2008 Toyota Corolla Altis - detailed preview
The Toyota Corolla is a legendary car. Since the introduction of the first car sporting the Corolla name in 1966, over 30 million units have been sold. Everybody who knows what a car is has heard of the name Corolla. If, like me, you live in Bangkok, or have visited the Thai capital, you have probably sat in one since the vast majority of Taxis in Bangkok are Corollas.
But while the Corolla has been synonymous with dependability, it has never been an exciting car. Toyota have played it safe with each successive generation of Corolla and while this has been a successful strategy, it seems that Toyota are keen to shake off the conservative image and the stigma that has begun to attach itself to the Corolla nameplate.
With the 10th generation Corolla due for a Thai release sometime this year, let's take the time to have a look at what we can expect from the 2008 Corolla Altis. How will it differ from the current model, and how well will it stack up against the Honda Civic?
10th Generation, all change!
Toyota seem very keen to change the Corolla image with the 10th generation sedan. And as you can see from the images on this site the design for the new Corolla is a dramatic departure from the succession of dull, anonymously styled models that we've come to expect. Is it beautiful? No. But it is interesting, and we will settle for that. Finally a Corolla with a personality of its own. Previously Corollas always looked like Toyota had taken all the most boring design elements from other manufacturers and dulled them down even further to insure that there was nothing particularly outstanding or different.
Recent model releases have revealed a new direction for Toyota, and the Corolla Altis will follow this trend with styling borrowed from the Camry.
But the exterior changes, though important and significant, are only the beginning. And if the 2008 Altis isn't altered too much from the European/Japanese and American Corolla specifications, then it is going to be a very exciting car indeed.
Bigger and better
At 4,540mm long, 1,760mm wide, and 1,470mm high, the 2008 Altis will be 10mm longer, 60mm wider and 20mm lower than the current model. The wheelbase will be unchanged at 2,600mm, but with the wider track and lower center of gravity the handling should be noticeably improved. The extra width should also improve cabin space, and although slightly lower, the Altis is still 50mm taller than the Civic.
Previously Toyota had been restricting the width of the Corolla to 1,700mm to avoid a higher tax in Japan, which had resulted in a awkwardly tall and ungainly looking stance for the current model.
Dual VVT-i Engine(s)
Toyota engines have been leading the way in terms of refinement and efficiency of late, and this is set to continue with the use of new dual VVT-i engines in the 2008 Altis. While I'm not certain at this time, it would seem logical for Toyota to make use of the new dual VVT-i technology in the Altis, with the 1.6 liter 1ZR-FE and 1.8 liter 2ZR-FE being the two likely options for the Thai market.
The 1.6 liter should produce a healthy 124 hp, while we can expect the 1.8 to be around 140hp, on par with the 1.8 liter Civic power output. But the 1.6 will represent the bulk of the sales here.
The dual VVT-i engines take Toyota's cam shaft variation one step further, allowing independent cam shaft variation for both intake and exhaust timing using one electro-hydraulic variation system for each of the cam shafts.
In the case of the 1.6-liter the torque curve dual VVT-i system enables a very flat torque curve, which stays above 140 Nm from 2,000 rpm right up to 6,000 rpm, with peak torque of 157 Nm at 5,200 rpm.
This characteristic of the engine will mean smooth and powerful acceleration from low engine speeds and excellent top-end power. The new European Corolla uses the 1.6 dual VVT-i engine to achieve fuel economy figures of 15km/l in the European combined fuel cycle.
Although the 1.8 liter will offer even more power, the 1.6 is plenty capable, with 0-100km in just under 10.5 seconds, and a top speed of 195 km/h.
F1 inspired gear changes
The European Corolla has some interesting features that might be discarded for the Thai model. Among them is a Formula 1 style gear change indication light which shows the driver the optimum moment to change gears. This feature is only on the manual version (obviously), and since manual transmission are reserved for the budget trim levels in Thailand, it's safe to assume that we won't see this sort of feature. According to Toyota, following the advise of this system will result in around a 5% increase in fuel economy.
High end models which are fitted out with cruise control will have a "speed limiter" feature. The driver can set the maximum permitted speed, for example 120 km/m for expressway driving, and will be able to accelerate normally until the car reaches this speed. The system can be over ridden in case of emergency by simply kicking down on the gas.
Also on the high end models we can expect to see the MultiMode transmission with automatic selection, or manual sequential selection available through steering wheel mounted shift paddles. This is akin to the system in the top-of-the-range Civic, and will probably be a 5-speed box.
The current Corolla Altis is excellent at smoothing out bumps in Bangkok roads, but this ride quality comes at the expense of driver involvement. The new 2008 Altis should change all that, thanks to brand new suspension, and a new electric steering system.
A newly-developed L-arm MacPherson strut is a compact and rigid solution, which brings the suspension strut in-board of the wheel hub to improve noise and vibration suppression. This design should also improve straight line stability, and steering responsiveness.
Rear suspension is by way of a new torsion beam which is a popular arrangement as it allows increased boot space. The suspension layout separates the coil spring and damper while allowing a wider track for the cargo area.
The new Electric Power Steering (EPS) should provide a high level of control, and make for easy work around town. Additionally, the EPS system contributes to fuel economy since it only uses power when steering force assistance is needed, and since it doesn't require hydraulic fluid, it is also more environmentally friendly than conventional power steering systems.
The Corolla has achieved a 5-star rating on the Euro NCAP safety test. However, it is unlikely that the Thai model will come with all nine (9) airbags available in the European market, but it is possible that they will be optional at the high end.
A standard feature that should carry over (as standard) is the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. There is really no good reason to skimp when it comes to safety equipment, and ABS makes a big difference.
The Altis will also likely have Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRC) on the options list.
The interior should resemble these images quite closely, however some details could be borrowed from the Japanese model, which is a little more conservative than the European Corolla.
Personally I hope that we get the European interior, but both are acceptable. The main difference is the steering wheel, and the dials with central metering displays for the European market, with a more traditional looking arrangement on the Japanese model.
Regardless, the quality of the interior and the styling looks like a step in the right direction, but still a bit conservative when compared to the Honda Civic.
Well that is the big question. The 2008 Altis should hit the Toyota showrooms before the end of 2007. Most likely the launch will be before the 2007 Thailand International Motor Expo in November, so perhaps an October unveiling is likely.
I would definitely recommend holding out for the new Altis if you are currently considering a purchase. Check back for more news and updates as we get them.
Update 2-Feb-08 : Read test drive review of 2008 Toyota Corolla Altis in Thailand!
Update 28-Dec-07 : 2008 Toyota Corolla Altis Update - New Car, Same Old Engines?