The Altis was launched in Malaysia in 2001 as a new rebranding of the ever famous Corolla model. It brings over the proven record of comfort and reliability that has associated itself with the name Toyota. This is a 1.8G spec, ZZE122, meaning the full spec, with all the bells and whistles. Compared to the E spec, this particular spec has got gated automatic shift stick, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), optitron meter among others.
The particular model that I have driven is the 2002 model, 1.8G spec. Brilliant car it is! Let’s go over the details one by one. We’ll start from the outside.
The owner has fitted wing mirrors with signal indicators, something that is not found in other Altises for this particular year:
Despite aging at 6 years, this car is still quite modern in its design. A view from the rear still has the menacing stance associated with newer cars.
In its flesh, the car is solid and well-built. A well-known criteria for measuring well-built-ness is the sound of the door when it is closed. An assuring thud instead of the Milo-tin-can sound of the Proton is heard.
Let’s go to the highlight of the car, the interior.
This is the sight that greets you as you open the door to the cabin.
The plush interior contains things that are designed with all the critter comfort in mind. Seats with lumbar support, soft cushions, inviting controls, user-friendly dials, one-touch door lock, power wing mirrors. Best of all, the power window works! (Sorry, I got carried away after driving the Iswara for so long!) The driver sits very high up, I can swear I can almost look inside other vehicle’s occupant and see what colour of their pants is! Perhaps too, this contributes a lot to the superiority complex when I drive this car. When I drive the Proton, I always feel inferior compared to a Beemer or a Merc! No such thing with this baby!
Gated gear stick! In operation, the gear is smooth and very intuitive. You will not accidentally shift into R or other lower gears while driving. It requires a conscious effort to do that. However, this being such a quiet car, there is virtually no difference between N and D in terms or NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness). I find myself having to look at the meter to know which gear I am now, something that does not happen in the old Wira Automatic. It’s a good thing, trust me.
How is the engine like? With 132 horses inside this baby, there is plenty of pented-up power waiting to be unleashed. In operation, the car response immediately at the lightest touch to the throttle. Needs some getting used to! The sound of the engine can get very loud at high rev due to the inherent use of steel chain instead of the traditional rubber timing belt in most other cars. However the noise is seldom felt as I rarely have the need to go over 4000 rpm.
The tyre is a 195 / 60 / 15 inch measurement, and it is a very rare combination. Not good, very limited tyre choice.
One thing that has been discussed over and over again with this car is its cornering ability, or the lack of it. The car handles very poorly when pushed hard. I took this car for a spin along the Cyberjaya routes. Though the power is there, the car hesitates a little when rounding a corner. I artificial induced kick-down by shifting to 3rd gear, and the car jerked as if the power to the wheels were cut off. The VSC in action perhaps? To be honest, the Wira handles brilliantly round corners, and in this aspect, the Wira 1.5 automatic wins hands down! However there is one rare occasion when I just threw caution to the wind and pushed this baby to the limit. At the big round SKVE interchange towards my home, I entered the corner at 90km/h, grabbed the steering tightly, and tapped slightly on the throttle. I managed to screech the tyre slightly, but nothing more than that. No doubt the body roll is felt, but the car went into a controllable understeer. The tyres did not lose that much of grip, probably the works of the VSC or the TRC. I dare not try with either of them turned off. Let’s just leave the experiment to the professional shall we?
Fuel consumption is great too. For a 1.8 litre engine, it clocks 500 km for a RM73 worth of petrol. (assuming petrol price is still RM1.92 per litre) Not bad, when the Wira 1.5 A only gets 350 km for a similar tankful value! Highway trips are great, since the NVH is way better than the Wira, minimizing fatigue to the driver and passengers. Going at 150 km/h and above is easily achievable. (Whoops, don’t report me to the police okay?) The car handles with full confidence at high speed.
All in all, the Altis is a great car. For such an old car, it still commands a very high price in the 2nd hand car market, when other cars of other marques (Nissan, Ford, Honda) depreciated much more. Being a Toyota, reliability is never a question. This car will always deserve a special place in my heart.
More pictures here.