The new Toyota Corolla Altis, tried and tested

The 11th generation model of the Corolla, an all-time global bestseller, is a tribute to Toyota’s commitment to quality and reliability

With more than 40 million units sold worldwide, the Corolla is probably the most successful production car model ever built anywhere in the world. The car, here in India is in its third generation now with the new model and enjoys terrific brand loyalty. The new model of the bestseller saloon has been eagerly awaited, and while it’s not been officially launched in India yet, we sampled the vehicle on an unusually hot day in Bangalore as a part of an exclusive media drive organised by Toyota.

Toyota Corolla Altis

Bigger and better
In its newest avatar, the Toyota Corolla is 8 cm longer, 1.5 cm wider and 0.5 cm lower than the outgoing model. The most interesting part of the chassis overhaul, however, is the increment of 10 cm in the wheelbase, expanding the cabin space significantly, especially for the back benchers. Knee-room, for example has increased by as much as 9.2 cm if Toyota’s claims are to be believed.

Toyota Corolla Altis
The Corolla Altis has always been big on space, and the new model enhances the knee-room at the back by more than 9 cm. Back seats can be reclined and are split foldable in 60:40 ratio. PICS/AMIT CHHANGANI

The headline news with the 2014 Corolla Altis is its more contemporary, sharper and angular look as compared with the organic design of its predecessor. The front of the car is defined by flowing triple chrome slats converging at the centre of the grille into the big Toyota logo. The narrow grille and the slim, wide headlamps work towards enhancing the wide, squat look of the car.

Toyota Corolla Altis
The 1.4-litre D-4D diesel engine may not be big and powerful enough, but it’s practical and very frugal. We have seen many happy customers of the Corolla with that engine variant

Front lighting system features four LEDs as pilot lamps and a twin barrel layout for the head-lamps with the outer lamp being a projector unit. The front bumper is new and more angular with pronounced straight cuts around the central air dam and ahead of the front fender.

In profile, the roofline, unlike most new cars, doesn’t drop down sharply. The Corolla merits practicality and comfort above everything else, and in keeping with its tradition, Toyota hasn’t compromised headroom for a sporty look. A subtle straight crease emanating from above the front fender spans the length of the car before merging into the tail-lamps.

Toyota Corolla Altis
The 7-speed sequential CVT transmission surprised us with its quickness. Though it’s no DSG, it shifts quickly in manual mode. Kickdowns come fast enough too when you press the right pedal down with a heavy foot

New alloy wheel design with 15 slim spokes and a rear window sill with a mild kink are some other highlights of the profile.

At the rear, the wide and angular theme of the fascia is carried over, replete with the angular bumper. The two tail-lamps are joined by a wide chrome bar above the registration plate recess.

Toyota Corolla Altis
The interior is very functional, comfortable and well-sorted, though there’s nothing too fancy or breathtaking here. Quality of plastics and assembly is good across the cabin, except for the central touch-screen

The new Corolla looks decidedly more contemporary and edgier than its predecessor. It’s well-proportioned and we quite like the detailing on the front headlamps.

Having said all of that, however, the new Corolla isn’t exactly a sensational looking car. It’s a nice new design, though there’s nothing trendsetting about it.

The engine options on the new Corolla remain unchanged and the car continues to be powered by a 1.8-litre dual VVTi petrol and a 1.4 litre D-4D diesel engine available on the earlier model. The engines have been kept untouched and there is no difference in the output figures or behavior of the power plants. The 1.8 litre dual VVT-i petrol engine is good for 140PS of power @ 6,400 rpm and 173 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. The diesel unit produces 88.4PS of power @ 3,800 rpm and maximum torque of 205 Nm between 1,800 to 2,800 rpm.

Buyers will have an option to choose between a 6 speed manual, or a 7 speed super CVT-i automatic transmission for the petrol engine. The diesel engine, however, will be available only with a 6 speed manual transmission. The 7-speed automatic is surprisingly quick and responsive for a CVT and shouldn’t be a cause for concern in any driving conditions. The new Corolla Altis also comes equipped with steering mounted paddle shifters for manual shifts, a great feature for the segment. In addition, manual shifts can be made by slotting the step gated drive selector into the manual mode. The petrol engine is revvy, spunky and sonorous in the upper range as ever with great throttle response. The 1.8-litre petrol motor suits the segment well and delivers good performance for a car this big. The 1.4-litre diesel engine though is rather sluggish and feels a tad lethargic especially at low revs. Its turbo takes its own time spooling up, and you could feel the torque kicking in properly only after 1,800 rpm. The output figures from the engine aren’t in sync with the expectations of the segment, though the efficiency is commendable and those driving the diesel variant even on the outgoing model aren’t complaining at all. The 1.4 diesel is a practical and efficient alternative, if a tad sluggish. We wish this engine was bigger both in terms of size and output.

As one would expect, the cabin, dashboard and the features list of the new Corolla have been given a complete overhaul. The two-tone, black-beige dashboard is brand new with a black top and beige lower portion, separated by a satin silver bar. The central A/C vents are slim, horizontal units while the side vents are triangular with round outer edges.

The three spoke steering wheel is new with a silver insert as the bottom spoke. The touchscreen panel on the centre console is surrounded by a special pattern which at first appears to be faux carbon fibre, but look closely and you’ll realise that it’s just lacquered plastic with a special pattern printed over it.

The centre console, as mentioned above comprises a touch-screen panel featuring controls for the audio system, telephony and navigation. The touchscreen, however, isn’t bright enough, nor is it pixel-dense. Response to touch isn’t too good either. While the audio system supports USB, Aux-in and has Bluetooth feature too, it doesn’t look up-market enough for a car in this segment. The buttons for the touchscreen panel too are low on quality and finish.

Cabin space is liberal, and the Corolla comes across as an extremely comfortable car with bright, airy and comfortable interior. Seats are big and wide offering great support both at the front and at the back. Back seats on the Corolla have always been considered the best in business and the new Corolla Altis in no exception. The back seats on the Corolla are adjustable for recline angle too.

There are bottle holders on both front and rear door panels, and more cup-holders between the front seats and in the rear armrest. Boot space, though generous at 470 litres isn’t class leading.

Feature list as regards safety and security includes twin airbags, ABS, anti glare mirrors, reverse camera and engine immobiliser. We would have liked the car to have traction control too, but the feature isn’t available. Other features include push button start, steering mounted audio and telephony controls, cruise control, paddle shifters, tilt + telescopic steering wheel, 8-way adjustable power seat for the
driver, auto headlamps and leather upholstery.

Rear A/C vents and sunroof, in our opinion, should have been the part of the package, too.

Ride and handling
The Corolla, having always been a big family saloon, has had ride comfort as one of its priority areas. The new Corolla, too, delights with its absorbent suspension system which soaks up almost everything you throw at it with aplomb.

What comes as a surprise, though, is its substantially better handling. The thick- rimmed steering wheel feels nice to hold and is very well weighted. And while it would still take some more effort from Toyota to endow the Corolla with driving dynamics to beat the Germans, we were impressed with the poise exhibited by the big saloon.

Our spirited run ascending the Nandi Hills impressed us, with the car getting ample traction from the wheels and a weight bias towards to the rear allowing for some extreme corner carving. On our way down, with more momentum, less grip and harsher braking, the car did show some edgy softness though. Having said that the handling of the new Corolla should give the engineers at Toyota ample reason to be proud.

Our verdict
The new Corolla comes across as a big, comfortable, reliable and well-styled car. They say you can never go wrong with the Corolla and the adage stands true for the latest model as well.

We preferred the 1.8 petrol engine to the lazy 1.4 diesel power plant, and sincerely believe that this car deserves a more potent oil burner. The 7 speed CVT auto transmission also deserves applause. We found the car a bit lacking in terms of features and equipment when compared with the rivals though.
However, the Corolla has always been known for its no-nonsense demeanour, cabin comfort, extremely low-running and maintenance cost and minimal trips to the service station. It’s one of the best chauffeur-driven cars you can buy across segments, and if priced right, it may well become the segment leader by sales.

(As the Corolla Altis is yet to be officially launched in India, the price of the car remains unavailable)

Technical specs
Engine — 1.8-litre petrol/1.4 litre turbo diesel
Transmission — 7-speed auto or 6-speed manual/6 speed manual
Power — 140PS@6400rpm/ 88.4PS@3800rpm
Torque — 173 Nm@4000 rpm/205 Nm@1800-2800rpm

Bells and whistles
>> Cruise Control
>> Reverse Camera
>> 7-speed CVT automatic
>> Steering Mounted Shifter paddles
>> Push Start / Stop

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