Thursday, July 25, 2013

Used Car Review - Toyota Corolla Altis (2008-2013)

Myk Belmonte now features our second compact sedan which now sways for your consideration.

2008-2013 Toyota Corolla Altis

If the Toyota Corolla were a politician in the Philippines, it had 10 generations (since the first model was made available during the 60s) serving the country by providing reliable and no frills transportation. Except for the E80 model  sold for a short period, all of them were elected to serve the people. If there was a political dynasty among automobiles in the country, the Corolla dynasty would be one of them.

The 10th generation Corolla was made available first in Japan in 2006 as the Axio with the Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and South Africa in 2007 and the rest of Asia and North America in 2008. Export models (those sold outside Japan) had increased in size and now uses the chassis code of E140. Toyota in Japan released the E160 Corolla in 2012, while other countries will have to wait for a few more years.

Replacing the long overdue E120 model, the 10th generation Corolla has its release last March 2008. It drew some mixed reactions since it somehow resembled the outgoing model and in its first year it struggled to sell past the Honda Civic - which beat the Corolla in 1999-2000 and 2006-2008 - until 2009 where it reclaimed the title. There are plans to introduce the E160 by next year as I type this but with discounts and promos popping in and out, this is one indicator that an all new model is coming. Variants include the basic E (this dropped the J trim), volume selling G, and top end V that can be either be sold with a 1.6 or 2.0 (the 1.8 was short lived) engine.

Value and Costs
10th generation Altises can be purchased in second hand prices at the tune of P460,000-P770,000. Do remember that finding a unit sold in September 2010 and later would have a balance of its warranty, so have a checkout on them.

Maintaining one is on the affordable side, with parts being priced lower than the competition. Fuel economy won't result to numerous trips to the ATM just for cash money. If you are a fuel conscious person, go with a mid-2010 or later unit since the manual is a six speed as opposed to the early model's five.

Exterior and Interior
While this generation looked plain, this has an exterior that will age gracefully (which cannot be said with the Elantra's fluidic sculpture). For models prior to the mid 2010 update, non 2.0 ones have a three horizontal bar one while the top of the line, launched in January 2009, gets a mesh grille. The update had resulted to a redesigned back bumper, taillights, new set of rims (for the V model though), and most important, the grille looks more sportier with the 1.6 have three curved lines done in chrome (E and G makes do with their body color) while the 2.0 has a blacked single line.

Inside, to distinguish the lower models from their higher trim counterparts, early models of the 1.6 have grey colored interiors while higher ones beige and glossy fake wood. The update in 2010 had the wood trim upgraded to a matte one for V models, other than that changes are limited to a new steering wheel for all trims. Good thing that materials used are of high quality and the controls are easy to operate. Interior room is exemplary, of course. Paddle shifters that rotate with the wheel comes standard, but only in the 2.0V.

The basic (and most common) engine fitted among Altises is the 3ZZ-FE 1,598cc which has 122hp at 6,000rpm and 154Nm at 5,200rpm (older models get 109hp at 6,000rpm and 145Nm at 4,400rpm). Next in line is the briefly sold 1.8 V which has the 1ZZ-FE 1,794cc that carries 132hp at 6,000rpm and 170Nm at 4,200rpm and the one that replaced it is the 3ZR-FE 1,986cc which spits out 145hp at 6,000rpm and 189Nm at 4,200rpm. How do they drive? Well, the 1.6 has enough power for the daily commute but going at speeds above triple digits can get the engine at a boomy sound. The same comment goes with the 1.8, but for the 2.0, it deserves its more than a sentence since this is the first time that type of engine was plopped in the Corolla. When matched with the 4-speed automatic, while this has a powerband at 3,400rpm-3,500rpm, the 4 forward gears is uneven that the second gear is short and third is tall. To get decent power, stick to the second but the automatic is willing to step down a gear at half throttle. Those fitted with CVTs have a more behaved engine but anything in the higher rpm range isn't a great experience.

Driving Impressions
Driving experience isn't a strength, with its light steering (which is an advantage inside the city) and soft suspension. Braking in the 1.6 is much better than the one in the 1.8 since the former has a solid feel than the somewhat mushy one on the 200cc higher model. Good thing that NVH levels and comfort are tops, despite the noise from the tires on rough roads.

The Corolla Altis suits the passive occupant inside the car with its comfortable ride and roomy cabin. Those who love to race wouldn't appreciate this vehicle since the suspension is soft, handling is dull, and the engines are not rev happy. You want a dependable car for less cash? Check out the Altis.

The Good:
  • Dependable
  • Excellent built
  • Roomy
The Bad:
  • Bland looks
  • Boring to drive
  • Lacks soul
The Pick: 1.6 G

Engines: 1,598cc 3ZZ-FE, 1,794cc 1ZZ-FE, and 1,986cc 3ZR-FE I4 gasoline
Power: 109hp @ 6,000rpm (1.6, 2008-mid 2010), 122hp @ 6,000rpm (1.6, mid 2010 onward), 132hp @ 6,000rpm (1.8), 145hp @ 5,600rpm (2.0)
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,400rpm (1.6, 2008-mid 2010), 154Nm @ 5,200rpm (1.6, mid 2010 onward), 170Nm @ 4,200rpm (1.8), 189Nm @ 4,200rpm (2.0)
Fuel Consumption: 7-10km/L (city), 9-13km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual (2008-mid 2010), 6-speed manual (mid 2010 onward), 4-speed automatic (2.0 until mid 2010), continuously variable transmission (2.0 only, mid 2010 onward)
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear rigid axle with torsion beam

Price (New): P754,000-P1,150,000
Price (Now): P460,000-P770,000
Rivals: Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Subaru Impreza, Kia Forte, Chevrolet Optra
On Sale: 2008-2013

Toyota Manila Bay - (02) 581-6168
Toyota Makati - (02) 897-3333

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