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2009 Toyota Corolla or Toyota Corolla Altis

The local Toyota dealer was kind enough to lend me their 2009 Toyota Corolla - better known in Indonesia as All New Corolla Altis - for an extended 2 (not three as I've written before) days test drive.  The car I test drive had kilometre reading of 3480 and I test drive up to 3663.

I wrote this test drive as fair as possible, trust me I did not get anything from Toyota.

Main features and explanation:

ABS + EBD + BA (this combination is also called AB-i, Active Braking with intelligence)

enables the driver to do more extreme manoeuvres, harder braking with less stopping distance without worrying that the car will skid out of control.

VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) or Dual VVT-iwhen driven carefully, enables the driver to drive more on more mileage, however when the driver floors the throttle, the car will accelerate faster.  Read here on how to drive VVT-i enabled car.
ETCS-i (Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence)This feature will safe the car from jumping around when driven at slow speed and passing the speed hump (Polisi Tidur), therefore helping to save fuel.
Cruise controlEnables the car to hold its speed and the driver just need to concentrate on braking, dangerous when used on rainy day.
ECT (Electronic Controlled Transmission) with manual overrideThis feature will lock the transmission on the 3rd gear when hill climbing or going down the hill.  The manual override is a nice addition for manual lovers, but I rarely use the manual function on my other cars.
Smart Key Entry, engine start button and remote boot openingA clever feature first introduced with Toyota Prius, now almost standard across all Toyota sedans.  This feature will remove the need of the key and remote to open doors, locking and cranking the engine. 
Dual AirbagsHope that you'll never need to use them!
6 point parking sensors, 2 on the front bumper and 4 on the rear bumperEases your parking process but annoying when enabled on busy road.  That's due the sensor will beep on every items near your car.

From the first impression, 2009 Toyota Corolla is a beautiful car, with excellent interior ergonomics, smooth engine and quiet interior.

Toyota Corolla

2009 Toyota Corolla Altis in our factory complex

Day 1:

Ergonomics:

Opening the car's door:  to open the doors, the driver, with the smart key on the pocket just needs to touch the driver's door handle.  To lock the door, just touch the black button on the door handle.

Cranking engine is done by pressing the engine start button while pressing the brake pedal, while turning off the engine is done by pressing the engine start button.

I find the most comfortable position in an instant.  The electronic controlled seat works well and the leather seat is very comfortable in holding my body.  Although the cockpit is somewhat cramped compared to Toyota Vios / Yaris sedan. 

Air conditioning is very cool, cooling the interior after being sunned from hot tropical sun only took few minutes.  The control is actually good and easy to use.  However due to lack of contrasts, it is hard to read what is in the air conditioner display.  The temperature display ranging from Lo (maximum cooling) to 28o, pretty impressive.

A critics about the air conditioning, the air conditioner is only capable outputting cold air.  I prefer somewhat warm air of 25o C - 26o C.  Dawn or night in Magelang will bring the temperature to reach 22o C, which means I need heating.  Toyota is too stinky not bringing heater to its medium sized sedan, hopefully Toyota will bring standard heating and cooling across all of its model.

Moreover rear sunshade is a good addition for this car, further helping to cool the car.

Automatic rain sensor will wipe the windshield automatically and automatic headlight arming will automatically turns the light on when the situation is dark.  The Corolla uses HID Xenon headlight to illuminate the dark street, however it did not have the automatic headlight levelling adjustment, as Vios did.

Another point given to its reverse gear buzzer.  The car will made somewhat annoying noise when put on reverse gear, however that could save you from accidentally accelerating in the reverse gear then hitting other car in the parking space.

Ergonomics on low speed driving

I use the car to drive around my factory complex, of course slowly.  Slow speed driving is very good, it did not jump around and easy to control.

Parking test

Reversing and parking is relatively easy for the car of this size, thanks to the big mirror which become a great help here.  The wide rear window enables easy viewing, however drivers window is quite small, although it is not problem here.  The 6 parking sensors also an additional help in reversing and parking.  Parking sensor works very well, the car had four parking sensors on the rear bumper and 2 on the front bumper.  What is cool is the car could display which sensor catch the dangers and alert the driver with corresponding sensor blinking red.  What is not is good is the positioning of the parking sensor's display, which is on centre console below the air conditioning control.  The display should be located on main instrument cluster, putting it together with the door ajar warning.

Conclusion, this car's turning circle is comparatively small, which means this car could be parked easily without any problem.  Parking sensors also an additional great help here!

Driving test

Acceleration

Is very fast!  With 143 HP engine optimised for high low RPM torque, you can expect 0-100km in 10 seconds or less.  However the engine's technology is a bit outdated.  Toyota should have put dual VVT-i engine on this car.  The dual VVT-i engine - which is available in Australian Toyota Corolla - that comply with Indonesian emission regulation I believe can deliver around 155 to 160 horse powers.  May be after the face lift in year 2010.  May 2009 Update: Toyota Astra Indonesia put a better and more powerful 2 Litre dual VVT-i power plant on its Corolla Altis V line up.  As expected, the engine produces 152 horse powers or 114 KW, even more power than a 2002 2.4 L Australian Toyota Camry!

corolla_f_2009

2009 Toyota Corolla Altis in our factory complex

Day 2

Driveability

Engine driveability is very good, torque is available from low RPM starting at 2000, typical with Toyota's VVT-i car.

Fuel Economics

The 1.8 L VVT-i engine is a fuel miser.  With air conditioning set to on, the trip computer shows combined cycle for 13.7 km per litre or 7.3 l / 100 km and highway cycle 16.3 km per litre or 5.9 l / 100 km.  An impressive figure considering the engine's performance and automatic transmission.

Testing method: the car is driven in a highway connecting Magelang to Jogjakarta called Jalan Raya Magelang Jogjakarta at moderate speed.  It is a 4 lane highway that had stop and go traffic pattern with few road holes.  The figure is recorded after entering the city.

Combined cycle is archived by commuting the car in Jogjakarta, a city that filled with student's motorcycle.  That is, very slow commuting.

Transmission

The automatic transmission system is about the same as Toyota's usual transmission.  At D it is smart, responsive and good for everyday driving.  Not to mention for racing of course.  S is used for more aggressive driving, S will instruct the car to use lower gear when available.

Shifting from D to S will enter manual overriding mode which is somewhat weird.  Switching to S will immediately bring the gear selector number on dashboard to 3 with a small 'S' there.  Shifting did not really shift the car's gear position to 3rd gear, but it is more like limiting the highest gear useable to 3rd gear.  This is how it works, when the dashboard says 2 means the car will only use the first and second gear.  Although I rarely use manual override on my Honda City (Fit Aria), I feel unsatisfied to find it works this way.

However, one interesting thing happens when floor the throttle.  Unlike most automatic car, Corolla's engine will happily revs to to the redline!

Braking test

Braking performance is excellent.  On straight road, the stopping distance is short, without any skidding

While on twisty road, the car is completely controllable when braking.  Thanks to ABS + EBD + BA.

However, do not think that ABS + EBD + BA as saviour, they help you to a certain degree, after the car is really out of control, airbag is the one that helps you.

Manoeuvrability

Steering

Steering is tight and precise.  Typical of Toyota, it is pretty heavy but not as heavy as BMW's.  I can't say that it is razor sharp, but it is sharp enough for manoeuvring in tight space.  This car is also capable in evading poles and holes with ease while maintaining body control.

Body control

Body control s fine, 2009 Toyota Corolla is stable at high speed on straights and handles at corners.  However this car feels floating and lack the feeling of sticking to the road.  I prefer a car that sticks to the road like Honda City, however it depends on driver's preferences.

Braking when manoeuvring also fine, thanks to EBD that maintain the car in a good position.

After doing several sharp corners at high speeds, all I can say good for everyday driving and adequate for everyday racing.

Interior noise

The interior noise is good, much quieter than my Toyota Vios, Honda City or Nissan Livina.  I could not hear any engine noise while cruising at 80 kph.  All I could hear at that speed is tyre and and wind noise.  While doing maximum acceleration, I can hear the engine roars a lively roars.

Air conditioning noise at minimum is almost unheard, while at maximum setting is pretty loud, which is normal.

Some squeaks are heard when setting the driver's seat, that because the friction between the leather on seat's backrest and seat.

Problems

I experience problem with the radio system on my test car.  The radio sometimes turns on and off by itself, as if a ghost is controlling the radio!

That it!

That's it my 2 days experience with the 2009 Toyota Corolla Altis.  It is a well refined car although I got a hint that this car was rushed to the market, therefore there are some minor unnecessary weakness.  Hopefully the 2010 or 2011 models would be much improvement.

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