Over 10 prior generations, the Corolla has established itself as the most widely used automobile in the world with more than 40 million sold... and counting.
Now it's time for a new heir, a new model that will take on the mantle and continue the name of the world's best selling automobile nameplate. Let's see what the Corolla Altis can do and find out if the new 'waku-doki' DNA that Toyota has infused into the car can deliver the 'heart pounting excitement' that the company is driving for.
The much-awaited model which has been teased, leaked and revealed throughout the Internet in the last two years finally debuted in the Philippine market in January of 2014. For the ASEAN market, Toyota chose to release the more sophisticated looking European version in lieu of the sportier North American release based more on the Toyota Corolla Furia concept.
Toyota designers employed a cutting-edge design based on the signature 'underpriority and keen look' that has always described the exterior of the Corolla Altis. The sharp design elements found in recent models certainly translate into its design and provide a striking character and give it a distinct appeal; for me this is a perfect formula for cars of its class. Previewed in concept form at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show as the Yudong Shuangqing II Concept, it revealed the 100 mm longer wheelbase and 80 mm body extension of the new model.
The 'understatement' is very much evident in the interior as it follows the 'less is more' priciple. The interior trim is a mix of black soft-touch materials, faux carbon fiber, ivory-colored plastic, chrome accents and some leather on the steering wheel. Placement of various controls are very ergonomic and well tought of. The entertainment system feaures iPod, USB, Bluetooth and Auxiliary connectivity with CD/MP3/WMA functions and good radio reception despite the lack on an external antenna. Audio quality is good having a nice balance across the high, mid and low frequency range with the six-speaker system. The only gripe I have is that the instrumentation seems to look out of place as if the design of the dials was an afterthought after having exhausted all efforts in designing everything else. Strangely, the airconditioning was just cold and colder, not a real problem as the Philippine summer is approaching.
Under the hood is the 1.6-liter Dual VVT-i engine inherited from its predecessor in lieu of the new more powerful 'valvematic' version introduced in other markets. It is rated at 122 PS with 154 Nm of torque, but is mated to a 7-speed CVT with a new shift logic system. The sophisticated CVT provides precise and smooth shifts, optimizing the entire power and torque-band of the engine. Despite the humble ratings, the engine felt more responsive and much livelier than expected. While previous generations felt torquey without the additional top-end, the 2014 Corolla Altis definitely changes the way you’ll perceive the car from behind the wheel.
Economy is top-notch with highway figures going up to about 10.1 kms/liter with some spirited driving; your really can’t help but play with the responsive throttle. In the city, I got about 7.8 kms/liter with moderate to heavy traffic, while it goes to about 8.9 kms/liter in light traffic. Combined figures resulted to around 9.4 kms/liter. I am not lightfooted nor lead-footed on the accelerator, so those readings should be representative of everyday driving.
While having essentially the same MacPherson front suspensions and torsion beam rear setup as its predecessors, damping and spring rates have been retuned to get the right balance of comfort and handling, and the longer wheelbase benefits ride comfort and stability. The electric steering however feels a bit too light for my liking and does not tighten as much at higher speeds.
On the road, it handles the usual bumps and ruts with ease in a refined manner. It takes on corners with impressive precision despite the light steering feel. I guess the car was destined for far less dynamic duties that I would have though, but it still does the job. In traffic is where you’ll truly appreciate its lightness as you try to maneuver your way out of a jam.
Overall, the Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6V presents a very good proposition for its package with a PhP 999,999 price tag. While the white pearl paint looks clean, we'd rather save the PhP 15,000 for other more important things.
The 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6V is a sensibly stylish car, exciting while being frugal and practical all at the same time... a fitting heir to a nameplate that carries nearly half a century of heritage with over 40 million cars predecessors to boot.