These days however, the marketplace has changed and buyers in this segment have never had it so good when it comes to choosing well-equipped and capable cars.
Many punters today are opting for sports utility vehicles, multi purpose Vehicles and hatchbacks.
Even within the saloon segment — where the Corolla, now called the Corolla Altis, used to reign supreme — there are sophisticated competitors such as the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta. Perhaps it is just as well then, that Toyota has taken the opportunity to update the Corolla Altis, along with the introduction of a mandatory Euro 6-compliant engine.
Externally, the new, 11th-generation Altis cuts a sportier figure with its sleek headlamps that feature LED daytime running lights for improved visibility.
There is also a slimmer grille that visually aligns it with Toyota’s latest generation of vehicles, such as the Prius and Harrier.
To complete the sporty profile, a new range of alloy wheels has also been introduced, with a 17-inch option also available on the high-spec Elegance variant that was tested here.
Under the bonnet, the Altis now packs a 1.6-litre powerplant that produces 128hp and 160Nm of torque, which is due, in part, to built-in tech such as 16-valves, twin overhead camshafts and dual VVT-i valvematic variable valve timing, which helps to optimise power or fuel economy at any given moment.
In the cabin, the occupants are greeted by a dashboard that’s fairly clutter-free, where an entertainment unit that includes built-in navigation and smartphone connectivity — just like the one found in the Harrier — takes centre stage while the driver gets a colour display in the instrument cluster.
Long-time Corolla fans will find the interior familiar in terms of look and feel.
However, compared with the alternatives to the Altis in the market at the moment, they might find that this car is starting to show its age when it comes to the quality of materials used within.
Perhaps the biggest improvement to the Altis is in the safety department. It now features no less than seven airbags and vehicle stability control which detects if the car is about to spin.
It can prevent the loss of control by automatically braking each wheel independently, and also modulates the engine output, if necessary.
Long-time fans will also be glad to know that the Altis is as comfortable and refined as ever.
If anything, a revised suspension set-up improves body control and makes for a more stable drive, while its continuously variable transmission gearbox remains one of the better examples in the segment with its smoothness.
That said, the Toyota Corolla has traditionally never been sought for it dynamic qualities, and the latest model doesn’t surprise either.
The improvements in styling, safety equipment and refinement have made this the best Altis yet.
However, the truth is that there are alternatives in the market that can be purchased for a similar price — around the S$100,000 mark — and those may prove just too tempting to ignore.
Twoyota Corolla Altis Elegance
Engine: 1,598cc 4-cylinder, 128hp, 160Nm
Performance: 185km/h, 0-100km/h N.A., 6.1l/100km, 139g/km
Price: S$106,988 with COE