Thumbnail image rights reserved to Hamza Malik.
Now we don’t like inviting vehement vehicular debates but they always seem to pop up with this vehicle segment. Which is not a bad thing per se, but it does lead to inevitable flaming and the burnout causes a cult following; one which murders the real purpose of writing a car review. Our topic for today is the Toyota Corolla GLi. While it isn’t the exciting Mercedes SL Roadster that you can read about in international car magazines such as Top Gear, it is the bread and butter car of the masses of Pakistan and hence any changes to it, no matter how trivial, need to be investigated.
It’s been an amazing year for Toyota Indus as its Corolla has outsold all competition in the 1300cc category. With the introduction of the facelift model since April 2011 the Corolla has become, if possible, even more “desirable” for the majority of the people. Reason? Well it is a reliable, solid, sturdy and long lasting car which has the capability to take an uncanny amount of punishment without blistering or simply, blowing up.
The facelift introduced new headlamps, rear lights, front and rear bumpers on the outside. On the inside, it all remained the same except that the upholstery colour changed from that horrid brown (personal opinion!) to a rather cool looking (read: borrowed from Honda Civic) blackish beige combo. The mundane cockpit survives as do the 15″ steel wheels with plastic covers. The sound deadening has also improved and engine and road noise have been muted to a great extent compared to the 8th gen GLi or the current generation Honda City (which honestly speaking, appears to have no sound deadening at all!). But have these minor cosmetic changes made the Corolla more desirable? In a nutshell, yes. The car fascia now looks nothing short of stunning and even though the rear clear crystal LED lights have got some people talking about the cars new found “chamkeeliness” and “cheapness”, the majority agrees that they do look rather pretty.
Under the hood, it all remains the same. The GLi gets the same 1.3L engine unit found in the Vitz with 85 bhp which sounds rather boring and dull, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Rumours abound that Toyota Indus replaced the engine head with a new, stronger set up are in fact true. This was done to accommodate for the introduction of a factory fitted CNG variant of the XLi and GLi. The engine block is VVT-i enabled which means that intake and drive camshaft are intelligently adjusted to create a difference in the overlap times of the intake and exhaust valves opening and closing times to ensure superior engine efficiency. If you got none of that then worry not because in simple English VVT-i means that your car’s engine is really clever and allows you to get more mileage out of the fuel.
But the most important question is how the drive is? Now we have been driving a December 2011 model Corolla GLi for the past two weeks and the results, while not staggering, are significant. Like mentioned before, the GLi comes equipped with a 1.3L VVT-i engine block with 85 bhp. This same engine unit (albeit without the VVT-i) was also available in the previous generation GLi. However, compared to the old generation Corolla GLi, the drive is remarkably different. While the 8th gen GLi was more rudimentary and had more feel of the power under your foot, the 9th gen GLi does away with that entire hog-posh. We believe the creators at Toyota Indus decided it is high time for the Corolla to “grow up” and start acting like a “responsible adult” car, if such a thing were to exist that is. And indeed, the new GLi feels more mature, more composed and more repressed. While some people cringe at the thought that the GLi is “underpowered” we found no evidence that the car would not be able to do any of the things that a Honda City or the 8th gen GLi could do. Rather this new VVT-i unit is more refined and offers a more neutral torque displacement. The electronic power steering is unobtrusive, smooth, fluid and subtle. The ride quality is excellent and the suspension proved itself time and again when driving on rather bumpy patches in the urbane city of Lahore. It feels like a true family car.
So it looks good, drives good, and is adept at taking punishment and dispensing with it. So far so good. But at what fuel average? Surprisingly, the GLi does not disappoint even there. With the introduction of a new on board computer, it is now very easy to see how well your car is faring on fuel economy. Simply pressing the left node on the speedometer will allow you to read your car’s fuel consumption on a second on second basis or an average since the last time you reset the meter. The car we’ve been driving has consistently averaged 12.5 – 14 km/l in city driving which is remarkable. This is also good news because with rising fuel costs (petrol is at Rs 90 and CNG at Rs 74), a fuel efficient car has become a dire need for transportation.
With the new GLi Toyota has hit the nail on the head and banged it into the spines of its competitors. There is no doubt that the car is ridiculously priced (a whopping Rs 15 lakhs and 74000 ex-factory for the petrol variant and a mind boggling 16 lakhs 99000 ex-factory for the CNG variant) but it is still going to be a hot seller for two simple reasons. One, it brings Toyota’s long and time tested reliability to the table and two, it is a bigger, better and more comfortable car than the competition which primarily is the Honda City. The GLi is by far the people’s choice of the year and with the facelift Toyota has ensured that it will remain so till it is replaced with the 10th gen Corolla sometime in 2014.
We like: The new fascia, on board computer, and smooth engine
We don’t like: The build quality. A lot of steel bolts (necessary in our opinion) have been replaced by cheap plastic clips, prone to breaking
Overall verdict: Excellent car. However, on the value for money front, you will be disappointed…