About the Car
This is the 2004 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8G. It is the first refresh of E120 generation of Corolla which launched back in 2001. For me, I think this is the most timeless looking 21st century Corolla with its classy and elegant design, especially in black, with come chrome trims. It is powered by a super reliable 1ZZ-FE 1.8-litre 4-cylinder, 16-valve, DOHC, VVT-I engine, paired to a Toyota legendary 4-speed automatic with Super ECT. It produces around 136 horses at 6000 rpm and 171Nm at 4200 rpm. It is priced at RM120k when new which is considered expensive back then, compared with the house pricing at the early 2000s. I remembered some people considered this Altis as the entry-level luxury car back then and lots of rich uncles bought for their wife.
Reason Why I Bought This Car
It was my second year in Miri, Sarawak for my university study. I drove my parent’s Kelisa 400km from Sibu, Sarawak. Driving on the terrible Pan Borneo “highway”, I felt unsafe when most of the cars around me are “Hailak”. So, my parents were thinking of getting a car which is more suitable for long journey drive.
The timing was just right that my aunt wanted to let go of her long-serving Altis, the mileage is quite low, and we just decided to put the money down for it. We got it at around RM32k in 2017 with only 68k km mileage on it. The condition is quite pristine for a 13-year-old. Additionally, the Altis is equipped with a vehicle stability system (VSC) and the power is more than enough to perform a safe overtake, although it’s never safe to overtake on the unpredictable road in Borneo, at least it is a safer car to drive on the challenging East Malaysia “highway”.
In terms of ride and handling, the Altis is set up to be soft and comfortable with the standard MacPherson strut up front and torsion beam at the rear. So, I never expect it to have a sporty character and use it to tackle some corners at high speed. The body roll is obvious at high speed, of course. However, the ride is quiet and comfortable even with 4 adults on board. I just do not feel like wanting to spirited drive in the Altis. The shock absorbers did bottom up a few times, maybe the Pan Borneo Highway is just too harsh.
Even so, at least the 136 ponies are punchy enough to overtake at 80 km/h at the Pan Borneo Highway. The gear shift is still silky smooth after so many years. Whenever I want to overtake, just switch on the Super ECT mode and it will be very eager to downshift to provide the maximum power based on my throttle input. The throttle response is very sharp since it is still using the cable throttle body. It can be quite punchy when I am holding 2nd and 3rd gear. The Altis gets around 11km/litres at the stop-go traffic, not too bad for 1.8 Litre engine.
I used the Altis for an occasional long-distance drive from Miri to Sibu during my university life. The car serves me extremely well and has been super reliable. No wonder it is used as the taxi for certain countries. In 2019, I needed to travel from Sibu to Mukah via the Pan Borneo Highway for 300km weekly for 3 months. That killed all the shocks absorber, coil spring, shock heads and stoppers, and engine mountings of the car. Imagine how bad is the road condition. Anything parts that can be replaced is not a problem. The car remains smooth and comfortable after the major repair.
The Corolla Altis maintains the reputation of Toyota reliability outstandingly. It will continue to serve me as my daily. I think it is still a great used car to buy if you want to find a balance between performance, safety, comfort at a rather affordable price in 2020. In the end, the Corolla Altis is always a safe choice but a solid car.