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Although the Japanese one is stylish, the Malaysian one that is distinguished by the additional name of ‘Altis’ (adapted from ‘altitudinous’ which suggests ‘being at the top of the world’) has a more dynamic appearance (rather like a scaled-down Lexus GS300). It is also a larger car because less consideration needs to be given to size in most Asian markets, unlike in Japan.

The sleek appearance is functional too, giving the Altis a Cd of 0.30. That’s comparable to the Lexus GS300, which is a sports sedan, and though the average motorist doesn’t care a lot about Cd numbers these days, the benefits are still significant – lower wind noise, lower fuel consumption, better stability at high speeds, etc.

The front end of the Corolla Altis is certainly eye-catching with those unique headlamps. With the new multi-reflector units, illumination of the road 10 metres ahead is claimed to be two times brighter compared to the previous generation’s lights, while high beam reaches 60 metres further – no more need for spotlights!

For power, the new generation gets new engines, not reworked versions of the A-type engines that powered the past three generations but an entirely new engine family coded ‘ZZ’. In the new engine line-up for Malaysia, there will be no 1.3-litre Corolla which, in any case, was already losing popularity. There is a 1.6-litre engine and for the first time in Malaysia, a 1.8-litre version.

The biggest new feature about the engines is that they have variable valve timing which Toyota developed in-house and calls VVT-i – for Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence.
More on VVT-i

VVT-i is the most significant new feature for the Altis but it is by no means the only one in the powertrain. There is also the new way of installing the exhaust manifold and intake which has the intake manifold is at the front and the exhaust manifold at the rear, a reversal of the previous engine layout which is said to improve efficiency, reduces noise and because of the closer distance to the catalytic converter, there is quicker heating of the catalyst so it can do its cleansing work more efficiently.

The engines also have the S-Tdi (S-Toyota Direct Ignition) system which is maintenance-free and very reliable as well as EFI, of course. Management of these systems is done by a 16-bit microcomputer in the Toyota Computer Control System (TCCS). Besides keeping the engine running at its optimum all the time, TCCS also enhances performance in various ways. One example: when full-throttle acceleration is detected, TCCS momentarily cuts off air-conditioner operation so that there is better acceleration. The action is so brief that the occupants won’t notice any difference in cooling.

As before, a 5-speed manual transmission is available (only for the Altis 1.6E) but now there are two types of automatic transmissions. The Altis 1.6E gets a normal type of 4-speed electronic automatic transmission but the Altis 1.8G has a more advanced Super ETC, a compact, lightweight transmission, with a high-efficiency lock-up torque converter.

Both transmissions come with two driver-selectable shift programs to suit driving styles; for zippier driving, the POWER program provides quicker downshifts. The Super ECT also has a Hill-Sensing Mode which optimises gear changes on slopes (uphill and downhill). It is programmed to shift up and down frequently when going uphill and also resist shifting to the highest gear when going downhill so that engine braking is available.

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