Got delivery of an Altis a few days back. Had'nt come across any in depth reviews while I was thinking of purchasing one, so figured that the following review, however subjective, may be of some use and interest to those who are thinking of buying the Altis and to others.
Comparisons to other vehicles are to vehicles which I have driven. Technically, I am a lay-person. Also, all statements are subjective and are not meant to be categorical; to each their own.
Car under review: Toyota Corolla Altis, manual transmission, colour: flaxen mica.
Exterior: Well, most of you will have seen the exterior. Not much different from the GLI except for the fog lamps, side skirts and chrome inserts in the side mouldings. Nevertheless, I think it looks great, especially in this colour. The addition of rims and new tires though, makes a world of a difference to the overall look of the car. I went straight from the dealership to the tyre shop (Khan Tyres, Melody Market, Islamabad--excellent service once you get to know the owner). Got sporty (but not too flashy) 15 inch five spoke rims and 205/60 Yokohama ES 100s. The new rims and tires have greatly enhanced the look of the car--its a pity Corolla doesn't have these as standard. However one point to note is that while the Inidan Corolla has a whole host of features, alloys, and a great front grill (same one as the imported Camry), the average price of a fully loaded manual Indian Corolla is upwards of 14.7 lacs. While not completely exonerating Indus Motors, our far lower price is some small comfort.
Interior: Almost identical to that of the now defunct SE Saloon. Personally, I didn't find the imitation wood finish to be too jarring/obviously fake. The quality of the plastics, while not as good as that of the Civic, seems to have improved. The centre piece of the interior is the Pioneer audio deck. Excellent show piece, and draws oohs and aahs from passengers where the rest of the interior fails to. Driving position is comfortable. Leg room space is also quite decent. Overall the interior cabin appears to be roomier than similar class sedans. Contrary to other comments I have read, road and other exterior noise is fairly subdued. Engine noise does intrude, especially during acceleration, though this may be to the liking of some people.
Driving/handling/acceleration/braking etc.: Before going into the details, let me say that the Corolla does not dissappoint in this area. The engine of the Altis is spectacular in terms of its delivery while you're driving. The car responds to the slightest touch on the acceleration pedal. Power delivery is there at most speeds, level of rpms. The car surges forward when you press the accelerator whether its running at 2200 rpm in 3rd or at 3600 rpm in 4th. Its a new car so I have'nt pushed it too much but it does do 0-100 kph in under 10 secs (but above 9). Handling wise the change in tires/rims have made a huge difference. Driving the Altis from the dealership to the tyre shop felt at times like trying(but failing)to tame a wild bull. The car seems to be too heavy and powerful for the original spec tyres. With the new tyres and rims, driving the car is a pleasure. Cornering, switching lanes at speed is done assuredly. Also, breaking is excellent. Braking in the SE Saloon, XLI and GLI is terrible. This was a major concern for me, while deciding to buy the Altis, but after a test drive, my fears were allayed. Braking is at least as good as in the Vti. However, I feel the Civic Vti is a more intuitive handling experience--the car works with you from the start, and even a novice driver will appreciate the ease with which that car handles. The Altis, with the new rims and tires, is a great driving experience, but unlike the Vti, it is more a matter of getting to know the car and its limits and taming the beast.
Passenger comfort, front seat and back seat, far exceeds that of the Civic Vti. To date, passengers of both sexes and all ages have told me how they prefer the ride comfort (especially in the back seat) of a Corolla. The ride comfort has handling impications, but as stated above, the Altis is a rewarding and fun drive.
Overall, I am of the view that the Altis is a great buy, when compared to other cars available in the Pakistani market. A point to note though is that since my firm will be paying for the petrol and maintenance of the car, I did not consider these otherwise important factors.
I hope the above was useful and informative to whatever extent. Take care y'all.