29 April 2020
2020 TOYOTA COROLLA ALTIS: Why it is the Tom Cruise of cars
2020 Toyota Corolla Altis front view

What has the Hollywood A-lister and Singapore’s best-selling sedan have in common to make them evergreen favourites?

Tom Cruise is well into his Fifties yet there are no signs of him slowing down as up-coming must-see blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick and the next Mission Impossible films will undoubtedly attest as soon as the COVID-19 crisis is behind us. 

Like Cruise, the Toyota Corolla has massive appeal across the world. Here in Singapore, generations of this car have been a regular fixture in the Top 10 best-selling models for decades.

What does Tom Cruise have in common with the 2020 Toyota Corolla Altis?

The X-factor

When you try to figure out what makes Cruise and the Corolla Altis perennial favourites in their own right, the answer may surprise you. If numbers don’t lie, for example, the higher the score (in horsepower and features) or less (when it comes to price and weight), the better. 

At least that’s the way the school system and the world of sports have taught us. The best students are the ones who score the highest in exams and whoever is fastest, highest or strongest at the Olympic Games gets the Gold Medal. 

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis rear view

Few would disagree that Tom Cruise is a good actor as decades of box office success can attest. Yet, he has never won an Academy Award, arguably the equivalent of an Olympic Gold Medal in the thespian domain.

Those within the 57-year old Cruise’s generation include, Brat Pitt, 56, Russell Crowe, 56, Sean Penn, 59, and Denzel Washington, 61 to name a few. Or what about Daniel Day-Lewis or controversially, Kevin Spacey, both 63? These gentleman are also household names and have won Oscars. If you had to pick one name in this group that is instantly recognisable anywhere in the world to launch your next big budget blockbuster, it’s fair to say that Tom Cruise would be the safest bet.

Tom Cruise has been nominated, but has yet to win an Oscar.
The closest thing Tom has ever got to an Academy Award, presenting one.

The Corolla effect

Likewise, the allure of the Corolla Altis can be mystifying to work out. Within its segment, every mass market car manufacturer has an equivalent challenger to the Toyota’s, erm crown (they just happen to make a car called Crown, but that’s not what we’re referring to). 

Alternatives to the Corolla Altis may be cheaper, better equipped, more powerful, handles better or even more stylish yet it is still the benchmark of its class. Its rivals seemingly keep going back to the drawing board with every successive generation.

What’s new?

This however, doesn’t mean that Toyota is contented with resting on its laurels. It too, has seen fit to up the ante with an all-new model that cuts a noticeably futuristic figure particularly with its headlamp clusters and a slimmer front grille.

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis Elegance LED headlamp
The Elegance model driven here comes with LED headlamps.

Inside, the dashboard layout sports a cleaner layout with controls that are easier to use. Quality has also improved to the point where the feel of the switches and knobs are easily a match for any can at this price point that’s made in either Europe or Japan. 

In Singapore, the Toyota Corolla Altis range consists models; Standard, Elegance and Hybrid which qualifies for the the Category B COE segment for cars over 1,600cc or 130hp.

In the safety department, even the entry Standard variant comes with seven airbags and Vehicle Stability Control with traction control.

The Elegance model driven here commands a $7,000 premium over the Standard version and amongst other things, adds Dynamic radar cruise control as well as a suite of safety features collectively called Toyota safety sense.

2020 Toyota Corolla tail lamp

What needs improvement

The only foibles of note with the Altis’ interior are that the black-on-black colour scheme turns the cabin into something of a black void. And the other is the sound system that sounds about as clear as Billie Eilish mumbling one of her hits.

The lackluster sound system however may not necessarily be a bad thing. The system’s standard double-DIN sized housing means that there are plenty of excellent aftermarket alternatives available to swap the factory-fitted unit with. The latest third-party head units are capable of smartphone connectivity platforms such as wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Here, a plethora of entertainment and navigation apps can be used to make the Corolla Altis feel as up to date as the latest BMW or Mercedes-Benz for example. 

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis interior

A new set of speakers would also completely transform the Toyota into listen studio on wheels. Helping its cause to this end is a smooth and quiet drive train when driven moderately. 

The factory-fitted audio system can easily be replaced with a Double DIN sized head unit for improved sound and features.

How it drives

Perhaps one of the more surprising features of the new Corolla Altis is its fairly decent handling. Normally a car built with an emphasis on comfort and fuss-free driving would tend to be a little wallow and inert in responding to the driver’s inputs. 

For the first time, the Corolla is built on the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA). It easily feels more communicative through the steering wheel than something like a VW golf for example.

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis rear seats

Turn into a bend in the Altis and the steering weights up nicely through the turn. The driver feels involved in the process and soon will look forward to repeating the process again, and again.

For customers who prefer to prioritise things like rear passenger space, they won’t be disappointed either. The new chassis features a fairly flat floor so whoever’s seated in the middle won’t have to do so with legs akimbo.

Perhaps to secret to the success of Tom Cruise, and the Toyota Corolla Altis is that you’ll always know what you’re going to get. Sure, they both have been around for a long time, but the car and actor have reinvented themselves subtly to keep a step ahead of the competition and always deliver what you expect. 

Fast Facts

Toyota Corolla Altis

Engine: 1,598cc in-line 4

Power: 129hp @ 6,400rpm

Torque: 159Nm @ 4,200rpm

Gearbox: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

Top Speed: 190km/h

0-100km/h: 11.0 seconds

VES Band: B – neutral

Price: $99,888 with COE

Contact: Toyota World, 6631 1188