Toy­ota’s best Corolla al­tis yet

But best­seller’s 11th-gen­er­a­tion model faces com­pe­ti­tion from ri­val cars in sim­i­lar price range

Today - - CARS - Shel­don Trol­lope fea­tures@me­di­a­

SIN­GA­PORE — There was a time when the Toy­ota Corolla would rule the car sales charts. Its com­bi­na­tion of re­li­a­bil­ity and value saw gen­er­a­tions of own­ers buy this 1.6-litre fam­ily saloon and du­ti­fully re­place it with an­other Corolla when­ever the suc­ces­sive model was launched.

These days how­ever, the mar­ket­place has changed and buy­ers in this seg­ment have never had it so good when it comes to choos­ing welle­quipped and ca­pa­ble cars.

Many pun­ters to­day are opt­ing for sports util­ity ve­hi­cles, multi pur­pose Ve­hi­cles and hatch­backs.

Even within the saloon seg­ment — where the Corolla, now called the Corolla Al­tis, used to reign supreme — there are so­phis­ti­cated com­peti­tors such as the Honda Civic and Volk­swa­gen Jetta. Per­haps it is just as well then, that Toy­ota has taken the op­por­tu­nity to up­date the Corolla Al­tis, along with the in­tro­duc­tion of a manda­tory Euro 6-com­pli­ant en­gine.

Ex­ter­nally, the new, 11th-gen­er­a­tion Al­tis cuts a sportier fig­ure with its sleek head­lamps that fea­ture LED day­time run­ning lights for im­proved vis­i­bil­ity.

There is also a slim­mer grille that vis­ually aligns it with Toy­ota’s lat­est gen­er­a­tion of ve­hi­cles, such as the Prius and Har­rier.

To com­plete the sporty pro­file, a new range of al­loy wheels has also been in­tro­duced, with a 17-inch op­tion also avail­able on the high-spec Ele­gance vari­ant that was tested here.

Un­der the bon­net, the Al­tis now packs a 1.6-litre pow­er­plant that pro­duces 128hp and 160Nm of torque, which is due, in part, to built-in tech such as 16-valves, twin over­head camshafts and dual VVT-i valve­matic vari­able valve tim­ing, which helps to op­ti­mise power or fuel econ­omy at any given mo­ment.

In the cabin, the oc­cu­pants are greeted by a dash­board that’s fairly clut­ter-free, where an en­ter­tain­ment unit that in­cludes built-in nav­i­ga­tion and smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity — just like the one found in the Har­rier — takes cen­tre stage while the driver gets a colour dis­play in the in­stru­ment clus­ter.

Long-time Corolla fans will find the in­te­rior fa­mil­iar in terms of look and feel.

How­ever, com­pared with the al­ter­na­tives to the Al­tis in the mar­ket at the mo­ment, they might find that this car is start­ing to show its age when it comes to the qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als used within.

Per­haps the big­gest im­prove­ment to the Al­tis is in the safety de­part­ment. It now fea­tures no less than seven airbags and ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity con­trol which de­tects if the car is about to spin.

It can pre­vent the loss of con­trol by au­to­mat­i­cally brak­ing each wheel in­de­pen­dently, and also mod­u­lates the en­gine out­put, if nec­es­sary.

Long-time fans will also be glad to know that the Al­tis is as com­fort­able and re­fined as ever.

If any­thing, a re­vised sus­pen­sion set-up im­proves body con­trol and makes for a more sta­ble drive, while its con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion gear­box re­mains one of the bet­ter ex­am­ples in the seg­ment with its smooth­ness.

That said, the Toy­ota Corolla has tra­di­tion­ally never been sought for it dy­namic qual­i­ties, and the lat­est model doesn’t sur­prise ei­ther.

The im­prove­ments in styling, safety equip­ment and re­fine­ment have made this the best Al­tis yet.

How­ever, the truth is that there are al­ter­na­tives in the mar­ket that can be pur­chased for a sim­i­lar price — around the S$100,000 mark — and those may prove just too tempt­ing to ig­nore.

PhoTo: Shel­don Trol­lope

The new Toy­ota Corolla Al­tis has a sportier frame and up­graded safety fea­tures. But so­phis­ti­cated com­peti­tors in a sim­i­lar price bracket may prove too tempt­ing for some.

PhoTo: Toy­oTa

Long-time Corolla fans will find the new in­te­rior fa­mil­iar.

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