Fine, it’s a corny Tito joke, but seriously, the Corolla Altis is now available locally as a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). Launched in September last year, you’ve probably seen the Corolla Altis Hybrid at one of its campus tour stops, accompanied by the Prius and Prius-C brethren.
This Altis has grown up with more elegant lines, far from its humble subcompact beginnings. Each generation of Corolla Altis has many of the sophisticated exterior design cues taken from the Camry and this current model is no different.
The grille sweeps up into the top of the headlights and a black air dam beneath it just like the Camry. You get standard bi-beam LED headlamps and LED line guide DRL’s up front and fog lights on the lower corners of the front bumper. They match LED combination lights in the rear. It rolls on 17-inch alloy rims, wrapped in 225/45 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires. The front and rear bumpers give it a lower look, emphasizing its lower center of gravity. Finally, Toyota’s hybrids have badges which have a blue glow or halo to distinguish it from the regular lineup.
When you step near the car, it’s easy to get inside thanks to Smart Entry as long as you have the key FOB in your pocket. Once inside, you’ll be treated to an upscale interior with a tilt/telescopic adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel and an eight-way power adjustable (driver side only) leather seat. The driver also gets lumbar support.
For the gadget crazy, there’s a 12V socket inside the center console/armrest instead of the lower dash. If you’re not into connecting your phone to the entertainment system, it still has the standard connectivity options like Aux, USB and Bluetooth with a DVD/CD/MP3 player.
The rear seat has a center arm rest with built-in cup holders and adjustable headrests on both sides.
The hybrid makes use of combination of a gasoline engine and electric motor. The gasoline engine is an Atkinson cycle 1.8L inline four cylinder 16 valve with VVT-I.
On its own, it produces 97 hp at 5,200 rpm with 142 Nm of torque at 3,600 rpm. The electric motor generates 71 hp. When working together, these two can produce 121 hp. It may seems like low torque on paper, but the electric motor’s torque is instantly available, taking a lot of the initial load off the engine.
The two are paired to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). It may sound complicated, but the car takes care of everything. All you have to do is select one of the drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – and get going.
Starting the car is uneventful at best, with the instrument lighting up and a ‘ready’ indicator illuminating. No noisy engine starting. If the batteries have enough charge, you can switch to EV (Electric Vehicle) mode, running on full electric for a short distance. Otherwise, you can shift it to ‘D’ like any normal automatic transmission car.
You drive it like you would any normal car. Given enough charge, it will silently roll along on electric power until the car determines: a) there’s not enough charge or b) you need additional power to accelerate. In both cases, the engine will fire up to charge the battery and assist the electric motor, giving you the acceleration you need to move as you would normally. That’s pretty much the cycle.
With Eco mode, the drive tends to be more “stifled” to be more fuel efficient. In Sport mode, you’ll notice the engine running more often. We found that by letting the car do everything, you’ll find it’s at its most economical.
This Corolla Altis is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, which consists of Toyota’s suite of active safety tech: Pre-Collision System; Lane Tracing Assist & Lane Departure Alert; Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; and Automatic High Beam. It also has the standard multiple airbags, ABS with EBD, vehicle stability control, and hill start assist.
Don’t let this Corolla’s civilized, less-sporty, mild mannered middle management look fool you, Toyota’s hybrid system is no slouch. On a drive to Angeles, we put it on Eco mode with Cruise control.
The throttle control was precise and at highway speeds, the Hybrid system shut off the engine and went to EV mode on level and downhill grades. It’s quite amusing listening to the audible cues of the engine cutting in and out knowing the Hybrid system is working its magic.
We suggest you check out the schedule of Toyota’s hybrid vehicle displays, test drives or campus tours to get a feel for how the Hybrid system really works.
The Corolla Altis is priced at P 1,580,000, but you do get a lot of car with a lot of technology. Plus, it can save you money in the long run while also being considerably more earth-friendly that other vehicles.
Text and photos by Neil Pagulayan