In addition to the 1.6, I also sampled the updated 1.8 model. The first thing one would observe in the 1.8 after a drive in the 1.6 is the slightly more gruff engine note from the four-pot motor when accelerating away. This could be due to its new CVT transmission, which means that engine revs stay at about a buzzy 3000rpm when accelerating up to speed. When it comes to power and torque outputs, the old 1.8 offers 130bhp and 170Nm at 4200rpm. The new Dual VVT-I unit musters 140bhp at 6400rpm and 173Nm at a lower 4000rpm. We did some acceleration runs in the 1.8 and found it to be roughly more than one and a half seconds faster to 100km/h from rest than the 1.6-litre and outgoing 1.8-litre models.
The new CVT in the new 1.8 model is a pretty convincing one and dare I say, one of the better ones than those found in other Japanese models. The Altis' CVT doesn't have that rubber band feeling and delay in response when you pick up speed from standstill. In addition, it offers a ‘+/-‘ manual mode where you can play with the seven ‘virtual' gears via the gear lever. It is really a major disappointment that the 1.6 makes do without the CVT as it is really a major step forward in the 1.8. Take up rates for the 1.8 in our market are not exactly high so hopefully factors like the new transmission will convince potential Altis buyers an incentive to choose the higher spec model.
The updates to the Altis are by far not groundbreaking and hence the perennial favourite Toyota will hardly redefine the important family saloon segment but the subtle changes should be enough to retain its top dog in the class.
Credits: Story by Raymond Lai Photos by Yang