Friday, 30 May 2014

2014 Toyota Corolla Altis: Review

The bold new Toyota Corolla Altis is geared up to turn around the dwindling sales of the D-segment.


Having sold 40 million units in over 150 countries, it would be an understatement to say that theToyota Corolla is just another successful car model. The sedan was introduced in India back in 2003 and now the Japanese carmaker is set to launch the 11th generation, 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis in our country. And this isn’t another run-of-the-mill facelift; the car represents Toyota’s new, youthful design philosophy. The understated and sedate styling is passé now. The 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis not just looks a lot better than the outgoing model, but also appears much more dynamic and contemporary. This, perhaps, is the most aggressive looking Toyota Corolla Altis of all times.


The front features a bold new ‘T’ design theme, created by the new swept back headlamps which merge into the front grille. The double barrel cluster headlights now get smart LED daytime running lights on the top-end variants. Sleek chrome garnish on the headlight and the large chrome grille add the premium touch to the front design. The long and wide bonnet, the acute angle of the windscreen and lower roofline gives the 2014 Toyota Corolla a low, sports-car-like profile with improved aerodynamics.


The sharp character lines, muscular proportions along with shorter front and rear overhangs give the 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis an aggressive stance. The strong shoulder line runs from the top of the front wheel-arch and blends in to the taillamp, further enhancing the new found sportiness. The car runs on 15-inch or 16-inch wheels depending on the variant, and comes with good looking alloy wheels. There’s a hint of Lexus design too, especially at the rear end of the car with its elongated taillamps. With its sharp design, the 2014 Toyota Corolla looks great from all angles.

The 2014 Toyota Corolla is based on the existing platform but the chassis is more rigid than before and the wheelbase has been stretched by 100mm. Overall the sedan is 80mm longer and 15mm wider, and at the same time 5mm lower, than its predecessor. It improves the aerodynamics and makes the car appear lower and wider than before. This has helped in creating more space within the cabin. I like the neatly laid out new dashboard. With its flat and multi layered design, it seems to be inspired by American muscle cars. There’s a smart brush metal strip that divides the soft touch black-and-beige dashboard and continues through the door panels. 

A large touchscreen controls several function like the navigation and entertainment systems, and in the process, makes the dashboard clutter free. But during our test drive in the afternoon, the sun’s glare made it difficult to read from the display. The premium sedan comes packed with features like Bluethooth connectivity for the phone, illuminated cup holders, reverse camera and rain sensing wipers. However, rear aircon vents are missed sourly. The new car also gets ABS with EBD and Brake Assist. Though the quality of material and finish is nothing to complain about, the 2014 Toyota Corolla hasn’t been able to surpass its rivals like the Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Elantra.

The driving position is all new on the 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis. The driver’s seat is lower now and the steering wheel angle has been tweaked to give a more commanding driving position. Thanks to the elongated wheelbase, Toyota has also created 92mm more knee room at the back. The hip-point of the rear bench has been pushed back further to create more room. In fact, with the focus clearly on the rear-seat passengers, Toyota has introduced reclining rear seats, to this segment, for added comfort. The seats are well bolstered and offer good back and thigh support. And since there’s no intrusion from a central tunnel on the floor, the 2014 Toyota Corolla can comfortably accommodate three adults. 

The new 2014 Toyota Corolla carries forward the existing powertrain - a 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol VVT-i engine and a 4-cylinder 1.4-litre D-4D turbocharged diesel. And I got to drive both. The petrolToyota Corolla produces 140PS of peak power at 6,400rpm and 173Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. And this will be offered with either a six-speed manual or Toyota’s tusted CVT-i 7-speed automatic transmission. 

In petrol, I drove the CVT version, which now comes with steering mounted pedal-shifts. TheToyota engineers have improved the transmission for better fuel efficiency and reduced the level of noise, vibration and harshness. And it is evident from the word go. The power delivery is linear and the engine silky smooth. The pedals give full control of gear shifting points, making the drive more engrossing. The transmission responds instantly to every tap on the pedal shifter which comes handy during overtaking. But the CVT has that elastic feel, and on the highway the VVT-i runs out of ‘Wakudoki’.  Another grouch was that the test vehicle came with a set of wide and low 16-inch (205/55 R16) tyres that caused quite a bit of road noise.

After my drive in the petrol variant, I switched to the popular oil-burner. The 1.4-litre D-4 diesel engine is capable of 88.4PS of peak power 3,800rpm and 205Nm of peak torque available as low as 1800rpm. The D-4 comes mated to a 6-speed manual ‘box which makes diesel motor extremely efficient. The digital console displayed over 13.5kmpl efficiency, even though I pushed the car to the limit. The diesel motor has a distinct lag which even the variable geometry cannot iron out. On lower revs, the motor is fairly vibe free, but push the motor closer to the 3,800rpm mark and it gets more audible. 

In terms of driving dynamics, the big change in the 2014 Toyoto Corolla Altis is the re-engineered electric power steering, which has become heavier than before and offer better feedback than the older system. The MacPherson struts up front and the torsion beam suspension at the rear have been updated and now offer very plush ride quality and good stability around corners. The setup is on the softer side designed to offer comfort, which feels perfect for city use. Due to this, the 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis doesn’t feel as confident for enthusiastic driving as some of its European competition. It cushions bad patches of roads with ease, but tends to wallow a bit over bumps. It isn’t as agile or sharp when it comes to handling, but is definitely very pliant. 

Though it may not be as fun to drive as its rivals, the 2014 Toyota Corolla surely is one of the most comfortable cars in its segment. It’s high point, of course is its bold and sporty design, which comes with Toyota’s inherent reliability and quality. The premium sedan is expected to be launched later this month and would be priced slightly higher than the current generation Altis, which was priced between Rs 13-18 lakh. Hopefully, the new Toyota Corolla Altis will be able to bring the zing back in the premium D-segment sedan.

Competition and price
The Toyota Corolla competes with Skoda Octavia, Chevrolet Cruze, VW Jetta and the Hyundai Elantra. We expect that this new car will be priced in the Rs 12 lakh to Rs 17 lakh for the top-spec diesel variant. The Japanese automaker may also introduce an AT box for the diesel variants with this new model. It is likely to be launched in June of this year.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
ITEMSPETROLDIESEL

DIMENSIONS
Overall Length (mm)46204620
Overall Width (mm)17761776
Overall Height (mm)14751475
Wheelbase (mm)27002700

ENGINE
Displacement (CC)17961364
Fuel SystemDual VVT-iD-4D diesel engine with variable nozzle turbo and intercooler
Maximum Power (bhp/rpm)138 @ 640087 @ 3800

TRANSMISSION
Type6 - Speed MT - 7- Speed AT6 - Speed MT

SUSPENSION
FrontMcPherson strut front axleMcPherson strut front axle
RearTorsion beam rear axleTorsion beam rear axle

BRAKES
FrontDiscDisc
RearDiscDisc