This one has to be one of the easiest general knowledge questions about cars – which is the world’s largest selling car model? The answer is Toyota Corolla, and the number of units sold is more than double of the next bestselling model. With more than 40 million units sold worldwide, the Corolla is probably the most successful production car model ever built anywhere in the world. And that sort of success doesn’t come by default. Behind that incredible accomplishment is Toyota’s unrelenting focus on quality, reliability, practicality and a desire to deliver a well rounded package at a great price.
The Corolla or the Corolla Altis as we call it here in India is in its third generation now with the new model. The current gen model was getting dated fast, and the upcoming 2014 model saw many fans postponing their car buying decision in anticipation. The Corolla straddles the C and D segments with élan, enjoying terrific brand loyalty for its value and premium positioning. While the new, 2014 model hasn’t been officially launched in India yet, we managed to sample the big family saloon on an unusually hot day in Bangalore as a part of Toyota’s exclusive pre-launch media drive. Here’s what we think about the newest exponent of the global bestseller.
In its newest avatar, the Toyota Corolla is 8 cm longer and 1.5 cm wider and 0.5 cm lower than the outgoing model. The most interesting part of the chassis overhaul, however is the increment of 10 cm in the wheelbase, expanding the cabin space, especially for the back benchers substantially. Knee-room, for example has increased by as much as 9.2 cm if Toyota’s claims are to be believed.
The headline news for the new Corolla is its more contemporary, sharper and angular look as compared with the organic design of its predecessor. The surfaces and design elements, especially at the front and the back are more angular and slashed out as compared to understated, flowing lines of the previous gen car.
The front of the car is defined by a set of flowing triple chrome slats converging at the center of the grille into the big Toyota logo. Toyota asserts that it’s a T-shape. The narrow grille and the slim, wide headlamps work towards making the car look wider and squatter than it actually is. Front lighting system features four LEDs as pilot lamps and a twin barrel layout for the head-lamps with the outer lamp being a projector unit. Blinkers are integrated on the inner edges of the headlamp.
An interesting design element is the extension of the chrome slats of the grille with similar looking material inside the headlamps. The top slat of the grille continues all the way to the end of the headlamps, while the lower two chrome elements are just stubs. The chiseled bonnet features a curvy crease emanating from the A pillar and merging into the front grille after making an arc.
Front bumper is new, and more angular with pronounced slashed out straight cuts flanking the central air dam and ahead of the front fender. The central air dam features triple plastic slats and has an aggressive looking bend to it at the lower end of its edge. Simplistic looking fog-lamps are housed in trapezoidal, black plastic cladding.
In profile, the roofline, unlike most new cars doesn’t drop down sharply. The Corolla merits practicality and comfort aboveeverything else, and in keeping with its tradition, Toyota haven’t compromised headroom for a sporty look. A subtle, straight beltline emanating from above the front fender spans the length of the car before merging into the tip of the tail-lamps. There are few other character lines too. There’s one which starts from the lower front portion of the front door and merges seamlessly into the rear wheel arch line. Then you have a mild crease emanating just before the kink in the rear window sills and disappearing into the area above the car’s haunches. Finally, the C pillar also witnesses a mil crease emanating from it and forming the edge of the boot-lid.
The 15 spoke alloys are brand new, and looked rather good on our grey colored test car. The mild kink on the rear window sill is another noticeable design highlight in profile. The ORVMs are two tone, finished in body and black color with integrated blinkers. The upper lining of the glass area is lined wiyth black plastic while the window sill areas has a chrome plating for a more premium look. Door handles too feature chrome garnishing.
At the rear, the slim, wide and angular theme of the fascia is carried over, replete with the slashes on the bumper. The two tail-lamps are joined by a wide chrome bar above the registration plate recess.
The new Corolla looks decidedly more contemporary and edgier than its predecessor. It’s well proportioned and we quite like the detailing in the front headlamps. Having said all that, however, the new Corolla isn’t exactly a sensational looking car, and wouldn’t really turn heads the way the Hyundai Elantra manages to.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
The engine options on the new Corolla remain unchanged and the car continues to be powered by a 1.8 liter VVTi petrol and a 1.4 liter D-4D diesel engine. The engines have been kept untouched and there is no difference in the output figures or behavior of the power plants. The 1.8 liter Dual VVT-i petrol engine is good for 140PS of power @ 6400 rpm and peak torque of 173 Nm @4000 rpm. The diesel unit produces 88.4PS of power @ 3800 rpm and maximum torque of 205 Nm between 1800 to 2800 rpm.
Buyers of the 1.8 liter petrol variant will get an option to choose between a 6 speed manual or 7 speed Super CVT-i automatic transmission. The diesel engine, however, will be available only with a 6 speed manual transmission. The 7 speed CVT transmission, what Toyota prefers calling the Super CVT-i features a sequential shift is surprisingly quick and responsive for a CVT.
We were expecting it to be lazy and unresponsive, but it wiped out all our apprehensions in a variety of driving conditions. While it’s no DSG when it comes to quickness and aptness of shifts, the 7 speed auto unit works well enough and doesn’t give one a reason to complain.
The new 2014 Corolla Altis also comes equipped with steering mounted paddle shifters for manual shifts, which is a great feature for the segment. In addition, manual shifts could be attained by slotting the step gated drive selector to the right into the manual mode. We were surprised by the response delivered by the shifter both in manual and drive modes. Kickdowns came much quicker than anticipated by us. Transmission’s response to various degrees of throttle inputs was quite appreciable too.
The petrol engine is revvy, spunky and sonorous in the upper range as ever with great response to the right pedal. The 1.8 liter petrol motor suits the segment well and delivers good performance for a car this big. The 1.4 liter diesel engine though is rather sluggish and feels a tad lethargic especially at low revs. Turbo takes its own time spooling up, and you could feel the torque kicking in properly only after 1800 rpm. The output figures from the engine aren’t in sync with the expectations of the segment, though the efficiency is commendable and those driving the diesel variant even on the outgoing model aren’t complaining at all. The 1.4 diesel is a practical and efficient alternative, if a tad sluggish. We wish this engine was bigger both in terms of size and output.
Cabin and features
As one would expect the cabin, dashboard and the features list of the new Corolla have been given a complete overhaul. The two-tone, black beige dashboard is brand new with a black top and beige lower portion separated by a satin silver bar. Central A/C vents are sleek horizontal units while the side vents are triangular with round outer edges. The three spoke steering wheel is new with a silver insert forming the bottom spoke. There is intelligent use of satin silver and chrome across the cabin the lift the aesthetic appeal of the cabin.
The touch screen panel on the center console is surrounded by a special pattern which at first appears to be faux carbon fiber, but look closely and you’ll realize that it’s a plastic with white print over it and given a lacquered finish.
Center console, as mentioned above comprises of a digital clock at the top, with a touchscreen panel below featuring controls for audio system, telephony and navigation. The touch-screen, however, isn’t bright enough, nor is it pixel dense. Response to touch isn’t too good either. While the audio system supports USB, Aux-in and has Bluetooth feature too, it doesn’t look upmarket enough for a car in this segment. The buttons for the touchscreen panel too are low on quality and finish. It’s a shame, because the rest of the cabin is high on quality and finish.
Below the touchscreen panel, you have a display and A/C controls. The new Corolla Altis features an automatic air conditioning unit. No two zone climate control here. There’s also a 12V power socket below the A/C control buttons.
The instrument console features analogue speedo and tacho units with tell tale lights and a central MID offering all the relevant information. Engine temperature and fuel gauge readings are integrated in the tacho and speedo units respectively. The display shows the drive mode engaged, odo and trip readings along with average fuel efficiency and distance to dry.
Driver’s seat is big, wide, and 8 way power adjustable. Steering is tilt and telescopically adjustable and features mounted controls for audio, telephony and voice commands. Cruise control can be engaged using a stalk behind the steering wheel below the lights stalk on the right. There are also separated buttons on the steering for cycling audio sources / mute and information display on the MID.
Cabin space is liberal, and the Corolla comes across as an extremely comfortable car with bright, airy and comfortable interior. Seats are big and wide offering great support both at the front and at the back. Back seats on the Corolla have always been considered the best in the business and the ons on the new model are no exception. The back seats on the Corolla are adjustable for recline angle too.
There are bottle holders on both front and rear door panels, and more cupholders between the front seats and in the rear armrest. Boot space, though generous at 470 liters isn’t class leading. The glove box is quite big and the central front arm rest offers a big enough space for storing small to medium sized items.
Feature list as regards safety and security includes twin airbags, ABS, anti glare mirrors, reverse camera and engine immobilizer. We would have liked the car to have traction control too, but the feature isn’t available. Other features include push button start, steering mounted audio and telephony controls, Cruise Control, paddle shifters, tilt + telescopic steering wheel, 8 way adjustable power seat for the driver, auto headlamps and leather upholstery.
While the new Corolla Altis offers a very comfortable, spacious and well thought out cabin, it isn’t quite there with rest as regards equipment on offer. Rear A/C vents and sunroof, in our humble opinion should have been the part of the package too.
Variant wise chart of the new 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis’ features and specs is provided below (click on the images to expand)
Thick sound deadening material is employed under the bonnet to cut the engine noise
Toyota branded remote for the audio controls
There is a small flip-out storage space under the right hand side of the steering column
Various menus of the central touch screen
Keyless fob for the engine start / stop function
The manual shifter stick for the non-auto variants
Notice the kink at the end of the window sill
rear armrest features twin cup holders. It’s beautifully finished too.
Rear blinds and reading lights are available in the top two / three variants respctively
Back benchers get a 12V power socket, but no dedicated A/C vents
A/C is automatic, though its not two-zone
Ride and handling
The Corolla, having always been a big family saloon, has had ride comfort as one of its priority areas. The New Corolla too delights with its absorbent suspension system which soaks up almost everything you throw at it with aplomb. The ride quality on the Corolla is quite extraordinary. But there never have been any issues with the car’s ride comfort anyway. What comes as a surprise, though, is its substantially better handling. The thick rimmed steering wheel feels nice to hold and is very well weighted too, to our liking. While it would still take some effort from Toyota to endow the Corolla with driving dynamics to beat the Octavia, we were impressed with the poise exhibited by the big saloon.
During our spirited run ascending the Nandi Hills, the new Corolla Altis impressed us. That was the easier part for the car, though, with ample traction from the rubber and a weight bias towards to the rear. We liked the poise of the car, and the controlled way the body behaved even when chucked around. On our way down, however, with more momentum, less grip and harsher braking, the car did show some bit of edginess. The Corolla impresses with its combo of great ride and handling, though it isn’t as satisfying as the German machines on the limit.
Having said that, however, there is no reason why the engineers at Toyota should not be proud for having brewed a tasty blend of all absorbing ride and above average handling for this saloon.
The new Corolla comes across as a big, comfortable, reliable and well styled car. They say you can never go wrong with the Corolla and the adage stands true for the latest model as well. We preferred the 1.8 petrol engine to the lazy 1.4 diesel power plant, and sincerely believe that this car deserves a more potent oil burner. We also found the new Corolla a bit lacking in terms of the features and equipment list, as compared to the rivals.
However, the Corolla has always been known for its no-nonsense demeanor, cabin comfort, extremely low running and maintenance costs and minimal trips to the service stations. It one of the best chauffeur driven cars you can buy across segments. Pricing, of course, would be crucial. If priced right, though, the Corolla has all the qualities to set the sales chart ablaze. We will get back to you once we know the price of this global bestseller and weigh it for its merits against its competitors rupee-for-rupee. Stay tuned!
New 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis Image Gallery