Car review – Toyota Corolla Altis 2002

Posted: 14th March 2008 by Jacky Yong in Cars
Tags: , , , , ,

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! πŸ™ 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. πŸ™‚

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.

  1. libelly says:

    =O found the Altis that you want dy? how much it cost?

  2. Jacky Yong says:

    Hehehe … yeah, finally found it. Cost me RM68,500 for it. Not cheap eh?

  3. libelly says:

    hmmmm… according to eIMS motor valuation, is RM62K la… but depends on car condition also… if good car, slightly higher still fine la…

  4. Jacky Yong says:

    Kakakaka…..! Like dat also can? πŸ˜€ Should have consulted you before I make the purchase! πŸ˜›

  5. libelly says:

    eIMS value might not 100% accurate, should plus minus 5% la…

  6. neoklis says:

    my namy is neoklis from greece
    1 have corolla ts face lift 2004
    is mirror i can for my?

  7. Richard - Kenya says:

    I am planning to get one of this great baby for Africa, my question is if it will give me the benefit other toyota corollas have give out – having in mind the poor roads, lack of the specialised mechanics etc.. I will give it a trial though!

  8. Jacky Yong says:

    Hi Richard. This is a great car, but again I really hope that the service is good in Africa. I just had this car serviced in an authorized Toyota Service Centre just to be sure. But the service will last me for at least another 2 years or 20,000 km. This is really a very durable car. I would recommend this car anytime!

  9. Adel Adamali says:

    Can anyone help get parts for this car. I am in the United Arab Emirates and I can’t seem to get the parts from the local Toyota dealer as this car is not for Middle East market. I bought this car from used car dealer who imported it from Taiwan or Indonesia I believe.

  10. Jacky Yong says:

    A quick Google revealed some good Toyota spare parts in and I’m sorry, but I do not know of any parts sold here in Malaysia that are exported elsewhere. You may want to try Thailand though. That is where most Toyotas in the region are produced.

  11. MM says:

    I am plan to buy a car with the budget of RM60,000. Should I go for new proton persona or a second hand Toyota VIOS or Altis ? Any better sugesstion?. TQ.

  12. Jacky Yong says:

    Depends very much on what is your priority. I did not choose the VIOS although it was a new car (and I can save on the maintenance on the first few years) because I wanted a bigger family car. True enough, I spent almost RM2000 for servicing and upgrading of the stereo system after I bought the Altis. Nothing was wrong with the Altis, I just wanted that peace of mind. The VIOS is a much smaller car, smaller than even the Proton Wira!

    If you have had any experience with a Proton before, you will not go for another Proton anymore, trust me on this. A second hand Proton will be more worth your money, IMHO.

    My wife kept complaining that we should have gotten the Nissan Grand Livina, but I beg to differ. The Livina is seriously underpowered (the 1.6 litre version) and uncomfortable compared to the Altis that I bought.

    That said, I’m not saying that the Persona or the VIOS are lousy cars. They have their strengths too. VIOS is known to be very fuel efficient. Proton has very cheap spare parts (ahem). Nothing beats going on a test drive on an actual car. Go ahead, test them before you make the decision. Then only you will know what are the features that matters most to you.

  13. CY says:

    My friend want to sell her 2001 Toyota Altis 1.8 G at about 55K. I intend to buy it bacause the car is in good condition and accident free. Is it worth to buy this car which is already 8 years ? Currently I am driving a proton which aged 14 years. I found somewhere in my car the screw and joint was loose seriously. Am i going to face the same problems with this Toyota Altis when the car aged 14 years ?

  14. Jacky Yong says:

    Hi CY,

    Before I bought this Altis, I have been looking at the older Toyota Corolla as well, specifically the Toyota Corolla SEG. The car was already at 12 years. I have personally test driven the car and I must say that the quality approaches a 2-3 year old car!

    The owner took good care of the Corolla, and I do think that if the car is properly maintained, it will last you for a very long time. Toyota cars are known for their durability. However do keep in mind to always use original spare parts. Toyota has a lot of imitation goods, even I had a tough time telling them apart. To be safe, always go to Toyota Service centre for your service, or at least, buy spare parts from them and let outside mechanic change for you. Or if you are kiasu like me, do one thorough check-up at the Toyota Centre. Subsequent small service can do outside lar.

    I am really glad that I bought this Altis. Given another chance, I would still want to buy this Altis all over again! Hope you really buy this beauty! 55K is really a bargain! You won’t regret it!

  15. Vee says:

    Hi Jack
    I am considering a 2nd hand Altis. Is there is any difference technically between 2004 and 2006 models ? Would a 2004 imported model from S’pore be “better” than our local 2004 or 2006 models ?

  16. Jacky Yong says:

    The old Altis underwent 2 facelifts, once in 2004, and another in 2006. Both these facelifts are minor cosmetic changes. According to what I can gather, the 2004 facelift include a new grille design, a sleeker front bumper, redesigned fog lamps, new LED tail lights, different alloy wheels and minor interior updates (auto climate control became a standard feature in lower end variants). This is a picture of a 2004 model.

    As you can see, the tail light for the reserve light is square, compared to round shape on mine.

    The 2006 changes are also minor changes include another redesigned grille, redesigned chrome rear license plate ornament, a new third LED brake light, and a new steering wheel audio switch. A new aerokit and new wing mirrors with signal indicators (similar to the 2007 Camry) is available as an optional package in Malaysia.

    Careful with models from Singapore though. Their tax structure encourages cars with 1600 cc engine or less, therefore most Altises there are of the 1.6 litre variant. Not sure about the spec though.

  17. JL says:

    Hi Jacky,
    As we know only G spec have optitron meter. Recently i saw from another website that Gspec had optitron meter have 3 colour to choose?
    When you bought this car, did the previous owner give you manual book?

  18. Jacky Yong says:

    Yes, in fact there is a manual book. Let me just flip it …… *search search search*

    Ahh there it is. Yes, the optitron meter does change colour. Simply set the display to odometer. Then press and HOLD the long button for 2.5 seconds. It will alternate between amber, blue and white. You have 3 colours to choose from in each car. Cool eh? =P

  19. Eos says:

    Hi Jacky,

    I’m looking on Altis 2004 or 2005 1.8 Auto. due to my budget. Is there any big different between this 2 year Altis? What is G Spec mean?

  20. Jacky Yong says:

    I don’t think that there is a major difference between year 2004 and 2005. Only if you compare 2005 and 2006 there are some changes. Even then, the changes are subtle. Cosmetic at best.

    G-Spec is the higher spec version compared to the E-Spec. As I know the biggest difference is on the gated gear shift, the ABS, the Super ECT, the size of the rim and wheel, and the speedometer display. In short, the G-Spec is the luxurious version. My advise is to go for the G-Spec. It’s worth the extra few thousand ringgits.

  21. JL says:

    I just bought 1.8A-G AUG04 mil-75k. It cost me 70k… is’t worth?
    It’s really cool! i can choose colour over blue, amber and white… even brightness can be adjusted.
    what HU you using now? if change 1-din HU, there will be a empty space. How much for the cover you get oh?
    Do you know where to change door rubber?
    do you hav pictures and information between altis 02/04/06 look like?

  22. Jacky Yong says:

    Good for you JL!! Low mileage for RM70K!! When I wanted to buy my Altis that time, a similar year Altis cost around RM95K!! This is a good bargain.

    I bought a single-din Pioneer headunit. It plays MP3 via a USB port. I leave the space empty, no cover.

    I dunno where to change the door rubber. I also don’t have any pictures of the differences between the years. But I did get my source from Uncle Google. Do search around! Cheers! πŸ˜‰

  23. JL says:

    Welcome~ ^^v.. but some told me a bit expensive, bcs still hv some problem not yet fixed.
    now having side mirror not function, suspect motor problem, checked wiring ok and 2 door central lock intermittence..
    dun know how much to replace the motor =.=| sure cost me alot…

  24. Jacky Yong says:

    If I were you, I will go do a thorough checkout at an authorized Toyota Service Centre. Sure it costs more, but it’s worth every cents. Especially when you do not know what the previous owner has done to the car.

    You may want more details by joining the Altis forum group in Malaysia, …… cheerio!

  25. JL says:

    Agree with you! We do not know what the previous owner has done to the car.
    Like this friday i fixed a problem that is air-con intermittence not cool when driving long travel & sometimes got white smoke. Went to air-con shop, he told me that my current air-con gas is not original. Wonder air-con gas have original and not original. Now still monitoring, don’t know problem really fixed or not, because i having this problem only when driving long distance.
    when you got your altis, did you go do a thorough checkout at an authorized Toyota Service Centre? how much is the cost?
    Do you join myaltis TT on24th?

  26. Jacky Yong says:

    I did go through a major check at Toyota SC. The car already clocked 80,000, so it was time for a major service that cost me more than RM1,000!

    No I did not join the TT on 24th. I am not a very active member in that forum.

  27. JL says:

    Now my car clocked 77,000. I decide go through a major check at Toyota SC too.
    May you send me the receipt of your service that time. I want to refer what they had done with your car when your service at 80,000km.
    Because RM1,000… a lots =.=”..
    Oh.. i thought you are once of active member there. haha..
    Thanks a lot… ^^+

  28. Lau says:

    I do own a wira SE. In comparison with altis, wira has advantage over altis in terms of handling due to its multilinked suspension rather than the torsion beamed altis. Am i right?

    So far i have no problem at all with wira which aged almost 6 years!

    Is it worth to own an altis year 2001, or 2002?Is there any major problem so far such as gearbox, etc?Torsion beam suspension also cannot do alignment rite?

    I agree with you that wira only manage to score 350km full tank.


  29. MF says:

    hi JL and Jacky;

    I also encountered same problem that is air-con intermittent not cool when driving long travel & sometimes got white smoke and smell when turn on air cond at early morning.(only few second the smell on and gone after then). Went to air-con shop, he told me that my current air-con gas is not enough. He just top up my air con gas and Now still monitoring.But yesterday, i saw the smoke and smell.I scared the coil is the root cause.
    Any advice?haha..


  30. Jacky Yong says:

    Hi Lau,
    Yes I fully agree with you. The Wira is miles ahead of the Altis in terms of handling. My now 12 year Wira was not even tuned by Lotus, and it felt more sure-footed on the bends than the Altis. I’m not so sure when you said that the Altis cannot do alignment on the torsion beam. For such a modern car, it would be weird not being able to adjust the alignment. At least that’s what I think lar…. No major problem with the Altis 2001 or 2002 model that I have heard of. I have test-driven a few Altis of the year 2001 and 2002, and I find them to be a bit jerky, especially when you put them to D. But I suspect that if you change the gear oil it will be better. Do test drive the car before you make the purchase.

    Hi MF,
    I have never encountered the air-cond problem that you mentioned before in my Altis. However I did encounter that with my old Iswara. But I did not do anything about it. The white smoke is really nothing, it’s just water vapour condensing on the cold-air. Nothing to worry about. But maybe you can get a second opinion. Or better yet, go to Toyota’s Service Centre to do a thorough check-up. They know more about your Altis than the normal mechanic.

  31. MF says:

    Dear Jacky;
    I need to send my car to SC this week jo I`m getting worry about it.Seem smoky and smelly for my morning.
    Hrm…I saw ur photo.Seem ur side mirror light are sexy… I do plan to change it because mine one is 2006… how they change it… need to dismantle anythg ar? How much its cost? πŸ™‚

  32. Jacky Yong says:

    Hi MF,
    They need to change the casing of your side mirror. Look underneath your side mirror, you will notice an array of screws. Unscrew them, and then dismantle the mirror (using force actually. Quite risky to do it on your own, beware). After that the casing can be changed to another one. Now you know how much dismantling needs to be done!

    My car was already with the turn signal indicator when I bought this car second hand. The previous owner was the one who installed it, so I dunno how much they cost. πŸ˜›

  33. Kaye says:

    For me, the Toyota Corolla has the best features, styling and bang for the back sedan.

  34. azad says:

    good car review for malaysian jacky yong..actually i wanna buy Toyota altis 1.6 g vvti -02 version any comment from u..:)

  35. Jacky Yong says:

    I have never driven the 1.6 version. All I can say is that the 1.8 version is very powerful for a car this size. Maybe too powerful if you are coming from the Proton / Perodua background like me. So perhaps the 1.6 is just about the right power. The only thing I do not like about the 1.6 version is the boring linear automatic gear lever. Yes, go for the G version. It’s the higher-spec version, with all the ABS, EBD, etc. πŸ˜€

  36. azad says:

    thanx for the advice… :),yes better go for 1.8

  37. jai says:

    hi JY, I also encountered a problem regarding the aircond smokey and smelly. Fyi, my car is altis 1.8G (already 95,000km when I bought it). After trouble shooting with my partner (a/c specialised), we found that it was the cooling coiled problem. Ok now after changed to new one. Its really worth it when i bought this car. Really comfortable and having big space also…:)

  38. Casey Tan says:

    Hi Jacky.
    Need to have your opinion about alarm system. I just bought a 2nd hand Altis 1.8 year 2001. Unfortunately, the seller can’t give me the spare key due to missing…

  39. Jacky Yong says:

    When I bought my car, the spare key was also given to me, but they don’t have the cobra alarm touch key. I thought it was not a big deal. But for your case, if you are afraid the seller might be keeping the spare key, you may choose to replace the key. But personally I would not do that. Just add a steering lock to it yourself lar.

  40. Casey Tan says:

    Thanks of your kind reply.

    You are right also, will invest a good steering lock rather than to change the hole system cost about RM1500. :>

  41. jovian says:

    Hi jai, how much is the cooling coiled cost?? i got the same problem as well… somemore the power steering oso got problem… after changed the power steering oil the problem still the same…

  42. Ken says:

    hi,Jacky!i read ur forum many times oredi. I’m going to buy my first car in this end of the year. May i have your opinion about buying 2002 altis 1.8G with the price 52-54K?Any problems with 8 years old altis?There are 2 cars for me to choose now.Proton Persona Elegance or Altis 1.8G?My budget is around 40-55K.Thanks for ur suggestion!

  43. Jacky Yong says:

    Congratulations on your first car purchase! Buying a car is not an easy decision, but allow me to break it down for you.

    Persona – 1.6 litre engine, producing 110 bhp
    Altis – 1.8 litre engine, generating 134 bhp

    Read here for bad reviews about terrible fuel consumption and equally bad under-powered engine on the Persona. I didn’t make this up okay?


    Persona – tuned for handling
    Altis – tuned for comfort

    Again, this really depends on your driving style. Do you handle your car like Schumacher all the time, or is comfort your priority? I’m a family man, I need to make sure my kids sleep comfortably during the long trip back to my wife’s hometown.

    Accessories and trim
    Basically both are on par with each other. Both has two air bags, the remote control boot unlock etc.

    I have driven a Wira and Iswara before, and I have come to believe that Proton cars are really bad in quality. I dunno about the newer batch of Proton cars. But one thing for sure, Toyota parts are really top notch! When I bought this Toyota, I had to send my car for a major service, but upon inspection, they found NOTHING that needs to be replaced! But then again I’m lucky to have found a car in such an excellent condition.

    You get 5 years warranty or 175,000 km with the Persona, but who needs a warranty if you get a car like the Toyota?

    Resale value
    Depends on the condition of the car, but generally both are quite decent. But if you are getting a second hand car like the Toyota, you have already let other people suffer the depreciation, so what else are you afraid of?

    I think I have made my choices clear. Wish you luck in finding that car! πŸ˜‰

  44. Ken says:

    Thanks Jacky!!=)

  45. LLS says:

    Jacky,I am sure glad that I came across your I plan to get a ’02Altis for my wife (she drives a 10 yrs old Iswara currently) The Altis belongs to a friend & is in excellent condition..;your comments & reviews kinda off put to rest the initial thoughts of getting a new proton or perodua model.Just cant wait to see her experiencing a ‘driving cultural shock’ when she drives the Altis 1.8G abet a 8 yr old model.

  46. Jacky Yong says:

    Hi there LLS! I think you will agree that you have made a wise decision with the Altis. Just remember to give it a good service, and the Altis will serve you good for a long time! πŸ˜‰

  47. nicolo calalec says:

    i have a 1.8g 02 altis, its a great car and all, but i have a problem, on the radiator, its draining water, but i cant find the leak, i’m putting some water every 4 days to keep the level good. maybe you could help, and solve the problem.

  48. Nelson Adeya says:

    please i would like to have i Toyota Corolla Altis 2002 operation manual.
    how can i get it.your replies are highly appreciated

  49. Jacky Yong says:

    Hi there, I saw a manual at this website:

    It’s a 2004 Toyota Altis, but I think they are the same.

  50. Alex says:

    Hi Jacky nice review you have.

    Btw, I am getting myself an Altis 1.8G 2001 as well for 45k replacing my iswara.

    Tested drive everything smooth just the gear not fast response. The say just the sensor problem which costs me extra RM700 and polishing the front lamp RM300.

    Overall 46k OTR.

    The mileage is 140k.

    Does it a good buy? I have saw ur post is bout 2 years ago. So far your altis giving you any problem? I am planning to drive it for 3-4 years length and getting another newer car but currently not afford to get the new car and lost confidence with proton or perodua which offer the range about my budget.

    Just worry about the maintenance part since it is 9 year old