THE updated styling of the Toyota Corolla Altis is still not enough to communicate the competence of the model as declaratively as it should. This is not a failure of aesthetics, though. Rather, the car simply has plenty more of positive things to offer.
• Well-proportioned and reasonably sized — neither too large nor too small — the car boasts a spacious, airy cabin that’s quite easy to see out of in any direction. Even the driver’s view toward the rear, which in many modern cars is obstructed by small windows and a high trunk, is clear.
• Room for any occupant is ample and approaches that found in executive cars. Even the middle passenger in the backseat will find sufficient legroom. The driver’s seat can also be adjusted low enough, perfect for those who want to feel they are sitting in a car rather than on it.
• Also as appreciated is a steering wheel that can be pulled closer to the driver.
• As well as space, materials lining the cabin are comparable to those on executive cars. The leather covering the dashboard, seats and door cards are accented by stitching; glossy black panels are contrasted by polished metal-like trim; and instruments are uniformly lit with bluish tones.
• The multimedia system, which rests against a sleek panel, has a huge touch screen display that uses equally large labels for the various functions. As expected, buttons on the steering wheel duplicate frequently accessed functions, and the multimedia can link to portable devices wirelessly or through a USB port.
• Controls and display for the climate settings are clearly defined as such. So it’s hard to confuse these with the controls for the multimedia unit’s touch screen located directly above them.
• Cabin’s all-black palette creates a tidy, somber vibe similar to that of luxury cars.
• Trunk is big and deep, with a flat floor and mostly flat sides. Its size can stand its own when compared against the cargo bays of some crossovers and compact SUVs.
• Engine spins smoothly; there is hardly any vibration coming from it that makes its way to driver touch points, like the steering wheel and pedals. Most of the sound it emits comes from the optional sport tailpipe fitted in the review car. Plus, it’s fairly frugal, too. In six days it averaged almost nine kilometers to a liter of fuel.
• CVT isn’t sluggish at selecting the next “gear” and, through paddles, is quick at shifting down. It also is willing to hold a “gear” for long even if the engine is spinning vigorously. Engaging sport mode elicits the same behavior.
• Not sure if it’s because of the meatier tires or if Toyota did tweak the Altis’s electric power-assisted steering, but whichever the reason the car’s steering is heftier, and so is more engaging to use compared to the previous car’s overly boosted system.
• Toyota has adjusted the Altis’s suspension so the car could corner flatter and turn in quicker. Thankfully, this does not come at the expense of ride quality; the car remains pliant enough on bumpy pavement and can still filter out the harshness coming from its contact with the road.
• Tires, at 215/45, could use higher sidewalls. Their lower sidewalls make them stiffer, and while this trait quickens steering responses, it can also cause the suspension to crash over potholes or road expansion gaps. A little more ability to absorb road flaws would be welcome.
• While quite adequate during most instances, the engine’s 143-hp, 187 Nm output is paltry considering the 2.0-liter displacement. The Altis can feel strained when the throttle is floored.
• For its price, the Altis lacks some of the advanced features — semi-autonomous parking, trick traction control, automatic engine start/stop, for instance — some of its ilk could boast of.
The Altis may be lacking in certain areas — and not small ones, at that — but its level of refinement and practicality, as well as its newfound athleticism, still make it a top choice in the compact sedan class. Also, Toyotas’ reputation for easy upkeep and their known capacity at retaining their resale value even decades after could well be the deciding factors for many buyers. — Brian M. Afuang
Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0V
Price: P1.451 million
Engine: 2.0-liter, inline-four, dual VVT-i 16 valve with ACIS; 143hp @ 6,200 rpm, 187 Nm @ 3,600 rpm
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 17 inches, 215/45
Key features: Bi-LED auto leveling head lamps with daytime running lights; LED tail lights; multi-information display; multimedia with touch screen and USB, aux-in, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity; leather steering wheel and seats; reversing camera and sensors; automatic climate control; smart entry with push-button start/stop; rain-sensing wipers; eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat; eco driving meter; curtain and knee air bags; vehicle stability control