Imagine yourself in a deep, solemn and relaxing state. There are no external noises, just the sound of your breathing and the rhythmic beat of your heart. As you visualize yourself flying out to nowhere, you suddenly feel your heart race unexplainably. When this happens, wake up and take control of the steering wheel. This was how I felt when I drove the 2008 Toyota Corolla Altis.
At first glance, the Altis looks like the Vios--on steroids. It is literally the big (BIG!) brother of the Vios. Once inside, you'll notice that there is actually more room versus the older model. You'll never get the feeling that you're cramped inside this car. And even if I didn't get to be a passenger even for a day, sitting in the driver's seat and driving through traffic was just as relaxing as how my mom and sister must have felt sleeping through it.
The electronically adjustable seats with lumbar adjustment helped a lot since I get lower back pains whenever I'm stuck in a traffic jam. And to top off all that tranquility, the Altis' engine is so quiet--or rather, the whole car is. Even if you're revving and trying to max out the engine's power, you can't hear it struggling. All you'll hear is the relaxing humming sound of the air-conditioner.
All the buttons that you will see in front of you are strategically positioned so that they are easy to reach for both the driver and the passenger. But the button that switches the parking sensor on and off takes up so much space. It looks as though the designers were just trying to fill the whole center area with buttons that work and are usable. The audio controls mounted on the steering wheel will help a lot if you're driving alone and want to belt out some Madonna tunes. But the whole audio system is a bit blah and will need an upgrade if you plan to pipe in some classical music.
The whole glove compartment is separated in two, giving you more places to hide your clutter. The center console, however, is quite shoddy because it doesn't lock in place. During sudden braking or quick acceleration, the whole thing just moves forward and backward with your whole arm. But the cup holders are concealed so they double as storage for stuff that must not be seen.
The trunk space is heaven for a shopaholic, a soccer mom, or even a golfer dad. I was about to attempt to fit the largest LCD telly that I could find in there, but the electronics shop didn't accept the lint balls from my pocket. You can even fold down the rear passenger seats, which feature 60:40 split-folding, to give you more space, which means more shopping!
When you step on the accelerator, you will hardly feel any power. But as you slowly progress upwards, that's when you get to appreciate the kick of the VVT-i system of the 1.8-liter engine. It was a surprise to actually feel the 130hp output of the Altis during a no-traffic drive on NLEX.
The tiptronic transmission will help a lot if you are craving for more aggressive speed. But since we are currently experiencing a fuel crisis, it is definitely better to go slowly but surely; you will still get to your destination anyway. You just need to practice leaving an hour earlier so you can get there on time.
There is nothing more that you can ask for when it comes to engine performance. But the steering was not as responsive as I hoped it would be. It felt like I was steering but the car's whole body wasn't going to the direction that I was pointing it to.
The braking system of the Altis is very, very responsive--I don't have any qualms about that. While driving through Daang Hari in the south, an innocent gray-and-white kitten lost its way and just stayed in the middle of the road. It just looked straight at the grille while my soul jumped out of my body as I steered the Altis through an ABS-activating moment. I can proudly say that this is a very safe car. I have the kitten as witness to attest to my claim.
I'd probably appreciate the tacky wood interiors more if I were 20 years older. What I really don't understand is why most car designers keep doing this. Probably to match the elegance of the exterior? It seems that they're slowly transforming the Altis into the next Camry--veering it away from yuppies and trying to catch the attention of older executives.
Maybe if I suddenly chose to drive like a granny, I'd like this car very much, especially since I also get all the space and different compartments I will ever need.
But for now, I'd stick to the smaller sedans. Not that they're better--I'm just not quite ready to hire a chauffeur to drive me around town. I have to admit that while waiting for the Altis to get its groove on, I did feel sleepy and restless. But once it started to pick up speed, show its true colors and get to its state of nirvana, I just had to wish that I wouldn't have to stop and give the car back.
Source: Top Gear Philippines, August 2008