Possible causes why the Sri Lankan Corolla 141 is not fuel efficient, AXIO excempted

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,

  1. 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.
  2. The car was over 100-150lb heavier, and it looked that as well.
  3. 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
Engine Model 3ZZ-FE 3ZZ-FE 1NZ-FE 1ZR-FE 1NZ-FE
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
Power (bhp/rpm) 108/6000 110/6000 110/6000 122/6000 110/6000
Torque (Nm/rpm) 145/4400 150/4400 141/4400 154/5200 140/4400
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
0-100kph (sec) 11.8

31 thoughts on “Possible causes why the Sri Lankan Corolla 141 is not fuel efficient, AXIO excempted”

  1. Hi,
    This forum is more concern of fuel economy etc. well I am a user of the Toyota 141 and for the size of the car and the drive comfort and handling I do not see why we need to worry about the fuel economy.

    You cannot have all inclusive packages in one and no one will ever even offer you this deal.

    The 121 maybe good on fuel but it does not carry the purpose I want. The car looks very cramped up once in. On the other hand the 141 is elegant in style and more leg room with exceptional boot size. My car is doing around 6 to 8 in Colombo and it’s pretty descent for for a mid size sedan.

    I do not believe a car does 10 to 12 km in the city.

    It is slways best to go in for a smaller car with even better fuel economy if you expect a mid size sedan to perform as a 800cc car.

  2. The Toyota 141, 2008 series is a very good looking car and a car that can have two sides to a story. The Honda Civic 2008 also does about 8KM per liter of patrol and these cars can improve running kilometers by simply following a few things by the driver. Some of the things are always use 95 Octane Fuel and in IOC stations and their fuel is clean and there is no need to add Soltron. Secondly your service has to be on time. Driving with excessive acceleration and high speed can be a another cause to doing between 7-8 KM per liter. Just a another advise for all drivers to practice when pumping fuel to always fill them during evening. You will get the best fuel at this time when its not highly exposed to the heat. If your Odometer reads average 12 and 14 km per 100 km, you have a good running car. After all do you think other cars run 14 plus except for the modern hybrids. Love your car, keep it clean and drive safe on the roads which is the most important element of being a good driver. No road rage. Hope this helps.

  3. Dear Sir
    I am planning to buy a used 141 corolla. My worried about second hand market in 2 years. Please advise.

  4. Hi Rayaz, Its a full informative article, nice write up. If i have gone thru same a year ago, i wouldn’t got trapped in to a 141. ;-<.

    I need an advice from you. I have a 141 (2008 older) & facing some issues with fuel economies as you clarified above.

    I have a immediate buyer for same @ Rs.2.8Mn. Is it advisable to dispose it @ that rate now??

    Also, kindly let me know a hybrid with good re-sale market for me to buy. My budget is Rs.5.0Mn (max). Your opinion on Honda Grace???

    Pls treat this as an urgent request, kindly assist me ASAP.


  5. Dear all, I am searching to buy a car ( Toyota 121 , axio , allion or Honda civic). my budget is around 30-35. if somebody can give best option for me thank you all of you

  6. Dear Sir,
    please advice is it vise to buy Honda airwave as i am looking at a family vehicle around 3 m.

    Thank yo


    1. Hi,

      The Airwave is actually an extended version of the GD1 Fit/Fit Aria, which means it definitely has the CVT gearbox issue that troubled that model. Considering you are most likely to find an used one, this might not be a great option, though the vehicle actually looks great (far better than the new Honda Fit shuttle that replaced it is my opinion), and is massively spacious and well built.

      You are better of seeing if you can find a used Hybrid Honda Fit Shuttle, that has less reported gearbox issues, since the CVT gearbox on that model is newer, and you will also find it lower in mileage. The hybrid efficiencies of the Fit shuttle will also be useful if you do not step on the accelerator to much 🙂

    1. Sadly I have not come across any owners of the hybrid axio. From a tech side its the very same as the latest gen Prius models such as the prius c (aqua) and Prius v (alpha), as it has the a lithium battery. The batteries are under the passenger seat, hence the is no boot space compromise.

      The interior dash is also minimally changed making much like a civic hybrid where it has a normal cat look with hybrid internals. However I am not that impressed with the external design of the axio.

  7. hey rayas,
    i have a 141 n when i did the last service they said me to replace back side shockabsorbers .. how can i recheck n replace them wat are the suitable types of Shock abs in sri lankan market ?? thanks

  8. great article ,,, good job, I also looking for 141 corolla,, but I dnt know how to identify the difference between new engine and old one.

  9. Hi bro,
    I am about to buy my first car and my budget is around 25-30 lakh. I want to have a great fuel economy so i initially thought of buying a yaris…..but then people i knw says that i t doesn’t have second market and it’s better if i go for 121 or axio or 141………can you plz help me on this…..Thanks………..

    1. If your budget is 25-30, won’t you be able to get a hybrid for that budget? The Honda Fit GE Hybrid is definitely within that budget, though the Aqua is a bit more. However the Fit Hybrid is far bigger than the Aqua, and also an overall better appearance, though by pure mileage per km, the Aqua should be more far more economical.

      Well if you go by resale, you decision is harder, specially since the axio is not very popular anymore, the Prius has taken over the market, and the 141 has terrible fuel economies (seem my article on the 141) for the first set of cars, the subsequent updated model has a better engine. Well the 121 is rather ancient! The Yaris (belta) was popular but like the axio the Hybrid wave has reduced its demand.

      The question that we are yet to see in Sri Lanka is how the resale market for used Hybrids will be, as people are still worried over the battery replacement cost and long term ownership of Hybrids, something new and untested. If hybrids do start turning out to be costly in the long term then the demand for high economy small cars specially diesels may become popular (as is the case in UK, where the small diesels are providing far better economies than the the hybrids, and also more power and fun to drive).

      My advise is that 121 is too old, if you can find an axio or newer 141 yes it would have “slightly better” resale, and more comfort and space, if not the Yaris (Belta as it goes in Japan, and VIOS in south asia) is a good buy. However if you don’t mind look at the Honda Fit or the Fit Shuttle hybrids, or even an lightly used Honda Insight, they may prove to be far more attractive on the running cost and build quality.

  10. hi all,
    i am planing to buy a car for 3.5m please let me know which one dose best fuel.(looking 12kmper 1ltr in the sity 15km per ltr long drive) Allion/Axio/121/141
    any other ideas welcome.

  11. Dear Rayaz,

    Currently I’m having Mazda BJ5P model, 1.5 Engine, YOM 2002. I’m going to sell this and buy another one, I want be in below 40 Lakh budget.
    What is the best model for me from below options.
    My requirements, at least 10KM/L in city limits, modern look than Mazda BJ5P, want sufficient gap between road and the Car otherwise very difficult to drive in uncomfortable roads in sri lanka. smooth driving experience with good suspention./

    Models, : Alion, Honda civic, Mazda 3 / Axela, Axio, Belta/Yaris

    Please advice.

    Regards, Roshan

    1. From the models you listed the only two which can provide 10KM/L in the city consistently would be the Allion, Axio or the Belta/Yaris. The Belta/Yaris may not be as comfortable as your current ride, since its one step below. The Allion should provide far better ride comfort, and current and former models both are fairly modern in looks. The Axio is also a good option but considering the price gap between the Allion and Axio is not that great, the Allion makes better sense, specially since the local market also has less depreciation for the Allion.

      The other option would be to look around for a Hybrid Prius 3rd Gen, which offers great fuel economies, and modern looks and good performance. Based on how the cabs in Sri Lanka are hacking the cars, the battery issues and reliability problems have not been a concern.

  12. Hey Riyas
    Most people compere the axio with the corolla but is it fair? I mean the corolla is bigger, heavier, roomier, have different specifications like front and rear disc breaks as apposed to only front in axio, and the engine displacement values are different, and most new corollas are better on fuel compared to axio, as good as allion. Someone told me Toyota is not making axios in their factorie like the corolla (Kanto auto works) and nearly all other JPD and export models, but in some subsidary, although I’m not sure.

    Then the features too are different. Most axios have way more freatures but they dont seem to have a standard. I’ve seen an axio G without climate control AC, and on a X model with!

    But offcourse the axio is the best option if you want to sell the car for a high price. Sri laknkans thing the corolla is not from japan or something 😀

  13. Dear Reyaz. Want to buy my first car. Don’t know what to buy. My budget is 4m. Is an all allion (flower type tail light) or the toyota axio 2007 model a better buy. These are the things I look for in the car: A modern look with reverse cam, etc, high on fuel economy, a second had value so that I can sell it with ease and free availability of spare parts. What’s your opinion on the Nissan bluebird?

    1. To start, if second hand value and economy are of interest to you, tick the Bluebird off the list, it fails on both counts.

      The Allion and Axio is a harder choice. Even though the Allion is the older in year of manufacture it still manages to look fine if properly kitted up, with only the front lights discoloring with time, and if you get it cleaned or change them the car looks new.

      The Axio in japan is for most a low end car (except the special models) and hence the interior quality is rather poor compared to the trim levels of the Allion. Further the Allion has better rear legroom and softer ride.

      Economy wise both are very similar, with the Axio doing a bit better due to the slightly lower weight (i am talking about the A15 Allion, no the larger engine versions).

      Resale again both hold, and you should be able to sell either, same applies for the parts. Both are fundamentally japan only cars, but parts are available since they sold very well in Japan.

      Don’t bother too much about reverse cam, etc they can be easily fitted.

  14. Hey Rayas,

    I have a 141, and is doing 10.4 – 10.6 km in dead city traffic. All it depends on how you drive.
    FYI, to go to Nuwara Eliya, (180 KM) it used 18 Liters, and believe it or not, to come back to Colombo it used only 7 Liters.

    I am very happy with this car, but if you are using the car for < 1km rides with excessive breaks in between, fuel consumption goes to 5 – 7 kmpl, and if you are in a hurry and speed up in seconds and break in seconds… you are going to get some 8 -9 kmpl .

    1. Wow that’s quite a surprise, and you maybe one of the few to report such ! Is yours one of the older 141 or the recent, reason being the recent model has a totally different engine and returns very good mileages comparable to the Axio/Allion. Almost all i know who own 141 have told no matter how light they are on the pedal are having miserable economies.

      1. Not sure how to check that, but after running for 20,000 KM, still the average stays at 10.3 kmpl, and average speed at 20 kmph.

        I do clean the airfilter, in every 1500km, and plugs in every 5000, which might be the reason for high fuel efficiency.

        As well, I am running with A/C full time… but not at freezing points 🙂

  15. informative. but the people who bought the 141 were mostly permit holders so i dont think theyd be too disappointed to sell at crappy second hand value. i bought a 141 diesel and its just the thing for the rising fuel prices 🙂 only issues is that its manual which put people off when buying a car these days but the pickup is awesome so i dont really mind. cheers!!

  16. What are the difference in price , technical and maintain cost in between 121 G grade LX and LXI (I think these are the types of Toyota corolla 121). What is the best option. I have only 2.5 Sri Lankan Rupees only.
    Please let me know about the fuel efficiency , also tell me what are the practical problems.

    Thank you .
    +94 (0) 0716904929

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