|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Checking my watch, it was exactly 10:27 in the evening when the red Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0 V arrived. With just its headlights visible from afar, it certainly looks like an 86 with the horizontal LED park lamps sandwiched by the round projector headlamps. As it approached and made its way up the curb and into my gate, I actually cracked a smile. Corollas normally don’t cause my pulse to quicken, but this one made my heart skip a beat. It pushes all the right buttons with its sporty yet elegant demeanor. It’s the best interpretation of Toyota’s new design language in sedan form with the standard aero kit (front bumper extensions, side skirts, rear diffuser, and ducktail spoiler) serving as the perfect exclamation point. After that, the Corolla goes from strength to strength to strength with the nifty aero detailing (the “sakana” stabilizer fins on the door mirrors and lamp assemblies to name two) and the consistently small panel gaps. Plus, the doors, most especially the trunk, close with a solid chug.
As with any other test drive, I give the Corolla Altis a once over—check all the car’s vitals, clean the interior, and personalize what I can before driving off the next day. And immediately, this Corolla Altis impresses with its massive interior. Forgetting that this is a compact sedan outside, you can easily mistake it for a Camry when you slip inside. Upfront, there’s good amount of room—enough for me to spread my legs without banging into anything. A welcome bonus is the supportive seats with cushions that extend almost to my knees and aggressive side bolsters that mimic sport seats. But in as much as it’s great upfront, it’s stunning at the back. Of the class-leading 2,700 mm wheelbase, 706 mm of that goes to the rear. Couple that with supportive seats, a flat rear floor, headrests and three-point seatbelts for all passengers, and you’ve got the undisputed space king right here.
Fiddling with the powered seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel, I’m surprised that the Corolla Altis has a very Honda-like driving position, and I mean it in the best way possible. It’s most comfortable with the seats low with the legs stretched out and the steering wheel angled to the elbows at almost 90-degrees. I didn’t expect Toyota to get the man-machine interface right, but they did. The three-spoke steering wheel is thick with nice, built-in thumb rests. Most controls are perfectly positioned and within easy reach, the two exceptions being the power windows switches which are obscured by the large door handle and the engine start/stop button which is partially covered by the meaty steering wheel.
The next day, it’s time to take the Corolla Altis out for a spin. With the sporty demeanor inside and out (it’s got an aero kit and carbon fiber accents for crying out load), I expected a four-door version of the Toyota 86. Instead, it turned out to be a miniaturized Camry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just about managing expectations. Pushing the starter button, the 2.0-liter Dual VVT-i engine purrs to life and no amount of prodding will make it roar. The drivetrain’s so quiet and refined; I honestly thought the Corolla Altis is equipped with idle start/stop when it’s not. At any speed, it’s a beacon of serenity keeping unwanted noise outside. And despite being short of anywhere between 5 to 25 horsepower against the competition, the Corolla Altis’s engine and transmission make a great combo; giving a lively and refined performance at even the slightest tap of the accelerator. It even comes with steering wheel paddle shifters that emulate a 7-speed gearbox, though the car is responsive enough to keep the transmission alone. What’s more, the Corolla Altis lives up to Toyota’s reputation for returning stellar fuel economy, doing 10.66 km/L in the city and 16.67 km/L on the highway (11.63 km/L combined).
As the straights turn to curves and the curves to corners, the disconnect between the Corolla Altis’s looks and driving behavior becomes obvious; it’s more comfort cruiser than 4-door go-kart. First, the electric power steering is not only light and vague, but requires more turns than I’m normally comfortable with. This is likely because Toyota wanted to improve high speed stability, which they have, but at the expense of some agility. Second, the suspension is way too soft for my taste. Clearly, Toyota’s prioritizing ride comfort in the most traditional sense, but again, it makes the Corolla Altis understeer and have pronounced body roll through corners. Lastly, the brakes have an initial vague bite. Though the stopping force ends up being surefooted, I had to step on the brakes with more than my usual force once or twice. That said, as long as you expect the Corolla Altis to behave like a Camry, then expectations match reality.
Going back to where I started, does the Toyota Corolla Altis present a brand-new formula? Yes and no. Yes, because at P 1,201,000, the 2.0 V is wading close to executive car prices. But it looks mighty good, is equipped to sell, and offers practical spaciousness. In short, the price difference is, in my opinion, justified if you can fork out the extra cash. No, because if you’re looking at something sporty and fun to drive, it’s not. It pretty much still behaves like how a Corolla should, but with the styling and refinement factors dialed way up. In short, this isn’t New Coke. It’s the very same Classic Coke formula but in a snazzy, sexier package.
2014 Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0 V
|Body Type||4-door Sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||145 @ 6,200|
|Nm @ rpm||187 @ 3,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,300|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||No|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|