Monday, February 13, 2012

Used Car Review - Toyota Corolla Altis (2001-2007)

There is a saying that 'your wish I my command', and Myk Belmonte grants it. Want to see a particular used car on this page? Just post a comment and will try to accommodate your request. This car had been requested by Jack Arthur (a schoolmate of mine) weeks ago. So to Jack, here it is.

2001-2007 Toyota Corolla Altis

The Corolla had been Toyota's popular and salable model since 1966. Here are some tidbits of information about this popular model. One Corolla has been sold on average of 40 seconds worldwide (that's nearly 2,160 units in a day sold worldwide!). The name "corolla" means small crown in Latin and not a part of a flower. And almost 40 million units had been finding homes since its introduction in 1966. Afghanistan locals do have an abundance of Corolla units in their country in various generations, and most of them are imports from Japan, US, and other nations. America didn't warm over the Corolla until the fuel crisis forced them to. It had nearly outlived other Japanese nameplates worldwide (with the exception of its stable mates Land Cruiser, and Crown)

Locally, the Corolla nameplate needs no introduction. But how did the Corolla Altis badge started? It was in 1999 when Toyota Motor Philippines introduced a luxury variant of the Corolla badged as "Corolla Altis" and competitors had been scrambling to enter the entry level compact luxury category such as the Nissan Sentra Exalta. The added bonus over the "regular" Corolla was a 1.8 liter engine plus luxury goodies (no sunroof included). The Altis name was ASEAN and south Asian market exclusive.

It was in 2001 that the Corolla Altis become a standalone model (the Love Life Corolla was still produced but geared towards the fleet and taxi crowd) and become the model that crawled back the Corolla's nameplate to the top spot (among its peers) in terms of sales, but the Civic took it over in 2006 with its new generation. Variants available throughout its model life are the base J, E (in both 1.6 and 1.8 flavors, with the latter dropped sometime in 2005), G (with options of 1.6 and 1.8 liter engines), and a body kit and sporty mag wheels clad S (added in 2006). Refreshed in 2004 and sold until 2007, where its 10th generation model was launched a year after.

Value and Costs
Those wanting a slightly modern car for less would be happy to know that Altis resale prices are between P260,000-P400,000; which can be an advantage for those seeking a comfortable commuter car at low prices. The Altis had also been a favorite among drag racers, hotel chauffeurs, and even cabbies, so be extra careful on checking those units, since problems can mushroom with them.

Maintenance costs are on the affordable side, with spare parts from the original to third party ones available. The "ZZ" engines are rumored to have oil sludge, but this can be prevented if oil changes are frequently done by the previous owner. The J had black side moldings so do check them if they are complete and scratch free, as these come standard.

Exterior and Interior
Aiming to be an entry level premium compact sedan, the Corolla Altis has luxury car edges that one can mistake it as a luxury car, but with a Toyota badge. From its anonymous looking predecessor, the 9th gen Altis does stand out in the crowd. People who found the ES Civic's exterior a turn off, most of them went to the Corolla Altis.

Typical with all Toyotas, controls are placed where they can be easily reached by the driver and the occupants. One good thing about the Corolla Altis are the gauges location, it is placed where it should be, in front of the driver. Interior does not look cheap but rather feels classy, even on the J variant. Wood panels are abundant on G models.

Two engine choices had been available on the Altis model range. A 3ZZ-FE VVT-i 1,598cc with 116hp at 6,000rpm and 160Nm at 4,400rpm powering the J, E, S and G trim lines, and a 1ZZ-FE VVT- i 1,794cc that has 145hp at 6,000rpm and 188Nm at 4,200rpm that is standard among E and G variants. Despite having lowly figures on spec sheets, the ZZ engine family feels "bigger" than it is. And these engines put emphasis on wide torque range.

Driving Impressions
If Civics and Lancers emphasize sporty and spirited driving, Corollas specialize towards comfort. Whenever on the "lubak-lubak" roads that the government calls it "roads" or breezing at two way provincial highways, the Corolla Altis provides ample power for the driver while passengers love the comfort brought by the car. Just a caution though, noise can be heard when driven at three digit speeds.

In a budget of P300,000 (not including repairs), would you get a same period Vios or a same period Corolla Altis? The choice is yours but personally, I would go with the latter. Why? Spacious cabin and trunk, decent power, safety features come standard, and maintenance is nearly identical with its sub-compact brethren. It's a good value, considering that you get to enjoy extra 300cc of power.

The Good:
  • Comfortable to ride in
  • Simplicity of controls
  • Cavernous trunk space
The Bad:
  • Not something for sport spirited driving
  • Tacky wood paneling (for G variants)
  • Boomy at high rpms
The Pick: 1.6 E for daily driving and practicality, 1.6 G for daily usage with class

Engines: 1,598cc 3ZZ-FE and 1,794cc 1ZZ-FE I4 gasoline
Power: 116hp @ 6,000rpm (1.6); 145hp @ 6,000rpm (1.8)
Torque: 160Nm @ 4,400rpm (1.6); 188Nm @ 4,200rpm (1.8)
Fuel Consumption: 7-10km/L (city); 11-13km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear torsion beam

Price (New): P650,000-P980,000 (range from 2001-2007)
Price (Now): P260,000-P400,000
Rivals: Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, Ford Lynx, Chevrolet Optra
On Sale: 2001-2007

Toyota Balintawak North - 927-7215
Toyota Quezon Ave. - 712-5001
Toyota Pasong Tamo - 893-8084

Photos by Myk Belmonte
Corolla Altis unit provided by Nestor Bangon


  1. One of the best cars I ever drove was a Brazilian-made 9th-gen Corolla SE-G 1.8L (lower grades were the XL-i 1.6L and XE-i 1.8L at the time) with the 1.8L engine and the 4-speed A/T. My lola had an XE-i with the 5-speed M/T, she didn't buy an XL-i because it didn't have ABS brakes and also disliked the SE-G because this one was never available with M/T after the 8th-gen...

    The Altis nameplate is nowadays used in the top-of-range 10th-gen Corolla for some South-American markets, fitted with a flexfuel version of the 2.0L Dual-VVTi engine, altough still fitted with the same outdated 4-speed automatic transmission instead of the CVT used in the Philippine version. The 1.6L engine was still offered in a simplified version aiming to cabbies and phisically-disabled people who could get it cheaper with tax deductions in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, but currently the 1.8L engine is the base engine for the Corolla. In Paraguay the 2C naturally-aspirated diesel engine is still available, bolted to a 5-speed M/T while the 1.8L gasser is only available with the 4-speed A/T.

  2. Maaari ay nadagdagan ang sa diesel-powered bersyon para ng talutot nito market ibahagi, at iwas ng yaong mapanganib na mga conversion ng LPG kadalas gawin sa taxi.

  3. Chief Myk, much appreciated for all the time and efforts you have committed on these info very very helpful.
    On the other hand, can you help me get the specifications and original prices of altis (variants) from 2003 to 2007 or any links that you know where i can get them. Would really help me further in my endeavor to get to know this cars...
    looking forward

    1. Good morning sir (its 12am now)! Regarding the Altis specs and orginal price, I suggest that you check this link*/ and click from 2003 to 2007. Try opening any month and go to the site's "car chart" and there it is. But by this year, we will be having a new feature that we will compile all specifications in a table format.

      Thank you!

    2. Good morning! Hope you can read this. Here are the full specifications of the Altis - 2001-2003 - 2004-2007

      Thank you!