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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:29   #1
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Default Toyota Corolla Altis (1.4 D-4D) Diesel : Test Drive & Review

What you'll like:

Highly practical sedan. A fuss-free point A -> B car
Refined & fuel efficient diesel engine
Slick 6 speed manual gearbox
Excellent ride quality
Comfortable interiors. Well suited to the chauffeur driven
Toyota's reliability, durability & excellent after-sales service

What you won't:

Merely 87 BHP on tap, and 0 - 100 of 14.8 seconds. Performance equal to 2 segments lower
Prominent turbo lag below 2,000 rpm. Affects driveability
Equipment missing from the petrol Altis. No automatic gearbox option either
Top "GL" variant pricey. "G" (middle) variant makes the most sense
No extended warranties beyond the standard 3 year coverage

NOTE: Click any picture to open a larger higher-resolution version in a new window.

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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:29   #2
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In the Indian scheme of things, Toyota has an important weapon in its arsenal that Honda lacks: Diesel engines! The Altis 1.4 D-4D couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time. After holding the top sales spot in the C+ sedan segment for nearly 2 years, the Toyota Altis (petrol) lost the lead to the quick Chevy Cruze (diesel). Unlike the crowded hatchback segment where nearly all cars have similar engine specs, space, pricing and features, the C+ segment is very unique. Each car has its own USP: The Cruze is F-A-S-T, funky and loaded with gizmos, the Civic pulls the strings to your heart with its design and driver-oriented nature, the Laura brings European finesse and excellent petrol / diesel engines and the Jetta its German build & superb dynamics. The Corolla Altis’ USP? An honest straight-forward commuting sedan. No claims of being fun to drive, nor any pretensions of providing excitement. This car is all about practicality and has been designed with a single purpose in mind: A No-nonsense motoring & ownership experience.

The Altis comes across as more of an evolution (rather than a revolution) of the previous generation Corolla; the side & rear profiles are uncomfortably similar. Even the wheelbase is exactly the same. On the positive side, the mini-Camry front end design packs appeal and gives the Altis a mature face. The overall look is one that will please all and offend none. Build quality is sufficiently solid; it’s not VW Jetta sturdy, nor is it Japanese flimsy.

Take a look at the Altis D-4D’s starting price of 10.95 lakhs. It’s the cheapest C+ diesel sedan you can buy in India. The base variant, however, is stripped of features (taxi-customers?) and it’s the G variant that makes more sense (more on that below) to you.
Toyota Corolla Altis (1.4 D-4D) Diesel : Test Drive & Review-1.jpg

Toyota Corolla Altis (1.4 D-4D) Diesel : Test Drive & Review-2.jpg

Toyota equips the fully loaded Altis diesel with dual airbags, ABS + EBD brakes, all-round disc brakes, HID headlamps with washers & “automatic on” mode, keyless entry, electrically retractable mirrors, 6 CD audio system with MP3 / AUX compatibility (no USB) and 6 speakers, steering mounted Audio & MID controls, climate control, tilt & reach steering adjustment, (manual) driver seat height adjustment, leather seats, immobilizer + security alarm and 7 spoke alloy wheels. Relative to the petrol Altis, the D-4D loses 8 way powered driver seat adjustment, lumbar support (not even manual), rear windscreen sunshade, cruise control and the optional automatic transmission. While ABS is standard across the range, I’m shocked at the omission of airbags in the Altis J (base variant). Further, the base version doesn’t even get pre-tensioners for the seatbelts!





They say you can tell a lot by a person’s eyes. This fella looks straight-forward, eh? Jokes apart, HID headlamps and washers:


Only for the Altis Diesel - Aerodynamic spoilers to reduce drag and thus, maximise fuel efficiency. In front of each of the 4 tyres:


Rear LED light treatment looks fab:


“CC” matters to this segment. The Altis conveniently omits badging the engine size:


Windscreen washer nozzles neatly tucked under the hood, and out of general view:


Headlamp washer in action. Helpful over monsoon highway runs when your headlamps get particularly dirty:


Turning lamps positioned on the ORVMs:


Mesh grille treatment unique to the diesel Altis:


195/65 R15 tyres mounted on 7 spoke alloys:

Last edited by GTO : 3rd August 2010 at 17:06.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:29   #3
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Carrying on with the exterior theme, the interiors wear a rather straight-forward design. Toyota is the master of designing functional interiors, and the Altis is no different. The generous greenhouse (glass area) & light beige shade make the interiors feel fresh & airy. There is lots of room for front as well as rear passengers. This is important as all of its diesel competitors – namely the Cruze, Laura & Jetta – aren’t exactly roomy at the back. The Altis remains the most spacious C+ segment diesel sedan and the best choice for chauffeur-driven owners. However, the Civic (petrol only) has distinctly more cabin room. Due to the Corolla Altis’ higher stance (relative to competition), ingress and egress are straight-forward procedures. The doors open really wide too. The seats themselves offer fantastic support, and your entire back area is pampered by the cushioning. The high seating position leads to a superb posture once you are in (though I am personally a fan of low seats), while the rear seat’s back support is A+. The flat flooring (no hump) is all the better for chauffeur-driven owners. I like the rear seats recline angle, though the under-thigh support could have been better. Note that the Altis is best as a 4 seater. Reason? The backrest for the 5 occupant is the base of the foldable armrest. And believe me, it has a stiff compound. The air-conditioner is an absolute chiller, with the powerful blower even reaching rear passengers easily.

The dashboard has a very simple layout. The interiors seem to focus only on functionality, and are lacking in design flair. Example: The uninspiring center console. Fit & finish are good for the most part, except for some bits & pieces. The plastic of the center console feels too hard, and the switch gear feels rudimentary to use. Also, most of the storage compartment lids feel light and fragile. While the interiors overall feel durable, they are mundane & completely lacking in the “plushness” of the Civic or the Laura. The faux wood of the steering looks great, but the same on the center console and door trim is cheesy.

Driver seating position and ergonomics are superb. With (manual) driver’s seat height adjustment, even shorter drivers won’t have any issues. The A-Pillar isn’t as much of a hindrance as it is in other modern cars (especially the blinding Civic). The driver sits high-perched with a great all round view. The large steering wheel is a size too thin. It doesn’t feel as meaty to hold as others from this segment. Also, you need to stretch your fingers for the horn pad. Definitely not cool in India where one needs to frequently honk at others. MID & audio controls are integrated onto the steering wheel. The speedometer & other dials stay illuminated during the day, and are incredibly easy to read. The sliding driver armrest rocks and is the perfect place to rest your left forearm over long drives. There’s an abundance of cubby holes / storage spots in the Corolla, the twin glove boxes included. All 4 doors have 1 liter bottle holders too. Honestly, you’ll probably run out of things to keep in the innumerable storage spots. The 475 liter boot is deep and has a very usable layout. Further, the rear bench can split in a 60:40 ratio for added cargo flexibility.

Light-coloured interiors feel fresh & airy:


4 spoke steering wheel with faux wood accents. MID & Audio controls integrated. Size too thin...doesn't feel chunky to hold:


Dials are incredibly easy to read. MID throws out info on average fuel efficiency, real-time fuel efficiency, distance to empty, outside temperature etc.


Dead pedal is too narrow. Perhaps, its designed for Japanese feet?


6-speed gearbox great to use. Short & slick:


Comfortable front seats:


Manual driver’s seat height control. The petrol Altis gets 8-way electric adjustments:


In-dash 6 CD changer. No USB (only AUX). Mundane stereo design & LCD display:


Climate control is very effective:


Auto headlamp function:


Electrically retractable mirrors. The right most button is to activate the headlamp washers:


Nifty bag hook located in the front passenger's footwell. Storage spot too:


Twin glovebox:


Small door pockets. You'd expect them to run longer. All 4 doors can hold 1 liter bottles:


Sliding center armrest rocks! Driver can rest his left forearm over long drives:


Rear bench comfort is the segment best:


High boot lid & large neck restraints interfere with rearward visibility:


This is cheap! Keyless entry is NOT integrated into the keys. Separate remote control:


60:40 splitting rear seat for luggage carrying flexibility:
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:30   #4
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Toyota sure took the 1.3 MJD “national engine’s” success seriously. This is their own version, only in a full product segment above. Power for the Altis diesel comes from a 1.4L (1,364 cc) unit with a variable-geometry turbocharger and intercooler. Relative to its competitors, the Altis D-4D has 600 cc and 8 valves less. The Toyota common-rail unit is humbly rated at 87 BHP (@ 3,800 rpm) and max torque of 205 NM (@ 1,800 – 2,800 rpm). Good thing about the 1.4 D-4D is that you don’t need to slip the clutch or give it more revvs when taking off from 0 kph. A light tap on the accelerator is all that’s required. Once on the move though, things change. Where the Altis 1.8 petrol has excellent low-end throttle response, the 1.4 diesel is the diametric opposite. Despite a variable-nozzle turbo, there is substantial turbolag below 2,000 rpms. Even flooring the accelerator at 1,500 – 1,700 rpms (a range you will frequently access within the city) makes no difference to this Toyota. The engine is dead at low rpms, power delivery becomes acceptable at 1,800 rpm, but it’s only at 2,000 rpm that the Altis D-4D really gets moving. The turbolag can catch you out when you want “instant-go”; for instance, suddenly filling that gap ahead in traffic, or in an overtaking manouveur on the highway. Expect to make judicious use of the gearbox within the city. And frequently end up annoyed!

Engine refinement at idle is phenomenal. Except for a subtle murmur, there is absolutely no indication of the diesel under the hood. No vibrations on the gear lever or on the steering wheel either. The engine remains highly refined all through the revv range. In fact, sitting on the back seat (where most of its owners will be) while cruising, there is no engine sound at all. Toyota has added heavy insulation everywhere, including the bonnet, firewall, flooring and rear wheel arches! Under acceleration, there isn’t the push-in-the-back feeling that we’ve come to expect from modern diesels. Power delivery is subtle and linear (above 2,000 rpms). Expectedly, outright performance is below the segment averages. 0 – 100 takes 14.8 seconds, a dash that the Chevy Cruze dismisses in 9.8 seconds. The Altis D-4D is not a scorcher, not by a mile. Overtaking those fast moving Volvo buses also requires careful planning. You will always have to shift down to overtake as the in-gear acceleration is poor. Again, it’s key to keep the engine between 2,000 – 4,000 rpms. If you act stubborn and don’t downshift (say at 60 kph in 5th), you’ll be waiting forever for the turbo to start spooling.

That said, work the gearbox and you can easily keep up with fast moving traffic on the highway. Understanding the power delivery characteristics and keeping the engine on boil, I made brisk performance on the ol’ Bombay-Nasik route. The motor has an immensely free-revving nature all the way to 4,900 rpms. Keep at it and she’ll go on to her 5,100 rpm redline. The car is an excellent highway cruiser in 6th gear. At 100 kph, the engine is lazily ticking over at a shade over 2,000 rpms. The Altis D-4D starts running out of breath at 130 - 140 kph. After all, there’s only so much that a 1.4 liter engine can do. It’s much better to instead “cruise” at a constant 100 – 120 kph in this car. Expectedly, the Altis trumps the fuel efficiency stakes in this segment. The light-footed amongst you will easily manage 13 – 14 kpl in the city and 18 kpl on the highway. The 6-speed manual gearbox is awesome to use. Its gates are narrow, and shifts are short & slick. Even the ratios are well chosen. With its humble power output, the Altis needed a 6 ratio box to make the most of the 1.4 L engine. Toyota isn’t yet offering an automatic gearbox option on the Altis. This is surprising as 10+ lakh rupee customers are increasingly showing an inclination toward the convenience of slush boxes. The clutch isn’t super light, neither is it heavy. Right in the middle, but it’s got a long travel range which isn’t good for the city (where frequent gear changes are required). While the engine is refined for the most part (under 3,500 rpms), a surprisingly large amount of wind / road noise makes its way into the cabin at 100 kph.

Toyota has clearly tuned the Corolla’s suspension for comfort. It even takes the sharp edge off larger craters on our roads. The Altis remains cushiony and nicely damped over most road conditions. Low speed ride – especially within the city – is the best in the segment, while damping is top-class. Road irregularities are well cushioned, except for the really severe type. What’s better is that the suspension silently goes about its work. This is a step ahead of the previous generation Corolla that suffered from a noisy, unrefined suspension. The Altis was never meant to be a handler, neither is there any engine power for the enthusiasts amongst us. Let’s call the dynamics as safe and conservative. Grip levels are predictable for the most part, this side of 120 kph. Push a little harder into that ghat corner and understeer sets in easily. Body roll is also noticeable. Those fast sweeping curves are best taken with a cautious approach, else things get nervous. In the middle of a fast corner, wind forces can negatively affect her composure. The electric power steering is super-light at 0 kph and at low speeds. By light, I mean light even by hatchback standards. A breeze within the city, and just the kind of unit you want when parallel parking into that tight spot. On the flip side, the EPS is utterly lifeless on the expressway. It doesn’t weigh up as much as I’d have liked, and feels completely disconnected from the car. At speed, the steering feels akin to that of a video game! Feedback? What feedback, there isn’t any. The Altis is equipped with disc brakes on all 4 wheels, as well as ABS + EBD assistance. Stopping power is satisfactory, though the brake pedal feels wooden to use. The raised-for-India suspension (ground clearance = 175 mm) does a good job in dismissing off large speed breakers.

The Altis D-4D is an honest commuter sedan for those who want comfort, fuel-efficiency and reliability in a well-built package. The Altis also starts at the lowest price point in the segment. Is it for enthusiasts? Not by a mile. The Altis D-4D is the epitome of a point A to point B kind of car. This is a car that appeals completely to the head, yet not at all to the heart. Could Toyota have given the Altis a larger engine? You bet. Equipping the car with such a small-capacity powerplant is a gamble. Whether it works or not will only be decided by the market. My take : Enthusiasts can look elsewhere, but the typically Indian customer will make this car a success. It ticks all the check-boxes on his priority list. Justifiably so, Toyota diesels enjoy a sterling reputation in our market.

Look at all that extra space in the engine bay:


Generous helping of insulation. The bonnet is rather heavy to lift:

Last edited by GTO : 5th August 2010 at 17:04.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:30   #5
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Other Points:

• Many of you would be contemplating between the petrol & diesel Altis’. While the price difference of equivalent variants is Rs. 90,000 – 100,000 on paper, the actual difference is higher after you rope in the superior equipment level of the petrol Altis.

• Without doubt, a car that’s more suited to being chauffeur-driven.

• Long factory warranty: 3 years / 100,000 kms. No extended options though.

• ARAI fuel-efficiency rating: 21.43 kpl. That beats some diesel hatchbacks! The additional cog (6th gear) surely had a role to play in achieving this figure.

• I expect a certain amount of cross-shopping to take place between the Innova and the Corolla. However, I don’t think this car will cause the furore that the Fortuner did. Reason? The Innova already exists! It’s also a Toyota, priced cheaper than the Altis diesel, can seat more passengers and has a larger engine. Overall, Altis sales should double to about 1,400 - 1,600 cars a month. Skoda & the petrol Altis should be worried.

• Passenger doors will not unlock when the car is in motion. If you try to, the locking mechanism snaps the lever back into place.

• I’m surprised that Toyota doesn’t offer an automatic gearbox. In the premium segment, automatics rule!

• Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place: Sometimes, when you need instant pep, you will downshift. If you do, the engine hits max revvs and won’t get anywhere. No point expecting additional pep in the same gear either. Patience is a virtue, they say

• CD-changer can read MP3 / WMA media.

• Backseat is really comfy. Even the door armrests are perfectly positioned. Buckle the seatbelt up and enjoy the snug fit.

• Refinement is amazing. On the backseat, at cruising speeds, you simply can’t tell that there is an oil-burner under the hood.

• We can draw some parallels to the erstwhile NHC, in terms of positioning. Strong brand, fuel-efficiency focus, power rating at the bottom of the segment and high on comfort.

• Turning radius = 5.3 meters.

• This is the engine that will make its way into the cheaper Etios sedan too.

• Get this, the Altis diesel makes more torque than the Innova diesel!

• I quite like the way that the door controls (power windows, central locking) tilt toward the driver, in a very subtle & effective way.

• @ Low running cost addicts: Toyota also offers an Altis CNG-fuel variant Link to Specs.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:31   #6
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The Smaller yet significant things:

Flat rear floor all the better for comfort:


Light above either vanity mirror activates automatically:


Under the center armrest lie two storage compartments:




It's all in the attention to detail. Panel gap at the base of the bonnet is covered with a rubber lining:


Firewall has multiple layers of insulation!


Useful lamp for the glovebox compartment:


Nice : Hooks to hold the floor mat in place. Not Nice : They remain exposed!


475 liter boot is deep and has a useful layout:


Unlike some competitors who equip their cars (e.g. Civic) with a regular steel spare wheel, the Altis comes with 5 alloy wheels. Though the neat foam board, that has insertions to hold tools in place, is missing:


Stereo remote control for 'em back benchers:


All that space is wasted on the passenger seat belt warning (could have been part of the instrument console). Nice to see a lighter as standard equipment


A figure owners will frequently see within the city:


The front cup-holders:

Last edited by GTO : 10th August 2010 at 12:30.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:42   #7
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GTO,

What an awesome review, such detailing. I could not have expected anything less from you. Hats off to you.
Although there is still time for me to move into that segment, but I simply loved every word written. Maybe this thread will form the basis if ever I would upgrade, Thanks a lot for the insight.
Suprising that the car does not have a 360 deg rotary air vents, had to stick to the usual ones.
Keep it coming GTO.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:52   #8
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Finally, a comprehensive TD of the Altis diesel.
But tell me, in typical day to day traffic situations, it wouldn't feel too different from any other sedan in its segment from the driver's PoV, right GTO?
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:53   #9
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Finally the cats out of bag! great review GTO!
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:55   #10
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Now this is TD report from GTO i have been waiting for long. Thanks for the excellent review.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:55   #11
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great review asusual.Keep it up.More informative than all the reviews till date about altis d4d.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 12:02   #12
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Thanks for the wonderful review GTO, it do covers all the minute details which might be ignored while checking out the car in-person.

Excellent Review GTO, Thanks !!
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Old 2nd August 2010, 12:07   #13
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Like I said earlier-sensible hassle free entry luxury diesel car for Indian market. It will please most of the chauffeur driven people, yet excite none. Only the price is a bit on the higher side for the G and GL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
The Smaller yet significant things

Nice : Hooks to hold the floor mats in place. Not Nice : They remain exposed!


I hope it has nothing to do with the floor mat recall in the US. Never observed the hook that closely but a great safety feature.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 12:12   #14
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^^ My Elantra's mats have a similar hook.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 12:15   #15
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Looks way costlier when compared to Cruz. The engine belongs to a segment lower. I wonder why someone will go for Altis D over Cruz! The only reasons I see is Toyota badge and corolla's image.

Last edited by HammerHead : 2nd August 2010 at 12:16.
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