Here’s an interesting fact: First introduced in 1966, the Toyota Corolla is nearly as old as Singapore’s independence, In that time, the Corolla has gone on to become the best-selling nameplate in the world, with over 40-million units produced across 11 generations.
The current-gen Corolla Altis has been with us since 2014, and earlier this year received the customary mid-life refresh.
On the surface, it’s a minor facelift with all the usual moves: There’s a more hawkish look to the front end now, with squintier headlamps, a slimmer grille and a widened lower air intake, while at the back, the changes are even more minor, the reprofiled taillights and thinner chrome strip on the boot being the only differences.
But under the bonnet is a different story: There’s been significant improvement to the car’s 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder engine with the addition of Toyota’s continuous valve lift control system, or Valvematic.
Valvematic works in conjunction with the extant VVT-i (variable valve timing – intelligent) system, but gives the engine more power and efficiency: Horsepower and torque increase from 121hp and 154Nm to 128hp and 160Nm, while fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions improve from 6.5L/100km and 151g/km to 6.1L/100km and 139g/km. In addition the new engine also meets Singapore’s latest Euro VI emission standards.
The power bump makes the Altis the joint-most-powerful car in the mid-sized family sedan segment, alongside the Kia Cerato K3, which itself has seen a minor model update in 2017 too, with the Sport variant.
The most significant update though, has to do with safety – the airbag count has been upped from a bare-minimum two to a class-leading seven. Additionally, it’s also the first time the Altis gets Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), something its competitors all have. These major safety additions effectively remove the only concerns we’d have in recommending an Altis to anybody.
Two versions of the Corolla Altis are available locally – Standard and Elegance. The seven airbags and VSC are standard-fit on both models, as well as electric boot release, a reverse camera and Toyota’s Intouch touchscreen infotainment system.
The Corolla has always been thoroughly well-known, predictable and utterly reliable quantity, but that’s only added to its universal appeal rather than the opposite.
For example, it’s stupendously easy to drive. The steering is light, visibility is great and the turning circle is miniscule. You won’t exactly whoops with joy from driving it briskly down a winding road, but it’ll soothe your nerves in daily traffic the way only a mid-sized and up Toyota – or a Lexus – can.
READ MORE: One man’s journey through TRD to his dream Corolla Altis
Point the Corolla in a straight line though, and it’s plain to see it lacks nothing. Like all East Asian 1.6-litre engines, the Corolla’s inline four doesn’t sound inspiring but it pulls quite perkily, and accumulates speed with vim.
Toyota claims a 0-100km/h time of 11.1 seconds, which is at least half a second faster than class rivals like the Kia Cerato K3, Mazda 3 and Honda Civic 1.6, a figure that is totally believable. The CVT gearbox is smooth too, simulating ‘gear changes’ to prevent the usual CVT rubber band effect from rearing its ugly head.
Aside from the jiggly ride though, the Corolla is definitely a car built for the passengers rather than the driver. Its wheelbase of 2,700mm is bang-on identical with its rivals, but somehow Toyota has managed to liberate a massive amount of space in the back. The seats are plush, three adults could fit without literally rubbing shoulders, and there’s acres of legroom and the flat floor provides lots of room for everyone’s feet.
The build quality and interior design took a massive step forward with the current-gen car, and the cabin delivers clean and simple approach paired with the expected Toyota solidity.
There’s also a decent equipment list to play with. The Elegance car we have here commands a $5,000 premium and adds LED headlights, keyless go, powered driver’s seat, leather upholstery, and GPS navigation. For that much extra stuff, it’s well worth the small premium.
The high airbag count, electric seat adjustment and LED headlights in particular are highlights in this segment, and the touchscreen display looks slicker and more responsive than rivals.
The Corolla has succeeded with the same formula as the generations before it: simple, no-frills motoring for the masses, but the 11th generation model added a tinge of desirable design, improved driving dynamics and better cabin quality. The facelift doesn’t mess with that, but simply adds serious buffs to the model’s engine and safety credentials to put it back at the crest of the modern mid-sedan wave.
Toyota Corolla Altis Elegance
Engine 1,598cc, 16V, inline 4
Power 128bhp at 6400rpm
Torque 160Nm at 4400rpm
Top Speed 185km/h
0-100km/h 11.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.1L/100km
Price $109,988 with COE
Agent Borneo Motors
Verdict: The most dependable name in family sedans just got even more dependable
Also Consider: Honda Civic, Kia Cerato K3, Mazda 3 Sedan, Hyundai Elantra