In pure isolation, Toyota's facelifted Corolla Altis still manages to deliver. Just don't shop around.
After being on the market for three years in its current generation, it's time for a nip and tuck for the Toyota Corolla Altis, the country's best-selling C-segment saloon (with special thanks going to the taxi market).
Cosmetic changes include a massaged face with sleeker lights and grille, plus a more aggressive-looking bumper. Tweaks at the rear are subtle with just the lights being the most notable makeover.
Alterations in the cabin include two circular air-con vents, more soft-touch materials and some white stitching on the fascia. The central screen is slightly larger than before, as well.
The focus of the test drive here is not the 1.6-litre or CNG version of it cabbies have come to love. Rather, it's the 1.8-litre model that tends to appeal more to private buyers.
There are four versions of the 1.8: V costing 1.079 million baht, ESport Option at 979,000 baht, ESport at 939,000 baht and E at 874,000 baht. Driven here is ESport toting some aero bits and distinctive alloys.
This may only be a facelift, but the new face certainly makes the Corolla fresher than ever in appearance. If taking just the front into consideration, the Corolla doesn't look at all dour against saloon rivals like the Honda Civic, Mazda 3 or Nissan Sylphy.
While looking a little plain inside the car, the cabin remains easy to use and is spacious both in the front and rear. The detailed changes made to the trim also help lift the appeal. Although the Corolla sticks with the same 141hp 1.8-litre petrol engine and has yet to join the downsized turbo trend (as what has happened in the Civic, Sylphy, MG 6 and Ford Focus hatchback), the performance it yields is still more than enough in the real world.
Be it in the city or highway, oomph is hardly lacking.
And it's quite responsive thanks to a CVT automatic that can occasionally feel like a normal torque-convertor auto. Yes, it's probably the best CVT unit around so far, even over those used in the Civic and Sylphy.
As for the driving characteristics, the Corolla still leans on the comfortable side of things with good bump absorption and ample body control at high speeds. Adding up to comfort are seats that are good to sit in and cruising refinement over long-distance driving.
Toyota has taken the lead in the C-segment by making seven airbags as standard across the range.
When it comes to outright performance in a straight line or overtaking power, the Corolla naturally lacks the turbo punch of those aforementioned competitors that have already turned to forced induction in their range-topping models (the 1 million baht C-segment cars, so to speak).
If you happen to yearn for a good drive, that is, responsive and engaging handling, the Corolla is still behind the rest bar the super-dull Sylphy.
The last quibble is the slightly confusing specification spread. As ever, the ESport isn't a range-topper despite all of its sporty apparel.
And if it isn't the V or ESport Option grades, there's no T-Connect infotainment and rear parking camera -- two features that have now become essential stuff for many motorists these days.
Buy or bye?
If you have already set your eyes firmly on a Corolla, probably the best grades to settle for are the top two. Just make sure you don't get distracted by either the Civic or Focus for both cars are more capable and enjoyable on the move and are specified just as well.
If lavish features aren't what you're looking for -- or the cosmetic add-ons of the ESport package -- the E model is reasonably OK at 874,000 baht. But then a Mazda 3 might be another distraction because it has 2.0-litre performance at this price level.
All said and done, the Corolla is not about product substance but more about strong badge credentials -- the usual way with most Toyotas in the Thai car market.
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