Corolla Altis D-4D: First Drive

Lean, mildly mean and generally green - that in a nutshell pretty much describes the new diesel-engined Toyota Corolla Altis. We put the D-4D-powered machine through its paces.



It had to happen even though its maker was most reluctant to put it into series manufacture. Think about the Japanese reticence to embracing diesel as an automotive fuel (precisely the reason they haven't got going in Europe as much as they have elsewhere and wanted to as well!) as a probable reason but another even more important fact behind Toyota's (and also Honda's) intractable approach to ushering in a diesel powered mass-market car in India was its so called step-by-step approach. However getting to trip the light fantastic seemed just what the doctor ordered after the bottom fell out of the auto industry in the US and Toyota realised it had to hedge its bet in markets where the growth was just beginning to manifest itself. And therefore the Corolla Altis Diesel!


Now that the reason behind the delay is out of the way, let me say that there is much more significance to this oil burning Corolla than just being the first mass-market diesel engined Toyota offering for India. The key to this lies in the 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine which to many might seem pretty small for duty in a D-segment saloon but as was proved in our road test, is an engine which allows the Corolla to punch higher than its capacity. Designated the 1ND-TV internally, this 1364cc engine with long stroke cylinder dimensions (bore and stroke measuring 73.0 x 81.5mm) is also just perfect for Toyota's biggest ever project for India - the Etios hatchback and saloon, plus also a mini-MPV on the same platform. Getting the engine to be tested in the heat of actual real-world motoring in the land will only help the Toyota boffins to tweak it just right for duty in the Etios when it is launched at the end of this year.


So while the Corolla Diesel is important on its own accord and refreshes Toyota's mass market offering in the light of rivals like the Chevrolet Cruze and the Skoda Laura, it is the bigger picture which Toyota could be looking at with this all new 1.4-litre diesel. Given the way it performs in the large Corolla, just think what sort of performance and efficiency it can deliver tellingly in a smaller, more compact package like the Etios? Volkswagen and the rest have been given ample notice I should say.








On to the main course of the moment and the fact that this automobile is pretty much what the doctor ordered for all those brought up on the sheer sensibility of the Innova and its supremely refined D-4D diesel engine. All of Toyota's D-4D mills across displacement capacities feature turbocharging and Bosch common rail direct injection and so is the case with this 1364cc four-cylinder unit. This engine features peizo-electric injectors which are key to the multiple injections per cycle in the new generation common rail diesel engines. This injector technology helps greatly in keeping NVH levels low while also enhancing the torque capability of the engine.


The engine makes 88.4PS of power at 3800rpm but it marries this with 205Nm of muscle force which more importantly is made in a very low 1800-2800rpm band, making for a near linear and absolutely flat torque curve. So far so good but credit must be given to the Toyota boffins for following this up with a six-speed manual gearbox which has the right ratios to make use of the seamless torque flow at each shift point. This is an abject lesson which many other car makers need to learn when matching engine to transmissions and the key to the superb performance of the Corolla Diesel is a direct result of the engine-transmission match-up.








Yes I must say one thing right here and that is the engine is loud and slightly raucous when fired up from cold and makes itself audible to many on the outside but within the confines of the Corolla's well laid out cabin, it is not discernible. Overall the Corolla is not much changed in visual detail or internal trappings from its petrol-engined sibling and that is a good thing because Toyota had always delivered a well appointed car with excellent ergonomics. Of course, equipment levels could have been on the greater side but when compared to rivals such as the Skoda Laura and the Chevrolet Cruze, the Corolla seemed to be missing out on the diesel action.


Not any longer because the brilliance of the drivetrain is apparent the minute you slot the car into first and take off. It is a smooth take-off with a bit of oomph. Every step of the way you can find the engine humming sweetly with the torque on call always a step ahead so that the revs don't fall off and brisk motoring is there with just a light foot on the loud pedal. For a family car for five tuned for brisk and competent performance, the zero to 100km/h acceleration time of 14.55 seconds is pretty respectable as is the top speed of a whisker over 171km/h. The Corolla Diesel did the standing start quarter mile in 19.5 seconds with a terminal speed of 114.11km/h and for a car with a 1270kg kerb weight and its 1.4-litre engine displacement, the performance is pretty pleasing.


The Drive




However, it isthe driving experience which is the proverbial cherry on the Corolla cake for the cost conscious. This Corolla can be driven at 100km/h in the top cog with the needle howering just below the 2000rpm mark on the rev counter and with the top three cogs in the six-speed' box being overdrive ratios, the engine is not just flexible enough to doodle through town but is also one of the best there is when it comes to stretching that litre of diesel. In our in-town tests on a brand new car with less than 45km on the odometer when we got it, we got average fuel efficiency of 14.4kmpl but on our highway run from Pune to Satara and back (which includes three hill sections), the Corolla had us dumbstruck when she averaged 24.3kmpl! If one needs a better way to describe the Corolla Diesel's operating efficiency then how does Pune to Mumbai in seven litres of diesel sound to you? And with a 16.8kmpl overall fuel efficiency, given its 50 litre fuel tank one is looking at a stupendous 840 km operating range. Not bad for what is actually a good family car for five.


Speaking about family transport, mention must be made about the tweaks the Toyota engineers have performed on the basic suspension set-up. What was actually a slightly wishy-washy sort of ride quality at high speeds on the petrol-engined Altis and not much by way of steering feel when it was pretty much needed; the Corolla Diesel has the rear end pretty much sorted out. The car handles and grips the road very well and stays planted come what may and she does this without compromising on the ride quality. The ride and handling balance is a bonus as is the sharper and well weighted steering, making for a slightly more involved driving experience. The car tracks true even when the anchors are dropped at high speed thanks to disc brakes all around. ABS coupled to EBD is standard fitment on this Corolla which rides on 195/65 R15 tubeless radials.








Overall this oil burning Corolla is a major move in the mind of its maker. Toyota has a lot riding on it as I touched upon at the very beginning of this feature and given the way it has performed I can quite clearly see it as a very effective mile muncher in its class. While absolute price points weren't mentioned to us at the time of going to print, we do understand that this version will be priced from Rs 70,000 to Rs 100,000 more across the three-trim level range. If this is competitive then I think rivals have reason to be wary because this Corolla can just go ahead and do things the Toyota way - efficiently and reliably, two details the competition has yet to catch up on mightily.











Recommended Variant : Corolla Altis 1.8 G

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