2014 Toyota Corolla Altis: Test Drive Review
11 generations and 40 million units sold in 154 countries – that’s the Toyota Corolla Altis, one of the highest selling cars in the whole world. In India, Corolla was launched in 2003 and saw a very good response from the market. In fact, till 2012, the Corolla Altis was leading the segment until Hyundai launched the Elantra. Hyundai Elantra with its fluidic design and a long list of features beat the Altis in the first month of its launch and since then, the Altis has been trying to recover. This all new Toyota Corolla Altis is the first step that the company has taken to regain its lost share in D segment.
How does it look?
It does not look like a Toyota. That was our first reaction when we saw the car. Toyota has never had very snazzy cars with over the top design themes. Toyota’s design philosophy can be described in just one word- SIMPLE. But this 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis will beg to differ. It’s designed well, it’s very upmarket and looks like a car that has spent a good amount of time in the design studio.
VIDEO FROM THE SHOWCASE AT AUTO EXPO
Toyota has now given the car a bolder front end design with a sleek grille supported by big, swept-in headlamps on both sides. The lamps come with LEDs on top variants for both the petrol and diesel models. In fact, Toyota has gone out of their way when it comes to the use of chrome on the face for the premium look. The cuts on the front bumper and the housing for the fog lamps again add to the aggressive look of the car.
The side profile of the 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis carries the design forward in a very upmarket fashion. There’s a smart shoulder line that runs from the front wheel arch all the way till the rear tail lamp. The blackened B-pillar, large windows and low roof line makes the side profile of the car very impressive. The new Altis is 100 mm longer than it’s predecessor and this new version comes with very smart looking alloys too. The tyre size is 16 inch for the top variant and 15 inch for the others.
The rear of the 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis is what impressed me the most. This new Corolla Altis shows reflection of the Lexus brand in a very strong way, especially at the rear. The large tail lamps with LEDs blend very well into the design and the strip of chrome just below the prominent Toyota logo is adds to the sportiness of the car – this is unique to the diesel version and the petrol models do not get rear chrome garnish.
It’s now easy to say that the all-new Toyota Corolla Altis is one of the finest looking cars of this segment.
How does the cabin feel?
This whole new sporty design and feel is not just limited to the exterior of the car. Step inside the cabin and be further impressed! The gadgetry list, fit and finish, the layout of the dashboard etc is all new. Pinch yourself to believe that it is a Toyota.
The 7 inch touchscreen sitting in the center of the dashboard is your key to music player via Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in cable. It also comes with a navigation system and the screen duplicates as reverse camera to show obstacles behind while reversing. The base variant of the petrol Altis gets a 5.8 inch screen with DVD while the base diesel is stripped of this feature. A small clock sits between the front a/c vents and this gives it a very thoughtful appeal. The black and beige layout of the dashboard has a strip of metal running across which works well in the design. Just below the 7 inch screen are the controls for the a/c which is automatic in all variants except for the base petrol. Apart from this, there is a lamp for the vanity mirror, rain sensing wipers, lots of storage and cubby holes.
The steering of the 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis is leather wrapped and has controls for the music and audio on the left and telephone on the right and further, use of metal in the chunky three-spoke steering wheel design is pleasing. The dials have a soft blue lighting to them and it shows average fuel economy, distance to empty, distance traveled etc. Cruise Control is only being offered on the top end automatic petrol version.The seating position in the new Corolla Altis has improved too and you get 8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat and conventional electric seat for the co-driver. The seating position in this new Altis is much better now and gives a good view of the road and confidence to the driver.
The rear seat of the Toyota Corolla Altis is what will leave you speechless. The wheelbase has increased by 100 mm than its previous avatar and it is 15 mm wider too. Toyota has improved the knee room of the back seat by 92 mm and it now is the most comfortable rear seat in its segment. The rear passenger in the new Corolla Altis get reading lamps, reclining seats and an armrest with 2 illuminated cup holders – adds to the bling factor. However, the fact that there are no audio system controls in the arm rest or rear a/c vents is a big disappointment for this segment and so is the omission of a cooled glove-box.
Under the Hood
The story under the hood hasn’t changed at all. The engines are the same 1.8 litre petrol with a 6-speed manual and 7-speed CVT and the 1.4 litre diesel mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. We drove the 1.4 litre diesel motor first. The 1.4 litre D-4D engine in the Toyota Corolla Altis pumps 88 PS of power at 3,800 rpm and 205 Nm of torque at 1,800-2,800 rpm. Now, it is a super efficient motor considering the small capacity and that it supports a car that weighs 1,270 kg. In our drive it gave us an economy of 13.6 km/litre but that included an uphill drive to Nandi Hills near Bangalore.
Toyota has worked on the vibrations and NVH levels in the 2014 Corolla Altis and there is a significant improvement. In fact, at lower speeds, barely any noise filters into the cabin. However, the 1.4 litre motor is a small motor. While there is enough power for lower gears and city traffic but push the car a little and it runs out of breath quickly. Push it beyond its comfort zone and the engine noise gets very loud and the lack of power is very evident. The gear ratios are short and you have to constantly down shift even in city traffic for your quick overtakes.
After the diesel Corolla Altis, we got behind the wheel of the 1.8 litre petrol variant. The one we drove was the 7-speed CVT. The engine pumps 140 PS at 6,400 rpm and 173 Nm torque at 4,000 rpm. The petrol cousin is much more refined and peppier than its diesel sibling. Push the accelerator and it’s responsive. Plus the power delivery is very smooth and there’s no sudden rush that you feel in the car. The 1.8 litre engine on the Toyota Corolla Altis offers a mature and stable drive but again it’s not one of those motors that you want to push to it’s limits. The petrol Altis come with paddle shifts as well that does manage to keep you engaged but again the motor lacks the related level of happiness.
The petrol Altis delivered us an economy of 11.5 km/l on a similar route.
Is it confident on the road?
Because of the increased wheel base and new chassis, the suspension is now on the softer side. It does manage to absorb irregularities of the road with ease. At the same time, because of the soft set up, it feels under confident and uneasy while taking a corner at higher speeds.
New Altis continues to come with Torsion beam at the rear and MacPherson Strut at the front but the set-up has been altered and tuned further for comfort. If you are a rear seat passenger then you will be a happy one. The bumps are absorbed very well by the rear set up and most of the ride is comfortable.
The steering is better than the one on the previous Corolla and it now feels more connected to the wheels but it’s still not precise. In terms of confidence on the road, competition, like the Skoda Octavia is superior.
In terms of safety, the Corolla Altis has a list of things to offer. All variants of the petrol and diesel 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis will come with driver and passenger airbag as standard. All diesel variants of the new Altis will come Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist as standard. However, the only the top petrol version will offer these features.
The Toyota Corolla Altis gets a 5-star rating by the Euro NCAP. It, of course, comes with many more safety features in Europe.
The 11th generation of the Toyota Corolla Altis is a game changer for the company. Toyota has packaged it well with a long list of features, a smart design and good fuel economy. However, it’s not as much fun to drive as its European rivals but it is one of the most comfortable cars in the segment. Plus, the Altis comes with Toyota’s reliability and low cost of ownership over a period of time, something that is a problem with rivals like the Skoda Octavia, VW Jetta but not with the Hyundai Elantra. It’s a tough game for the new Altis no doubt.
2014 Toyota Corolla Altis will be launched in the last week of May and it’s pricing can play a key role that might be around 40-50k over the older versions.
Photography by Kanupriya Bhatnagar