The Corolla is a car that in Sri Lanka (and other asian countries) that is highly regarded first due its high reliability, very comfortable ride and importantly excellent fuel economies.
The model that really became popular and had such inflated prices was the NZ121 model. Personally i found the shape rather bland, and the rear legroom ridiculous for a car in that class (the Honda City/Fit and the Civic both had much better legroom). The drive was also rather soft, but i guess that’s what the vehicle was targeted for. These are comments on the 1.5L versions i had driven or been a bored passenger :), the higher powered 1.8 and 2L versions maybe different.
However the ride comfort in rutty roads and potholes was definitely one aspect that it stood out compared to the Honda Fit/Fit Aria and the Civic ES series. Toyota definitely knows how to handle such road conditions, and that makes is very popular in Sri Lanka due to our wonderful smooth roads (Sarcastic smile!).
The other thing you notice it the much better noise insulation, a perennial weakness with most Honda cars, with the exception of the Honda Accord from what i have experienced. Again something that many might want since it helps muffle the tire roar, external noises and enjoy your audio system better.
However the biggest reasons for the high sales would be the superior fuel efficiencies of the NZ121, as it easily seem to be capable of doing 10-12kmpl in severe city driving conditions, something that even the Fit/City would be challenge with the AC on. Outstations the economies improved to even greater levels, and aided by the Corolla communities “programed to get best efficiency driving style” the fuel economies were always repeatable.
However come NZE141 with the 1.6L engine with a better looking interior and exterior (sadly for Toyota, Honda released the FD1 civic that made the 141 look .. eh.. let me not comment!). These vehicles were purchased in frenzy by the loyal toyota community thinking it could only be better than the NZE121.
Well it improved on lot of things that were good on the 121, but it fell flat in the most important area, which is the fuel economy. The cars were having fuel economies as low as 5-6kmpl in city driving during the burn in period for new cars, and seem to never give more than 7-7.5kmpl in city driving conditions. The buyers were furious and even the local agents were lost.
However since my sister had brought this car i decided a bit more research was due, and then i found the issue was there in the cars in thailand as well.
Here they had some reasons,
- The car sold for the Sri Lanka (and Thailand) markets had the old NZE121 engine. Not a bad thing one might think. However Toyota for some reason has reduce the power output by 5% in the engine, and also remapped it to give more power low down.
- The car was over 100-150lb heavier, and it looked that as well.
- The local market had ignored that the 121 JDM corolla imported as re-conditioned already had a more advanced VVTi engine, and was lighter by almost 200lb over the 141 sold locally.
Put the maths together, lower power engine in a heavier car with the engine tuned for power at low down, and you now get a feel why the economies went smack down.
However the issue was not there with the Corolla AXIO sold in japan, and why not. Simple it had the newer more advanced Toyota VVT engine which was more economical and powerful (seems toyota has understood this, the 2010 corolla now has the new engine). So this car was able to deliver the fuel economies that were good or better than the NZE121, which is why you see everyone going for the AXIO these days with the revised tax rates.
However seems like Toyota has silently updated the 141 for the asian market, by replacing the older engine with a newer VVTi engine. Sadly the 1.6 liter still gets the normal auto gearbox and the single VVT-i engine, as the CVT is only coupled with the 1.8liter unlike the Axio where the 1.5liter engine is coupled with the CVT gearbox. The 1.8liter version also get the more advanced D-VVTi engine. However the extra power and more fuel efficient newer VVTi implementation should make the local 141 better though still not as great as the Axio due to the extra weight and the normal auto box.
A quick comparisons of the Corolla range with the important aspects, mainly the engines, power and weight.
|Corolla 141 Asia/Thailand||Corolla 121 Asia||Corolla 121 Japan||Corolla 141 Asia/Thailand 2010||Corolla Axio 141 Japan|
|Capacity – cc||1598||1598||1498||1598||1498|
|Type||4cy dohc VVT-i||4cy dohc VVT-i||4cy dohc VVT-i||4cy dohc VVT-i||4cy dohc VVT-i|
|Weight – kg||1255-1300||1060-1080||1230||1140-1150|
|Gearbox||Super ECT 4-sp auto||Super ECT 4-sp auto||Super ECT 4-sp auto||Super ECT 4-sp auto||Super CVT-i|