Hybrid poster boy: All-new Corolla leads Toyota into ‘new era’

This blue emblem means going green, and Toyota Motor Philippines is hoping to have more of these on the road with the introduction of the 12th-generation Toyota Corolla Altis, which features a hybrid variant. | All photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
Introducing the all-new Toyota Corolla Altis at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bonifacio Global City

Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) is doubling up on the hybrid technology it helped to pioneer in the country more than a decade ago with the Prius.

This time, Toyota Hybrid finds a new champion in the beloved and historic Corolla nameplate (which also appended with the “Altis” appellation). Now on its 12thgeneration, the iconic sedan makes a triumphant return with a five-flavor onslaught – including a hybrid electric version to serve as its alpha-dog variant.

In a speech during the product yesterday, TMP president Satoru Suzuki described the unveiling of the Corolla as a “major milestone, not just for Toyota but the entire auto industry.” He continued, “We are extremely proud that in our era, we are seeing the Corolla — considered the bestselling car in the world — transform into a car that helps change the world.”

This gives further credence to the sentiments aired and commitments made at TMP’s Hybrid Electric Technology Conference last May where the company “had a preview of (its) electrification roadmap.” Added Suzuki, “Today, the introduction of the Corolla Hybrid rapidly accelerates Toyota’s push for a more sustainable mobility. For the first time, our pioneering Toyota Hybrid technology, now comes in a mainstream, high-volume and not to mention, familiar and well-loved model.”

TMP marketing services department vice president Elijah Sue Marcial reported in a presentation that the Corolla is “(currently) being built in 15 plants spread over 13 countries. To date, Toyota has produced over 46 million units (of the Corolla since its introduction in 1966), making it one of the most popular, probably the bestselling car, in the world.” Marcial said that, locally, there are some 220,000 local Corolla owners.

Toyota Motor Philippines executives flanking the all-new Toyota Corolla Altis. From left are first vice president Cristina Arevalo, vice chairman Dr. David Go, chairman Alfred Ty, president Satoru Suzuki, executive vice president Kei Mizuguchi, and
senior vice president Jose Maria Atienza.

And that’s the point, really. Speaking to WHEELS.PH, TMP product planning specialist Renzo Villacorta underscored, “We felt that the Corolla would be the best model to introduce our hybrid variants.” While the Prius and Prius C will still be sold locally, the Corolla, asserted Villacorta, is a more “normal-looking car” that should be more appealing to fence-sitters still mulling over whether to take the plunge outside of the ICE (internal combustion engine).

Hybrid heart

The 1.8 HV variant is given a 1.798-liter VVT-I, four-cylinder inline DOHC, 16-valve engine and, of course, an electric motor. The two power plants combine for a 121hp total system output, and 142Nm maximum torque realized at 3,600rpm. Toyota said in a release that “drivers can experience a smooth and quiet ride with better fuel efficiency while the battery self-charges during the drive. Three driving modes are available (Sport, Eco, Normal), giving the driver more control.”

A 1.8-liter ICE resides in the engine bay of the hybrid, and is adequately
supplemented by an electric motor.

The Corolla Altis 1.8 HV undercuts the pricing of the both Prius models with a price tag of P1.58 million, compared to the Prius C (P1.907 million) and Prius (P2.289 million). TMP is hoping that this vastly more affordable price of admission, coupled with the Corolla’s heritage and history, will make the hybrid format more attractive. 

Platform and safety

The 12th-generation Corolla Altis rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, said to imbue benefits in the areas of agility, stability, and visibility. This is a platform the car shares with the Prius and the Lexus UX. The TNGA leads to a lower center of gravity, features improved suspension, and enhanced visibility from “reduced cowl height, thinner instrument panel, and repositioned mirrors.” NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) levels have also been mitigated.

TMP marketing services department vice president Elijah Sue Marcial talks at length about the Corolla’s history and the virtues of the 12th generation.

The hybrid variant of the Corolla Altis is given the Toyota Safety Sense suite of features first seen in the recently launched Hiace Super Grandia Elite. As in the van variant, the 1.8 HV gets a pre-collision system (PCS), lane departure alert (LDA), and automatic high beam (AHB). Meanwhile, it debuts in the Philippine market the lane tracing assist (LTA) and dynamic radar cruise control (DRCC).

Standard on all variants are seven SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, vehicle stability control, hill start assist, and three-point emergency locking retractor seatbelts for all occupants.

The Japan-based carmaker maintained that “the high-strength frame of the vehicle adopts a body structure that is designed to absorb impact and disperse the collision energy to minimize cabin deformation in the event of a collision. Structure of the engine hood and cowl louver has also been developed to reduce impact energy to a pedestrian in the unlikely event of a collision.”

A new hybrid era

TMP supervisor for product planning Jovie Roqueza, speaking exclusively to WHEELS.PH, shared, “The reason why we’re calling it a new hybrid era is because the first time around we introduced hybrid technology, it wasn’t at its maximum stage yet.” Now, the Corolla Altis 1.8 HV boasts wields Toyota’s more advanced fourth-generation hybrid system.

“This was already designed in consideration of the Philippine market – the pollution, the weather, the heat and humidity. We’re quite confident that this can be bought by anybody, and the pricing point, since we’re getting it from Thailand, we’re able to actually (leverage the) free trade (agreement),” revealed Roqueza.

From its launch until the remainder of the year, Toyota aims to sell 300 units of the Corolla Altis a month, according to TMP first vice president Cristina Arevalo. Of this number, seven percent or 21 units should be the 1.8 HV. Next year, the monthly figure is expected to settle at 200 units monthly.

Prius vs. Corolla

Despite a 50-percent slash in excise tax under TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion), Prius units are sourced from Japan, so we end up paying import duty of 20 percent. That has allowed the Toyota Corolla Altis hybrid to underprice its sibling, even if, observed Roqueza, “(when compared) to the Prius, the interior space and spec level (of the Corolla Altis) is actually higher.”

In a subsequent press conference, TMP officials assured that all Toyota dealerships will be carrying the hybrid version of the Corolla Altis along with the conventional-engine variants starting September 21. All dealerships are also ready with the expertise needed to service the vehicles.

“This is really going to be our reentry or rebranding of hybrid for Toyota. There are more exciting hybrids on the way… This is just the start of a new era. It’s a starting point for us. From there we can see where the market goes,” concluded Roqueza. 

* * *

Here’s the pricing of the all-new Corolla Altis:

VARIANTPRICECOLORS
1.8 V HVP1,595,000White Pearl
P1,580,000Celestite Gray
Metallic (NEW) Attitude Black
Silver Metallic
Red Mica
Metallic
1.6 V CVTP1,200,000White Pearl
P1,185,000Celestite Gray
Metallic (NEW)
Attitude Black
Silver Metallic
Red Mica
Metallic
1.6 G CVT
1.6 G MT
P1,115,000
P1,045,000
Super White
Celestite Gray
Metallic (NEW)
Attitude Black
Silver Metallic
Red Mica
Metallic
1.6 E MTP999,000Super White
Attitude Black
Silver Metallic
Red Mica
Metallic

For more information, visit TMP’s official website at www.toyota.com.ph and follow the official social media pages at ToyotaMotorPhilippines (Facebook and Instagram) and @ToyotaMotorPH (Twitter).

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