finally released the Corolla Cross in Japan – and it isn’t the car we’ve been expecting.

Ushering in a smoother new nose with a completely different headlight graphics, front bumper, lower air intake and bonnet, the long-awaited small crossover has a markedly softer appearance to the model offered in other parts of the world, including in Thailand, the USA and South Africa.

With Toyota confirming that Australian buyers will receive the all-new model range from Japan, it raises the question whether this – rather than the car with an obviously different look revealed in the middle of last year in Thailand – might be the version we will see locally at the end of next year as the model-year 2023 Corolla Cross.

We'll have to wait and see.

The changes don’t stop there either, as the Japanese domestic market (JDM) version also adopts revised tail-lights as well as rear-bumper diffuser, featuring reshaped deflectors. As a result, this model’s stated length/width/height/wheelbase of 4490/1825/1620/2640mm makes it some 30mm longer than the other version.

Additionally, it appears that the alloy wheels have a unique style, though this may be down to variations in grades.

The sleeker design of the JDM Corolla Cross is far less aggressive and ‘RAV4-esque’ with its down-turned mouth for a grille, and keeps closer in line with the rest of the E210 Corolla hatch, sedan and Touring wagon range offered in Japan. It even boasts the market-specific ‘Corolla’ logo not seen in Australian-bound models.

Does it hint to what a Corolla facelift might look like? After Toyota’s surprise moves, anything is on the table, especially as the company is making big noises over there about how the newcomer – which sits on the same Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-C) – completes the Corolla family, as well as underpinning the current Prius, C-HR and Lexus UX.

There appear to be no interior changes between the JDM Corolla Cross and other models, though – again – a grade-by-grade comparison is probably the best way to confirm that this is the case.

On the engine front, the JDM Corolla Cross follows some other markets like South Africa (where it’s also built) in offering two 1.8-litre four-cylinder engines – a naturally aspirated version, as well as a variation of the 90kW/163Nm 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid seen in the closely-related C-HR small SUV, driving the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.

However, we're betting on an evolution of the 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as as found in the Corolla and RAV4 rather than the 1.8 equivalent.

Furthermore, unlike the Corolla or C-HR in Australia, the Corolla Cross Hybrid also includes an E-Four AWD all-wheel drive option, which ditches the small crossover’s normal torsion beam rear suspension for a double-wishbone arrangement. Ground clearance on all grades is rated at 160mm.

Other items of note include a low loading lip for easier loading in the 487-litre cargo area (JDM figure), a gesture-operated tailgate and tight 10.4-metre turning circle for easier parking, as well as an accessory power outlet (AC100V/1500W) in hybrid versions that act as an emergency power supply during blackouts to power household electrical appliances as required.

With conveniences like these, Toyota reckons it will shift 4400 units in Japan monthly. Interestingly, with sales commencing this week in Japan, the Corolla Cross is advertised as the “first-ever Corolla SUV”.

However, this would not be the case in Australia when it arrives for the 2023 model year, since the E90-series Corolla-based AE95 Sprinter Carib sold here from 1988 to 1992 as the Corolla Wagon 4WD in XL, CSi and SR5 guises had distinct SUV cues, including a taller body and loftier ride height than the more conventional contemporary Corolla wagon offered elsewhere at the time.

Which Toyota Corolla Cross would you like to see in Australia... the aggressive nosed version we thought we'd get, or this softer JDM version? Let us know in the comments below.