Toyota has been silently eyeing the lower class car segment in India for quite a while and only recently did they introduce the Etios. The Etios, just like the other Toyota products in India, is a car which was discontinued in North America. However the Indian public has not been too kind to this kind of dumping. The very fact of owning a Toyota has sent the Etios sales and production figures to an all time high however, post the 6 month ownership thing, many customers have claimed that this car is one hell lot of trouble maker rather than the ever reliable image that Toyota had created for themselves. In all this thing, the company is in the midst of rejuvenating their earlier bread winner, the Toyota Corolla Altis. So much so that the 2011 Toyota Corolla Altis in India is ready for a launch anytime soon. Don’t believe us, there are many spy pictures of the Altis which have been captured while it was on testing phase. The Corolla had being one of the mainstays for Toyota India for quite a long time however recently its applecart was toppled by the Chevy Cruze and some other new entrants. So in a bid to keep the public interest alive in this car, Toyota are bringing in the facelifted variant. Before its official launch, we got to test drive this car and here is the test drive report.
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The honeycombe grille of the earlier Toyota has been replaced and incomes the family face of the Toyota family. The head lamps have been made even more clear lens types and the slight bulge from the earlier model has been retained. The fog lamps find their way to the lower corners of the bumpers. Apart from that, the slated air dams have been retained. All these changes have however made the 2011 Corolla closer to the Camry that is now being sold in India. The tyre size remains the same with a 15 inch configuration. For the rear, just like the Maruti Swift Dzire or even the Tata Manza, there is a big chrome slab running across the length of the bumper. Is that good or bad is for the car buyers to decide. The tail lamps now resemble those of the outgoing Volkswagen Jetta. Its more like in Thailand and the Corolla that we have seen Emraan Hashmi drive in one of his films. Head lamp washers in the front and parking sensors in the rear complete the package.
Inside, the changes are immediately apparent with the use of darker fake wood. All our staffers loved this darker wood trim since it gives a luxury feel than the light one used earlier. Keyless entry and ignition are part of the standard fare in the top end variants. For entertainment geeks, there is the new 6.1 inch DVD touch screen system which can play DVDs plus also has Bluetooth access. As for the seats, they are of a new kind and feature perforations with motors beneath them. How they actually work and kind of things need to be checked out in a clear detail. However what we felt was that the under thigh support was a bit lacking as far as the front seats go. The rear seats as usual are fantastic and have good all around dimensions. The airconditioner has been also upgraded and this means the cabin chills in no time. The 4 spoke multi functioned steering wheel does away with the half wood grip. Boot space and rest of the stuff stay similar to the older model.
For the ride and handling package, nothing has changed and the Corolla still feels floaty at low speed rides. The plushness comes to the package when it gathers speed. Out on the highway, the car felt extremely stable. As for the handling, the Corolla is still not a driver’s car. Infact it more or less a chauffer driven car rather than being an out and out handler. The steering wheel has got an improved feel however it does nothing to stretch the dynamic abilities of this car. As for the NVH characteristics, some of the buzz from the engine seems to be eliminated though not entirely.
Here lies the major change and in more than one ways. First up, the 1.8 liter 2ZR motor has got an inlet tract which has been tweaked significantly. Moreover the VVTi has been also tinkered around with it now coming even on the Inlet tract. The changes are immediately apparent with the revised engine now more eager to rev than its predecessor. It also seems like the Honda’s I-vtec variant with some gruffness thrown in. The petrol motor now makes 140 Ps of power and 173 Nm of torque. This means an increase of 8 Ps of power from the earlier 132 Ps and 3 Nm increase in torque from the earlier 170 Nm. One more significant change is the introduction of a 6 speed manual in place of the earlier 5 speed one. It was earlier the diesel motor that got a 6 speed manual and now even the diesel gets it. Toyota were quick to point out that this new engine coupled with the new transmission shaves off 1 second from the car’s 0-100 kmph sprint. This we can confirm only after a review of the car though immediately the 2011 Toyota Corolla Altis in India did give a rush of speed. Moreover not only the manual transmission change has occurred but even the diesel gets an all new 7 speed automatic transmission. Though this is a CVT, it doesn’t feel a laggard like the old 4 speed one. It harnesses the engine’s power properly and instead of sapping it, shows up the convenience part more. The rubber band effect which is generally present in CVT engines is absent here or near about. It is called as CVT-I in Toyota speak with the I standing for Intelligent. How the CVT works is no mystery.
The CVT uses a preset ratio which try to imitate a conventional set of gear ratios. Due to this, the gear changes are pretty much fast and even downshifting doesn’t require much time. We can fairly say with confidence that this is the best CVT that we have experienced, the Renault Fluence’s one included. Paddle shifts were sorely missed however since the Corolla doesn’t carry around any sporty pretensions, this is fine.
The diesel motor on the other hand, gets a distinct grille which immediately distinguishes her from the petrol engined one. No other changes are evident on the engine part though the interiors are shared with its petrol counterpart. ARAI claimed fuel efficiency for the CVT enabled petrol is 15.22 kmpl while for the manual petrol, it is 14.08 kmpl. The CVT sees an increase in almost one kmpl by this new transmission change exercise. As for the diesel, it is still ranked at 21.45 kmpl as certified by ARAI. The 2011 Toyota Corolla Altis price in India is estimated to be higher and would start from Rs 13.7 lakhs going all the way to Rs 14.8 lakhs. All these prices are just a guess and as of now, Toyota are yet to reveal the final date of launch. We would keep you updated on that as and when we get the news.