Photos: Rahin Sadman Islam
The Toyota Corolla is not JUST a car. Almost everyone in Bangladesh that has been in a car has been in a Corolla. It is ever present in our collective line of sight and was almost on the verge of becoming a national heritage. It moved Bangladeshi people like it the Ford Model T did the Americans of the early 1900s. People know a Corolla like they know the existence of the vegetable of the same name. The difference being, the vegetable is more bitter than a bank teller that counts somebody else’s money all day.
Somewhere along the way the Corolla kinda took a seat at the back, present but not making a major impact in everybody’s horizontal motion. The grey market imports were its own worst enemies. People wanted the Allions and Premios because they were bigger, had optional push-start and wood trim. They appeared to elevate ones status while remaining almost exactly like a Corolla underneath. And now we have the new Corolla.
It is badged as an Altis and is not sold in the reconditioned market. The Axio Corollas we see on the other hand are not similar. They are narrower to fit Japanese regulations.
The car is big-ish. If you buy an Allion or Premio for the size, this one beats it. Specs show it is about 3 inches wider and over an inch longer than the current Premio/Allion. Height is a little lower by an inch. Which means interior space is more than adequate. Average height Bangladeshis will not suffer their Doja market jeans knees rubbing off on the backside of the front seats. There is plenty of space to move about in the back. And most, if not all, owners will be in the back while the chauffeur does the chaotic horn stabbing through traffic. Which brings us to another point. This car comes fitted with the politest horn I have ever heard. It does not beep, bop, honk or blaaart. It peeps. A gentle, quiet peep. This should be mandatory in our overcrowded, impatient Dhaka.
How does it look?
It’s all about sharp angles in the Toyota design headquarters. I bet people are playing with knifes, throwing shurikens at each other and generally stabbing every soft surface to find ever sharper angles. This generation has the ‘squintiest’ headlight ever offered on a Corolla complete with the all-important LEDs. Bright and adjustable, it will still be put on high beam by most of our drivers to blind oncoming traffic. The sides are a lot of flat slabs with a few sharp creases thrown in to match the pointy door windows. The tail lights are also more pointy glowing red objects. There’s a point Toyota is making with all those points. This is their new design language, all minimally sharp and smartly creased. They want to slice and dice through the future and for a change, they are making cars exciting again. Case in point is the new Camry and current GT86.
Unlike the Premios and Allions, this Corolla does not look stubby. The front, courtesy of the deeply sloping windshield, looks longer than it is. It gently slopes upward in profile and ends with a hunched up trunk. It is a good wedge shape unlike the bloated ‘kodu’ shape of the ‘Premallions’.
How does it feel inside?
This is a Corolla. So it seems they stuck to keeping wood out of it. Plastics are generally soft and buttons are placed in a simple, driver centric layout. Our test car had the dark interior that should fare so much better than the light tan or grey interiors that used to be fitted before. Those lighter colours eventually ended up getting dirty.
I love the toggle switches in the centre for the climate control. Very tactile and intuitive. You pull up to increase and press down to decrease. As my sub-editor suggests, close your eye and pretend it is the Nissan GTR centre console. But no.
The ride is a little stiff because our road conditions demand the car be fitted with a rough road package. Stiffer shocks and higher ground clearance. Plenty high. The Indian counterpart looks like they are mini off roaders. This ride height is what we need but it does detract from the cars overall sleek profile. Makes it appear like someone raising their lungi to cross a puddle.
How does it drive?
The 1.6 litre dual VVT-i engine delivers 120hp at 6000rpm ad about 114 lb/ft of torque. It is smooth, silent and surprisingly fuel efficient. We reset the odometer and headed out with the car staying on for the duration of the several hours we drove around and stood about for photoshoots. Our pointless scooting about on a really sandy stretch of dirt road showed a surprisingly good 9kmpl. You drive gently and it increases further. It is by no means a sports car. Acceleration is understated at first but builds up quick past the 50-60kmph mark. Steering is very, very light but also rather numb. It is clearly aimed at people who do not want any outside inputs. It is for people that want to forget the outside world.
Body roll is better contained than the Allion/Premio counterparts. Cruising along the highways showed interior is well insulated but some road noise is prevalent.
You get the standard safety features of ABS, stability control and a switchable traction control that really doesn’t stay switched off. But then, in this FWD car, why would you? My juvenile side thought wanted to see how long the wheels spin. Take it from me, not for long. The braking is provided by large-ish ventilated discs up front and solid discs at the rear. The infotainment system is an aftermarket unit fitted. It has a feature for showing tire pressure and trip info but these are not connected as such.
A Corolla is a synonym for reliability, efficiency and terrific resale in our country. It is a workhorse that also now offers plenty of safety, kit and space. And given its reputation, it should last a long, long time without breaking your wallet.
Will you fit? Will your family of eight also fit? Will it ride smooth over our terrible roads? Does it come with long warranty and dealer service? Will you be able to re-sell quickly? Will the mirrors be thief magnets? Yes to all.
As for looks, the Corolla was rarely accused of being sporty and exciting. This time around, the looks suggest it could be on the right path. I know someone will eventually fit prettier wheels and lower it by a couple of inches and we will all be ooh-ing and ah-ing. Till then, this is the rebirth of the sensible Corolla in this market.
Engine: 1600cc Dual VVT-I petrol 4-cylinder, 120 HP and 114 lb-ft torque.
Gearbox: 4-speed auto, front wheel drive.
Features and options: 195/65 tyres with 15-inch alloy wheels, ventilated disc brakes front and solid discs rear, LED Daytime Running Lights, multi-function adjustable steering wheel, automatic climate control air-conditioning, Android-based infotainment system with GSM/Appstore/CD/AM/FM/Aux/Bluetooth, airbags, ABS/ESP/TCS.
Price: 39,50,000 Taka.
For details, contact Navana Limited at 09666770077.