Stuck in a moment
By Andre Palma Philippine Daily Inquirer THE NEW Toyota Corolla is out. Much awaited by the public and the rest of the industry, it is rather curious that a product of this importance hasn’t broken cover with the fanfare and fuss expected of such an established model. Roughly 30 million Corollas, in 10 iterations, sold over 42 years is a lot to shout about. The relative silence over the tenth generation launch says so much. This is a car that will definitely find itself in the garages of many Filipino families. There are those out there who will buy a Toyota Corolla, sight unseen, just on blind brand loyalty. You cannot really fault these faithful, over the years several of the past versions of this car have really been reliable, value for money automobiles. Two models -- the KE7x series and the AE8x series, both of the ’80s -- were actually fun to drive. Add to that the inexpensive nature of Corolla parts and you can see why many are still hooked. Pending a test drive of the 10th Generation Corolla, a definitive verdict cannot be laid down. Although, a quick read of the specification sheet will show that very little has mechanically changed from the previous 2001-on model. Engines in the range are 1.8-liter and 1.6-liter VVT-i units similar to the Corolla it is replacing. Declared power outputs are down but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A top of the line 1.8-liter version will come with 132 bhp and 170 Nm of torque while the run of the mill 1.6-liter delivers 109 bhp and a 145 Nm torque figure. It looks like the new Corolla is driving toward a more fuel-efficient, economical end. Transmission choices are the usual 4-speed automatic and a 5-speed manual; the bigger engine again only coming in a slush box. Suspensions don’t change dramatically either with independent front and rear torsion bar designs still factory specified. Additional curb weight can be found on the new Corolla and good money says this extra heft went into further insulating the passenger cabin from the road. It seems that the factors that make up this Corolla point in an obvious general direction. This isn’t going to be a pocket rocket by any stretch of the imagination. Why hasn’t Toyota stepped into the compact sedan ring with a more potent, reengineered product then? With a fresh, revitalized Civic already in the market and an intriguing Lancer soon inbound, why has Toyota seemingly dropped the ball? There is an answer. This lackluster execution of the iconic Corolla model is due to the fact that it does not play a large part in the Toyota plan for worldwide auto sales domination anymore. It seems while other manufacturers still decide to pour resources into the compact sedan segment, Toyota is hedging its bets elsewhere. In the Philippine market, the Vios subcompact and the Innova AUV represent the leading edge. In more industrialized markets, hybrids and diesel compact two-box designs carry the fight. In the end, the world’s volume leading compact sedan has to deal with the realities of a maturing market. In fact, a few Tokyo Motor shows ago, pundits from foreign media and competing manufacturers were wondering if there was actually going to be a 10th Generation Corolla. The loss of a compact sedan in the Toyota lineup was nothing to panic about in their minds. Toyota’s inevitable rise to one day become the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer was not hinged on this model. Things got so quiet that a few media outlets actually printed eulogies of this model and spoke fondly of the product’s landmark run. Toyota has proven all of us who wrote off this car as wrong. They will contest the segment with a car that they believe is sufficient to the needs of those who are looking for an entry-level family sedan. Arguing the point with them will be futile anyway. None of what’s been written in this column today is going to dissuade the common Filipino motorist from buying new Corollas, even if there are better driving or technologically superior competing products out in the market as we speak for less money. The Corolla’s brand strength is such, that regardless of fault, this car will sell.
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