New 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis First Drive
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When you have the world's bestselling car in your portfolio, you don't want to do mistakes. Toyota Corolla is one of the most recognizable cars on the roads, thanks to over 40 million of them running around and an almost 50 years of history. Known to us as Toyota Corolla Altis, the car has been known for its durability, rear seat comfort and low cost of maintenance. But the car lacked the flair in its styling that many are expecting these days. With the new 11th generation Corolla Altis to be launched in India soon, Toyota is aiming to change just that. How? By adding Wakudoki feel.
The new generation Toyota Corolla Altis is radically different than its predecessor and looks a million bucks. Bang on with the styling, the new Corolla Altis looks sharp and much better than any Corolla before it. The exteriors go for a very dynamic design with sharp creases and cuts making for a very sporty profile. In the front, the new Corolla Altis gets the Toyota family grille with three horizontal chrome lines that continue to flow into the headlamps as well. The two bonnet lines and two diagonal bumper lines seems to meet neatly into the front grille. The dual barrel headlamps along with the daytime running light strip are neatly done.
Things take a sharper turn to the side of the Corolla Altis with a high window line that takes a cut in the rear and a long shoulder line that merges with the tail lamps. The bulging wheel arches are joined by another line, finishing up the zing on the side. Coming to my most favourite part of the exterior, the rear. It gets LED tail lamps and a chrome slab that joins the tail lamps. Here also, there are two diagonal lines that run from the rear bumper to the tail lamps.
Just like the outside, the new Corolla Altis also gets completely new interiors that offer style and functioning in the right mix. The dashboard is a mix of black, beige and metal finish. While the top of the dashboard is finished in black with the central AC vents and instrument cluster neatly tucked in, the middle gets touch of beige and hosts a touchscreen infotainment system with a carbon-fiber-like finish. The bottom of the dashboard again brings back the black and the AC control unit is made a part of it. The twin pod instrument cluster is given a blue backlight that looks good in the dark and a multi information display in the middle. The steering wheel gets a hint of silver finish in the bottom and gets mounted controls for music and telephony.
The features list of the new Corolla Altis include automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, reverse camera with sensor, engine start/stop button, 8-way power driver seat, touch screen infotainment system with USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth support, manual rear sunshade, remote boot opener, rear power sockets, rear reclining seats, backlit cup holders, driver seat lumbar and height adjustment. On the safety front, the Corolla Altis gets dual SRS airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, clutch start system, immobilizer, seat belts with pre-tensioner and force limiter.
The new Corolla Altis has grown quite significantly when compared to the outgoing car and it shows the instant you lay your eyes on it. And all of this growth seems to have gone into improving the rear seat space. While the wheelbase has increased by 100mm, the rear seat space has gone up by 75mm and knee room by 92mm. While Corolla Altis is already known for its rear seat comfort, the increased length adds more joy with the fact that Corolla is mostly a chauffeur driven car. And the merriness continues when you get reclining rear seats. The flat floor in the rear also means three persons can travel in comfort without the middle hump intruding. Front seats also offer great space and comfort with adequate lumbar and thigh support. The boot space measures 470 litres and can be increased with the folding rear seats that can also be split 60:40.
Though the new Corolla Altis is a whole new car, the engines are carried forward from the old one - 1.8-litre petrol and 1.4-litre diesel. The petrol engine puts out a maximum power of 140 PS at 6400 rpm and a peak torque of 173 Nm at 4000 rpm. While the engine will be available with 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic transmission, the test car we drove was fitted with the automatic box. The engine is very responsive and feels live all through the rev range. The power delivery is smooth and the 7-speed CVT automatic transmission sprung a surprise with its act. There was the rubber band effect that is commonly related to the CVTs in this box also, but what makes this one better is the way it has been tuned. Add to it the smooth working paddle shifts, the result is a drive train that wants to be revved.
The next is the famous 1.4-litre D-4D diesel engine that left us disappointed. It's an amazing engine and there is no doubt about it, but for a car of this size and segment. Putting out 88.4 PS of power at 3800 rpm and 205 Nm of torque at 1800-2800 rpm, the engine is seriously underpowered when compared to its rivals. And the lack of power shows in the performance also with downshifting often needed while overtaking or going up the hills. The diesel engine comes with the option of 6-speed manual transmission only. While the gearbox has short throws and is comfortable to slot into, we need to keep it in range of turbo at around 1800 rpm when it kicks in or more to get good response. Cruising on highways in this engine proves to be a pleasant experience with tall top gears. The NVH levels are refined well and we can expect better fuel efficiency thanks to the weight loss of the new car.
As we have already told that most of Corolla Altis owners will be sitting in the back, Toyota has tuned the suspension to aid them. So you get a softer suspension setup with McPherson struts in the front and torsion beam to the rear. This results in great ride quality keeping the car pliant across most of the irregularities of the road.
The handling has also improved with a stiffer chassis and better communicating steering wheel. The light steering and clutch combination also assists in city driving conditions. The straight line stability is good but as the speeds increase on the highways, the steering fails to gain weight and provide feedback as much as we would have liked it to. Braking duties are offered by all wheel disc brakes, ventilated at the front and solid at the rear.
Overall, Toyota has given a major style steroid that was much needed for the Corolla Altis. Add more features, better driving dynamics and you have another best seller. Though the diesel mill needs more power, the new Toyota Corolla Altis presents a pretty picture that is sure to be a crowd puller.