Toyota adds ‘sporty’ to Corolla Altis nameplate
No one can argue with the outstanding success of the Toyota Corolla: 45 million units sold worldwide as of 2016, its 50th year anniversary.
Through the years, the Corolla has gained a solid reputation for reliability, durability, safety and high resale value. In the process, it earned the trust and loyalty of millions of consumers.
At the same time, however, the Corolla came to be perceived as too staid. Somehow, it couldn’t capture the sporty dynamics of some rivals in the compact car segment.
For example, it would have been unthinkable for the producers of the first “The Fast and the Furious” movie to use a Corolla in the opening action scenes where a compact car nimbly dashes past, around and under a 10-wheeler truck.
Despite its ho-hum image, though, the Corolla, also known as the Altis in the Philippines, had always led the list of best-selling compact cars.
But in the first quarter of this year, January-March 2017, the Corolla Altis lost pole position to the “reborn” Honda Civic which scored 1,133 sales versus the Toyota nameplate’s 914.
Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP), perhaps foreseeing this, unveiled a refreshed version of the 2014/11th generation Corolla Altis at the company’s annual media appreciation lunch last December. The event also marked the 50th year of the Toyota Corolla.
TMP marketing says the new Corolla Altis combines the same trusted characteristics with an elegant and sporty new design elevating it to a class above.
The 2017 Corolla Altis does exude a more assertive and premium presence due to a longer (2700 mm wheelbase) and wider bod, a new radiator grille with chrome finish, sweptback LED headlamps and DRLs (daytime running lights), a new bumper with fog lamp casings and vertical air intakes, new alloy wheel designs, a rear deck spoiler (on the 2.0 liter variant) and large LED rear combination taillights.
What’s new inside
Inside, the dash is padded with soft-touch black leather, the aircon vents at each end of the dash are now rounded instead of rectangular, a new center stack dominates with an updated infotainment system (6-speaker stereo with CD, MP3, AUX, USB, Bluetooth, Smartphone Mirror link) with color display, fuel economy monitoring system and automatic single zone climate control.
Blue background lighting of the gauges, chrome accents and black leather upholstery enhance the premium vibe of the 2.0-liter variant’s cabin.
The driver’s seat is 8-way power adjustable and there are no rear aircon vents—perhaps because none is necessary? Also missing, in a car that costs more than a million bucks, is an automatic dimmer for the rear view mirror.
The back seat, which features a fold-out center armrest with two cupholders, splits 60:40 to expand the trunk’s 470-liter luggage space.
I have test-driven the two available variants, both gasoline-fed: the 1.6 liter Altis with 7-speed Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) priced at P1,077,000 and the 2.0 liter variant with CVT and P1,320,000 price tag.
The 1.6 liter, dual VVT-i, DOHC, inline 4-cylinder Altis produces 120 hp and 154 Nm peak torque while the 2.0-liter, dual VVT-i DOHC inline four variant delivers 143 hp and 187 Nm max torque.
The engines are the same as the ones in the previous generation Corolla. After all, this is just a facelift, not a totally re-engineered Corolla from the ground up.
Driving the 1.6-liter Altis is an underwhelming experience while the 2.0-liter variant offers more adequate power and an ambience of sportiness with its paddle shifters.
But even when driven in Sport mode, the 2.0-liter Altis doesn’t perform quite as sharply as several of its competitors, maybe because of the recalcitrant nature of the CVT and because the engine has five to 25 less horses than the competition.
In other words, the 2017 Corolla Altis looks more sporty than it actually is.
On the plus side, the Corolla Altis is indisputably an elegant, well-balanced, steady, almost midsized passenger sedan with refined road manners and a quiet cabin.
Its electric power steering enhances the feeling of stability at high speeds.
Its suspension (MacPherson strut in front, torsion beam at the rear, stabilizers fore and aft) has been tweaked for riding comfort rather than for caroming through corners.
The Corolla Altis’ composure on the road makes it ideal for leisurely drives and cruising with the family, not to mention the daily commute.
What’s more, the 2017 Corolla Altis may be the safest car in its class due to its suite of safety features: seven airbags including driver’s knee airbag, front and rear sensors, reverse camera, ABS with EBD, vehicle stability control, cruise control, disc brakes on all four wheels.
Pleasing the majority
Summing up, the P1,320,000 Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0-liter 2017 variant will not exactly excite car enthusiasts, but it will surely sell well because it will please the majority of consumers.
Since its origin back in 1966, the Corolla was created to be the people’s everyday car and the 2017 iteration stays true to this tradition despite some designed pretensions at sportiness.