February 26, 2014 00:00
By Kingsley Wijayasinha
Toyota's latest Altis may not be entertaining when driven hard, but this dynamic sedan has good acceleration, is effortless to drive and is bound to be as reliable as always
The Corolla has long served as a core model for Toyota, giving the giant automaker a turbo-boost as it accelerates past the 40-million sales mark for this model worldwide.
This sedan is a compact car that serves everyone – from young to old, male or female. It’s a car that takes you from point A to point B comfortably, doesn’t break down easily, and when it does it’s easy – and cheap – to fix.
The first-generation Corolla was introduced in Thailand in 1966 and since then Corolla sales have totalled more than 670,000 units here. It plays an important role in enabling Toyota to maintain its number one position in the Thai car market, but the phasing out of the 10th-generation Corolla Altis last year dented Toyota’s sales performance in a major way.
Earlier this year, the automaker launched the 11th-generation totally redesigned Corolla, which has evolved into a more dynamic compact sedan with futuristic looks. Both the front and rear ends are stylish and purposeful, while the side is accentuated by the Lexus IS-styled rear window design. The projector headlights come with daytime running lights and automatic level adjustment, while the rear-lamp cluster features “Surface Illumination” LEDs.
Toyota engineers say the new Corolla Altis is lighter, although the wheelbase has been increased to 2,700mm in order to stretch the cabin.
Step inside and you will find that the Altis is spacious, especially if you’re a rear passenger – another point that will make the sedan a good, roomy taxi. The interior is discreetly stylish – there’s nothing to shock you since this is a major model for a variety of customer types. Nevertheless you will notice traces of Lexus IS-styling on the console and ladder-type gearshift.
There are only two engine choices for this latest Corolla, since the 2.0-litre offering has been discontinued. The 1.8V Navi featured here is the topmost model (priced at Bt1.069 million) that comes with full options, but down the line there is another eight variants, including 1.6-litre normal and 1.6-litre CNG choices. Prices start at Bt769,000 for the entry-level 1.6J.
In the 1.8V Navi, the driver’s seat is electrically powered while the rear seat backrest can be split-folded (60-40). You also get automatic climate control, a DVD player with navigation and Bluetooth, a rearview camera with mirror display, a rear sunblind, as well as a multi-function steering wheel and “Smart Entry”.
The 1.8-litre engine (and gearbox) has been inherited from the previous model and tweaked to offer better fuel efficiency and torque distribution. Maximum output is claimed at 141ps at 6,000rpm and maximum torque of 177Nm comes at 4,000rpm. The CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) ensures seamless acceleration and has a manual 7-speed mode.
The 1.8-litre engine and the CVT team up nicely to provide good acceleration on the highway. There’s no problem overtaking at high speeds and the ride quality is pretty good too. But don’t get too optimistic when changing directions as the steering and suspension isn’t on the sporty side. The steering has a considerable slack in the centre and the strut-torsion beam suspension is tuned for comfort rather than nimbleness. That’s why Toyota also offers a sporty version of the Corolla called the Altis ESport, which is targeted at those who want a more serious drive.
Meanwhile, the 1.8V Navi comes with ABS-governed disc brakes all around as well as EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and BA (Brake Assist), plus VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) and traction control. There are dual front SRS airbags and WIL (Whiplash Injury Lessening) headrests, but no knee or side airbags are available.
The new Corolla Altis certainly possesses contemporary looks and although the entertainment factor is lacking when driven hard, there are other things in exchange. It’s roomy, easy to drive and you can bet it will be as reliable as a Toyota should be.