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Natural Corolla-ry

S Muralidhar | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 22, 2014

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Practising simplicity The dashboard is a compact, vertically-oriented layout with an uncomplicated three-layered design for the centre stack. S MURALIDHAR

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The 11th generation of the Toyota Corolla is here. We take it for a test drive.

The Toyota Corolla is one of the biggest selling car models ever; and during the last 48 years, its biggest selling points have been reliability and efficiency. A number of competing models have attempted taking shots at the Corolla and yet, there has almost been an irrational preference for the Toyota sedan. To make matters more frustrating for the others, the Corolla has been a big seller despite its rather bland, unadventurous styling.

Later this month, the next, 11th, generation of the Corolla is poised for market entry into India. The scenario is different today, where compared to the large number of super loyal customers, of the past, who used to replace their existing Corollas with the new model for the next year, now there are younger buyers who are seeking to identify themselves with their cars. Also unlike the proliferation of new models that the lower priced segments have seen, the premium family sedan segment hasn’t had many entrants. On the contrary, we have had one really popular car – the Honda Civic – that was pulled out. The lack of choice is possibly the reason why the segment size continues to be fairly small.

So, does the new Corolla have the power to expand the segment by pulling in younger buyers and more buyers to upgrade from their C-segment sedans? We test drive the new 2014 Corolla Altis to find out.

Design

The new Corolla Altis has apparently been developed after extensive feedback from customers about what the car needs over and above the current offering. And three of the demands were better exterior styling, increased rear leg room and more features in the diesel model.

Given the task, Toyota engineers increased the wheelbase of the new Corolla by 100mm, without too much of an increase in overall body proportions. The wheels have been pushed to the extremities and much of the increase in wheelbase has been leveraged to increase the rear seat knee-room by almost 92mm. It is also possible to recline the rear seat backrest by about 5 degrees for a more relaxed position in the new model.

Surprisingly, the new Corolla Altis looks more compact from the outside compared to the outgoing model. The shorter, stubbier boot lid, the more sloping bonnet and the stance of the new model are probably the reasons why it seems visually smaller. That is also the reason why its increased ground clearance of 180mm (+5mm) is not too evident, though when it is viewed from the side, the gaping empty spaces in the wheel arches give it away.

The new Corolla’s sharper design has some youth and edginess to it finally. The aggressive front now features new headlamps with LED pilot lamps and a dual-barrel lamp combination. There are Toyota and Lexus family design lines that one can see in the shape of the lamps, the bonnet ridges and the front fender design. The roof slopes upwards more gradually compared to the outgoing model and has a symmetric late slope down at the rear too. "Unlike the previous generations, the new Corolla has been conceived to be a four door sedan with the doors being fairly equal in size both at the front and the rear, making it comfortable to get into the rear seat.

Chrome is loosing its sheen in the rest of the world, but apparently our love affair with the trim still continues. There is a fair amount of chrome around the new Corolla, with the biggest bit at the rear where a thick strip of the material connects the LED tail-lamps and also serves to visually enhance the width of the car.

Interior

Just like the new exterior design of the 2014 Corolla, the cabin of the new Altis also exudes simplicity and youthfulness. The dashboard is a compact, vertically-oriented layout with an uncomplicated three-layered design for the centre stack.

Depending on the trim-level, you get automatic climate control, a touch-screen infotainment system, chrome and faux carbon-fibre in-dash trim and other features like cruise-control. The steering wheel is a clean three-spoke design with audio controls and for the first time paddle shifters for manual gear changes when paired with the Super CVT-i gearbox.

Performance and Handling

The petrol engine in the new Corolla is the tried and tested 1.8-litre Dual VVT-i unit, which now gets a new controlled induction system for better performance in slow speeds. The mill is already an efficient one, the newer additions also include a super CVT-i transmission with a 7-speed sequential shiftmatic, which technically makes it hold one of the gears chosen all the way to the red-line at about 6,200 rpm. The auto gearbox is available only with the petrol engine and it is a big relief and joy that steering mounted paddles can enable you to choose gears manually.

The diesel engine is also the carried forward 1,364cc D-4D unit offering a peak power of 88.4 PS and a peak torque of 205 Nm. The engine is well-known to be refined and frugal, but it is not a peppy mill and it continues to lack in low-end punch in the new Corolla too. There is considerable turbolag which seems to last till the needle crosses the 2,000 rpm mark. Peak power sets in at 3,800 rpm and peak torque starts being available from 1,800 rpm. The diesel engine is paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox.

The new 2014 Corolla is tuned to be a good handler for largely city-centric drivers. The suspension is soft and pliant, and can muffle even big potholes, keeping the rear seat occupants cosseted. That is the target audience, but for those drivers looking to put the paddles to good use and get the Corolla to tackle some corners, the handling can be a bit disappointing. The cabin is really quiet too and NVH levels have been well contained.

Straight-line stability is good and the steering certainly feels more responsive than the previous generation model. But, unevenly topped highways can leave the new Corolla more unsettled compared to the heavier and more stiffly sprung European competitors.

Bottomline

The new Corolla is a step up in the design and styling department. There are reading lights, the reclining rear seat, sun-shade for rear glass, illuminated cup-holders and the softer suspension to keep rear seat occupants happy. Finish quality, reliability and efficiency will continue to be a given with the Corolla. But, choice of materials used could have been better to taken on the European brands.

Prices for the new Corolla Altis will be announced later this month. We expect it to be about 10 per cent higher than the outgoing model.

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Published on May 22, 2014
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