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The chassis is entirely new and has a completely redesigned rear suspension. The front uses those universal MacPherson struts but they now come off a subframe, allowing for greater rigidity and also more geometric precision. The suspension stroke has also been extended by 20 mm for a better ride.

At the rear is a suspension arrangement which was first seen on the Prius hybrid car. Referred to as the ETA beam Type suspension, the arrangement is light and compact, combining the best features of rigid and independent suspension layouts, without sacrificing the toughness and strength of a rigid suspension. The ETA beam (which has a U-shaped cross-section) is a rigid transverse element which links left and right wheels, tightly controlling their track. However, in conventional beam axle designs, the beam is typically positioned around the wheel centreline; with the Altis, it is offset forward. A degree of independent multi-link suspension is provided through the use of trailing arms incorporated at each end of the beam. These arms have large toe-correcting bushings that prevent toe distortion and increase controllability. With their independent movements, the trailing arms allow for compensation of road conditions and improve stability.

Safety standards have been raised again. This time round, they are Toyota’s own standards, collectively known as the ‘Global Outstanding Assessment’ (GOA). These are tough standards and some of them are higher than what any country presently requires while there are a few (like rear end collisions) that no one has asked for yet.

The Altis, like every new Toyota model developed since the mid-1990s, had to pass GOA and to do so meant having a body construction that could efficiently absorb and then dissipate the enormous energy of a collision so that the occupants would escape serious injuries. GOA places a lot of emphasis on the offset frontal collision which is more likely than the full frontal type because most drivers will usually swerve to try to avoid crashing so the impact occurs on half the front end. This type of collision imposes unequal forces on the front end so the structure has to be designed to cope.

Since the last generation, front airbags have been standard so their presence is nothing new though UMW Toyota Motor’s decision to make them standard on all versions is commendable. The front seat designs reduce whiplash injuries to the neck by having the upper seatback frame set deeper than normal so that the head and upper back of the occupant will sink further into the seatback during a rear-end impact.

As with all modern cars, the steering column is collapsible during a frontal collision but with the Altis, the concept is also incorporated in the brake pedal. The way the pedal is designed and mounted is such that it will pivot out of the way rather than allow itself to be pushed further into the cabin where it could hurt the driver’s legs.

While the tough body frame takes the brunt of the accident, inertia will still affect the occupants. The airbags and seatbelts will restrain them most of the time but there may be some severe accidents where their heads hit against the sides or ceiling of the cabin. To minimise injuries, special materials and construction are used around the cabin to lessen the impact, especially on the head. Some examples: resin ribbing used on the side rail spacers on the ceiling; and shock-absorbing garnish on the roof pillars.

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