With every unit of the present locally-assembled Toyota Corolla already having a customer waiting, UMW Toyota Motor is now embarking on a campaign to slowly reveal the next generation that will debut during the third quarter of 2001.
Apart from teaser ads in the newspapers, the company is also handing out leaflets of the new model and salesmen are giving indicated prices too. When approached for more details of the new model, a senior executive of the company said that information for the media would only be made available ‘in a few months’. So for those who have not yet visited a showroom to ask questions, AUTOWORLD.COM.MY provides this report based on whatever is currently available.
From the pictures in the leaflet, it is clear that the new Corolla being assembled in Malaysia is not the same as the one sold in Singapore, a version which is now being called the ‘Japanese version’ within the company. Apparently, the Malaysian version is a specially-styled variant called the Corolla Altis and an earlier announcement by Toyota described this version, unveiled at the Bangkok Motorshow not so long ago, as the ‘Asian Corolla’.
The different styling – with a longer body – could well have been inspired by less-than-positive response to the Japanese version that was launched almost a year ago. The rounded Corolla, nicknamed uncomplimentarily as ‘potato’ by some customers down south, was not well accepted by Toyota’s distributors in many countries too. It is believed that the experience with the previous generation led Toyota to consider the input of their distributors more seriously and develop a variant on the same new platform.
The styling of the Corolla Altis is certainly very attractive and from public response so far, it has a promising future ahead. In fact, a rival distributor has already said it will storm into the market and affect sales of its popular model.
The big question is, of course, the price. And Toyota salesmen are already providing the answer: RM103,000 for the 1.6 manual; RM110,000 for the 1.6 automatic and RM122,000 for the 1.8. The indicated prices show that, contrary to rumours, the price will not be beyond RM110,000 for the Corolla 1.6 but the addition of a 1.8-litre version is interesting while there is no mention of a 1.3-litre version.
Apart from the fresh new styling, the big thing will be the change to a brand new engine family – the new ZZ series – which will see variable valve timing in a locally-assembled Toyota model for the first time. Toyota’s version is VVT-i, for Variable Valve Timing – Intelligent. With VVT-i, the engines, both DOHC with 16 valves, put out 100 kW/136 ps (1.8) and 81 kW/110 ps (1.6) with shallower torque curves than before, suggesting fairly good flexibility in all speed ranges. For optimised sparking, there is distributorless direct ignition.
The automatic gearboxes come in two varieties, the 1.6 getting a conventional but electronically-controlled transmission while the 1.8 has a ‘4-speed gate type with Super ECT’. Drivers will be able to choose between Power and Economy shift programs at the touch of a button. A shift lock safety device is incorporated which requires drivers to press the brake pedal before they can move the shift lever out of Park.
Safety takes a very big leap in the new Corolla Altis. The body construction is GOA-certified, GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) being Toyota’s in-house safety standard that is tougher than what most countries demand. Airbags at the front will be standard and also whiplash-reducing seat designs.
On all models, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (to enhance stopping power in slippery conditions and with different loads) is standard and there is also Brake Assist, which increases brake force under certain conditions to maximise performance.
The more expensive pricetag of the Corolla 1.8 seems justified with the inclusion of Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TC). This would be the first time that a locally-assembled model in this class has such advanced features that are usually found in much more expensive cars. VSC, developed by Toyota about six years ago, works by braking wheels that are losing traction so as to prevent the car from going out of control in a turn. The system also acts on the throttle opening for the same purpose.
The interior of the new Corolla Altis is essentially the same as the Japanese version and has very luxurious features. Wood trim is used on the dashboard and there will be the option of leather upholstery (although a leather-wrapped steering wheel will be standard). For a high-tech look, there will also be some areas of chrome trim, like what is found in the latest Sentra. A unique feature will be the Tri-Colour Optitron meters which give drivers a chance to choose between amber, white or blue colours for meter illumination. The Optitron meters, which first appeared in the Lexus saloons, have a 3-D look and are noted for their clarity.
While it is known that a number of other companies are planning new model launches during the third quarter of 2001, the new Toyota Corolla is clearly going to be one that is eagerly awaited by the Malaysian public.