Step back and erase any notion you may have of the Toyota Corolla Altis. Often panned for its uncanny ability to be consistently, monotonously boring; it’s easily the fridge, the Nokia 3310, the Nicolas Cage of the compact car world. It’s reliable transportation that gets you where you need to go, but when people ask what you drive, you reflexively answer: “I don’t know, but I do know it’s white.” But while Mr. Cage is still longing for his next Leaving Las Vegas in his sea of B-films, Toyota’s been slowly chipping away at the Corolla Altis’s stodgy repertoire. Today, it’s managing to crank up the excitement just a little bit.
Like Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man character, the 2017 Corolla Altis looks reasonably sleek. It’s got a strong techno vibe going, especially with the headlights and grille that look like it’s forming one cohesive unit; those shiny horizontal slats count as extra points too. The sides and rear don’t appear as radical as the front, but the fascia’s statement is strong enough to carry the rest of the car. Decked out with a standard sport aero kit and finished in Red Mica Metallic, it begins to look like Marvel’s Armored Avenger if you imagine hard enough.
Inside though, the Corolla Altis leaves little to the imagination with its abundance of room. It’s simply massive, feeling more like an executive car than a compact one. It’s a given that those seated in the front would give their Siskel & Ebert style two thumbs up the moment they settle in, but even more surprising is now the rear accommodations get a seal of approval from the XXXL Club. Plus, the seats are actually quite supportive, sporty even.
Getting comfy with the driving environment is easy thanks to the power adjustable driver’s seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel. As with most compacts now, the seats are mounted low boosting the sporty feel though the three-spoke steering wheel does feel too big for this size of car. So while Toyota still needs work to nail down a percent perfect driving position, you can give them a certified fresh rating of say, 85 percent here. Plus, you have to give them credit for the improvements they’ve snuck in this Director’s Cut version. Fit and finish is clearly a notch up with the new gauges, padded dashboard insert with circular A/C vents on each end, and revised center console that also modernizes the multimedia and climate control systems.
Okay, now onto the action sequence. While it’s clear the Corolla Altis nails down the gorgeous looks (especially when compared to previous efforts), can it score a merit for its on-road performance or will it be another absolute dullard. Frankly, it’s more popcorn action flick than critic favorite, not because it provides mindless edge-of-the-seat excitement, but because it appeals to the widest audience.
The basic ingredients don’t really bode well: a 2.0-liter Dual VVT-i engine that’s down some 5 to 25 horsepower compared to the competition, a potentially fun-sapping CVT transmission, and a crude torsion beam rear axle suspension. Nonetheless, the total sum of these ingredients does manage to add up to a solid, commendable compact that’ll please a vast majority. It’s like how you have a strong distaste for Shia LaBeouf and Michael Bay, but put them together and you won’t think twice shelling out 3D IMAX movie tickets for a movie about transforming robots (okay, honestly I got 3D IMAX movie tickets because of Megan Fox).
As a daily driver, the Corolla Altis performs very well. The drivetrain is already known for being high on refinement and low in noise, and this 2017, it’s made even more so. The cabin’s absolutely a perfect place to hold an impromptu script reading while also managing to hushing out the busy character of Manila roads. It also feels zippy thanks to good low-end torque and quick response from the transmission. It’s only when you command it to do exciting stuff that its limitations show. And in a M. Night Shyamalan-kind of twist, it’s not the CVT that’s to blame. You can actually see it trying to shuffle its ratios as quick as it can, but the engine just doesn’t have the heave to deliver the response. It’s got a Sport mode now, but a couple of more horses could have helped more. Still, for as long as you expect a steady, leisurely drive, it’s alright.
So while its straight-line performance is still something left to be desired, one underappreciated aspect of the 2017 Corolla Altis is how it begins to feel un-Toyota like. It’s actually starting to feel *gasp* fun. Tweaks to the suspension have given it a better sense of balance and composure. Whereas it felt too soft before, plowing through anything that remotely resembled a curve, today it’s more stable. It still cannot hold a candle to cars equipped with independent suspension, but at least you know Toyota’s giving it all it’s got. It’s only when it goes through corrugated surfaces that the torsion beam rear end makes itself known. The increased heft on the electric power steering also aids in increasing that feeling of stability, especially at high speeds, though having to go through so many turns lock-to-lock does diminish the pointiness.
After all’s said and done, the Corolla Altis’s incremental improvements for 2017 are welcome news to those in the market for a new compact car. While it’s not yet ready to win the Academy Award for best actor or best supporting actor for that matter, at least it’s showing flashes of brilliance to get noticed once more. And though the typical Corolla buyer wouldn’t care about these improvements (they’ll likely opt for one because it’s painless to own), the enthusiast-minded ones will see the merits. Most likely though, the Corolla Altis’s biggest hurdle to car guys though is its price tag: 1,320,000 for the 2.0V; that’s A-lister talent free right there for a car that’s merely on the rise once more.
2017 Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0V
|Ownership||2017 Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0V|
|Year Introduced||2014 (Refreshed: 2017)|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Sedan|
|Body Type||5-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 / ~91|
|Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed||7.93 km/L @ 13 km/h|
|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|
|Tires||Michelin Pilot Sport 3 215/45 R 17 W (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes, with EBD|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front & Rear, with Reverse Camera|
|Other Safety Features||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjust||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|# of Speakers||6|