All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Now while playing it safe isn’t always the most sexciting option, sometimes taking the secure route is the logical choice as secure and safe is most likely the dependable selection as well. And you can’t go wrong with dependable, especially in regards to picking a car based on your monthly pay packet.
Of course, if your pay cheque had more zeros than a micrometer’s scale then of course you’d have a few sets of wheels in your garage, but most of us aren’t afforded that luxury and have to make do with a car that is reliable, spacious and comfortable.
Once you’ve climbed the ladder of success slightly, you’d have to be pulling a fast one if a decent C-segment car wasn’t on your radar. The C-segment has quite a palate of offerings from the Jap manufacturers.
The Toyota Corolla Altis is one of the best sellers in that segment. The Altis was definitely cut from the same cloth that Toyota seems to sew all its models from now. Its always been the safe, dependable, comfortable and stately car compared to its peers.
No sportiness added into the mix there, unless you count the factory body kit offered for an extra. There’s nothing wrong with that too, being all that might give it a safe and, to a certain point, boring silhouette but more likely than not though, the demographic that could afford and would be interested in a model like that are most likely looking for those exact aspects too.
Now though, Toyota have totally revamped the Altis line up to offer more options that spell value for money. The biggest change would have to be the drivetrain options, with three new engines and two different transmissions.
While all three variants share quite a number of specs, it’s clear that Toyota put in some added hours for the top of the range 2-liter model.
We recently had the chance to clock in some mileage on the high spec 2-liter variant and were left pretty impressed. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t a fan of the previous model. It wasn’t a remotely bad car, it’s just that it was exactly all the things mentioned earlier and my demographic still links the word ‘dependable’ with the local mamak stall. But then again, as I mentioned, my demographic can’t afford a brand new C-segment car either.
So objectively, the Altis was just what the doctor ordered for those that could afford it. It might have appealed to the older range in its demographic, with cars like the Honda Civic and Mitsubishi Lancer sucking in the younger buyers, but it was precisely what it needed to be to fly off the showroom floors.
Step into the new Altis though, and you would soon realise that Toyota stepped up their game and it targeting a wider audience with this one.
Even from the exterior, much effort has gone into raising its appeal factor and adding a pinch of sportiness. The headlamps have been redesigned with some added curvature for a more premium look and are slightly smoked, as are the tail lamps. The 2-liter high spec model also gets HID with level adjustment and the rears are filled with LED bulbs.
Even the grille compromises of a single piece unit that is solely for this variant. Out back, things like the number plate garnish are longer, to project a wider silhouette. Thing is, all these minute details, as negligible as they seem, do work. They blend to really give the Altis a sportier look and place a gap between the rather staid looking previous model.
Step into the working area and things are looking up there too. The layout of the dash shares some resemblance with the predecessor but comes with sufficient additions to refresh it.
Again, this high spec unit gets a different steering wheel design from the rest of the line up. The one here is a thick three-spoke design with a flat bottom, again for a sportier look, and with buttons for the audio control and multifunction display. One thing that stood out about the audio control buttons is that fact that the scroll button switched between the preset radio stations and not just scrolled through frequency range like some other models do. Sadly though, they left out a mute button, which time and again, become an annoyance when somebody in the car had t answer the phone and the driver had to scroll the volume all the way down. The steering wheel also housed the cruise control stalk.
The dash was trimmed in a matte wood finish that was a definite winner over the previous model’s polished wood finish that gave it a cheap and undeniably Japanese look. This time around, the matte wood trims looked classy and boded well with the rest of the dash.
One of my pet hates with the previous model too was the extensive use of cheap plastics all over, presumably for cost cutting measures. Even the door panels and dash felt poor to the touch, something not to be expected of a C-segment offering.
This time around, things are slightly different. While the cheap plastic are still present in places like lower half of the dash and door panels, the top halves are constructed from soft-touch plastics that add a premium feel and the perforated leather seats do lend a hand. The best bit though, is that seated inside, you feel like you’re in a higher segment car.
Even in the rear, legroom is more than generous and the flat floor makes ingress and egress a painless affair.
So with all that show, surely it must have the go to match up. The 2-liter Dual VVT-i lump up front is mated to a seven-speed CVT and is a dream to drive. Power output stands at 145hp with 187Nm of torque.
The engine is more than sufficient to power the car, feeling extremely light and rev-happy on the go. One of the functions includes an ECO driving mode that helps the driver keep the engine in its most fuel efficient point with help from a bar on the MFD. Previous experiences with ECO driving modes from other manufacturers left us with the impression that it was downright impossible to drive in everyday traffic and keep it in ECO mode.
However, we tried to do just that with the Altis for the first few hours to see how it would cope and not only did it manage to keep up with the flow of traffic, it was still eager to go, even managing overtaking on the fast lane whilst still in ECO mode.
There were no complaints about the CVT, it did its job well without complain. Cruising around in city traffic felt effortless and when pushed, the CVT coped well with fast shifts, reacting quickly to input from the steering-mounted paddle shifters. And yes, you read it right, the top of the range Altis comes with paddle shifters. The power was obviously not overwhelming, but it was certainly more than what you would have expected, leaving us very impressed with the power.
One thing that will never change about the Altis, or most Toyotas in general will be the ride and handling. The Altis was so comfortable on the road that it almost felt like cruising on carpet of air. Bumps and potholes were dealt with a solid and well-absorbed thud that added to the premium feel of the car.
A comfortable ride like that would surely see some sacrifices on the bends and it did so, but once again, the buyers of the Altis are not really looking to take the racing line on that next turn. However, when urged faster through a corner, the Altis did take it like a man and was quite steady throughout, with the Traction Control making an appearance to save the day if the need arose.
All in all, the new Altis is a winner from many aspects. Not only has it maintained the stateliness it was synonymous with from the previous model, it also injected some sportiness into the package without compromising on the comfort, widening its appeal and proving to be a real bang for the buck purchase.