There's an old saying that a man doesn't choose his car, but the car does. That's how I'd like to think of how I ended up with my 2005 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8. Probably some of you would have stopped reading by now. Yes the manufacturer is synonymous with being 'boring', commonly referred to as 'dad's car', etc. Even more so with this model. I don't blame you though.
Im Arasu and this is the story of my Corolla.
How I Bought the Car
My first car was my dad’s 14-year-old 2001 Proton Waja. It was a gem and I loved it. But as luck would have it, I totalled it in 2015, within three months of driving it. I was so hopelessly devastated by the loss, that I sat by and watched it in ruins, crying beside the crash site. I needed another ‘daily’ quick, but I couldn’t make up my mind. I’m a ‘car guy’ and I had an array of cars in my mind that I couldn’t afford so I did the next best thing. I resorted to letting my wise dad pick his choice. One fine day, when I came back from work, I saw this machine parked outside our house, shining in champagne gold.
Issues that I’ve Had
The model that I initially bought was a base 1.6L 4-speed automatic, which had already clocked at 140000km. Being the driver I was, I was involved in two more minor accidents, which resulted in a damaged radiator. Over time, with various mechanics failing to early diagnose the problem, the engine eventually overheated. That left me with two solutions, top overhauling or swapping with a 1.8 1ZZ engine. I went with the latter. My only regret? Time constraint and limited skill capacity in Sarawak didn’t provide me the option of swapping with the more powerful 2ZZ, which was featured in Toyota Celica and even some of the Series 2 Lotus Elise.
What I’ve Done and How It Drives
I hadn’t driven a lot of cars, to begin with. The fastest that I’ve driven was a BMW F30. So I’m not qualified to review the driving experience of any car per say. Nevertheless, from my experience, the car that I own which initially was a 1.6 was just like the name suggests, a humble Corolla. The numbers are nothing to shout about. Upgrading to 1.8L engine offers a little more power, producing 134hp and 170Nm of torque. But I for one believe, that numbers on papers don’t matter, as long as you find ways to have fun with your machine.
Over the years, I’ve done various mods to mould it into the car I want it to look and drive. Major performance upgrades include Tein Stech lowering springs, new 16 inch Goodyear Triplemax 2 tires, 8 spoke alloy wheels and K&N performance air filter. These ain’t much, but the first two mods completely transformed the way it drives.
The car is a very stable cruiser. Power output is sufficient. There is enough torque to push through from idle, after which power delivery is a slow linear till about 3000-4000rpm when the line becomes slightly steeper again. The pedal response is quick, and the steering is precise. Handling and suspension are a bit on the sportier side as that’s how I tuned and matched it to my liking. I still haven’t completely sacrificed the ride quality because I’m still using stock Kayaba absorbers. It soaks up the bumps rather well. Sound insulation isn’t that good and beyond 60km/h the road noise becomes apparent and annoying. The fabric seats are plenty comfortable. The legroom is rather small for today’s standard of a C segment car and tall passengers will find it on edge and cramped. Another stuff worth mentioning is the build quality which deserves praise. Despite being a 15-year-old car, I can hardly hear any rattles or vibrations inside the cabin even at maximum speed.
As this was a base model, there was quite a number of interior features missing. So I went about and installed an underseat Pioneer subwoofer, additional Pioneer speakers for the rear doors, aftermarket steering switches, LED door sills, aftermarket DVR, aftermarket touchscreen head unit, installed a centre wood panel, wood trimmed steering wheel, chrome finished door handles, vinyl wrapped the gear console, meter console and fixed old window tinting. An interesting fact- the upmarket version of this car was marketed as an affordable luxury car in SEA with some critics even dubbing it as the poor man’s Mercedes.
What’s the Maintenance Like
It’s a Toyota and a Corolla. Reliability isn’t an issue and it delivers like it should. Apart from the engine issue due to my own mistake, I hadn’t had any major issues. Usual wear and tear is common as the car is 15 years old. Parts replacement thus far include new coil plugs, spark plugs, front rack ends, brake pads, front stabilizer links, engine mounts, new shocks, power window motor, etc. Fuel economy isn’t that great, averaging about 9.5 litres per 100km using RON95.
For basic oil change, I use semi-s Castrol 10W-40 every 5000km, which costs me around RM150 every 6 months. As I’m writing this, the odometer reads 171000km.
Ride Comfort: 3/5
Fuel Economy: 2/5
-Good resale value.
-Looks good to this date. Still turns heads.
-Easy maintenance. Spare parts readily available
-Limited rear legroom
My Future Plans
I’ll continue upgrading it, and I’ve tonnes of stuffs lined up for the future. For instance, the car’s paint job is off and there are heavy oxidation everywhere on its body so definitely needs respraying. I also plan to upholster the seats with leather and change the headlights. And I’ll probably keep expanding my car collection but I’ll never sell this one.
Every now and then, I get similar questions asked of old car users like ‘Why haven’t you changed your car?’ or ‘Is it worth spending?’. Some even go on to argue that this isn’t even a rare / limited / collector’s car like the E20, E70, AE86, or the TRD2000. They won’t understand. Because the bond that I share with my car is difficult to explain. I don’t have to own a Ferrari to understand what real petrolheads feel. And as cliché as it may sound, every single time without fail, whenever I leave the parking space, I turn around to admire the looks of the car, which aged rather well. That’s the kind of love I have for my Corolla.
And yes, it’s well damn worth it.