The 11th-generation model exudes a more premium feel and sportier styling
New Corolla Altis changes with customer tastes, desires Focus on design: The latest Corolla Altis has a new design but its core attributes of quality and reliability are unchanged, said Mr Yasui at the launch of the new model

THE new Toyota Corolla Altis has transformed itself by exuding a more premium feel and sportier styling, all because its customers demanded it.

Shinichi Yasui, the Toyota chief engineer in charge of this 11th-generation model, said global customers of the 10th-generation car, for which he was also chief engineer, told him it lacked excitement.

"Everyone says it is a good car but the design is a bit boring," Mr Yasui explained recently at the local launch of the new model. "So for the new car, design became my No 1 goal."

So for the Corolla's new design architecture, he injected some "wakudoki" - a Japanese word that refers to a sense of anticipation, even the pounding of the heart, when viewing something exciting.

Since he is also the chief engineer of the UK-made Toyota Auris, Mr Yasui knows what he is talking about. The stylish long-roofed hatchback is fun to drive and popular in Europe.

For the new Corolla Altis, he used "the T-face but with more aggression", referring to Toyota's T-shaped motif grille design.

He added: "I extended the wheelbase by 100 millimetres, and placed the tyres at each corner of the car for a more dynamic silhouette. This is also good for interior space and highway stability."

As for those who noted that the old interior had parts which were plasticky or looked fake, he overhauled the dashboard design and materials, introducing a soft-touch dashtop as well as new trim and colours. The result is the new Corolla Altis has a cabin that is more upscale than before.

But Mr Yasui stressed that the car's core attributes of quality and reliability were unchanged.

"What is important is the Corolla's driveability, quality and value for money. We have maintained that direction but become more dynamic. Our legacy is very important," he explained.

Keeping to the script is critical because of the Corolla's loyal followers. Toyota has sold more than 40 million Corollas since the first one was unveiled nearly 50 years ago. Today, it is a popular and even cherished nameplate around the world.

The car's owners cover almost every demographic. In the United States, the buyers are "very young", unlike in Japan, where they are "elderly". In South-east Asia, they are mainly families of all ages.

Mr Yasui noted that the customers were "the same, but their tastes and desires have changed".

"In many countries, older people buy the Corolla. They are mature but young at heart. They don't want to buy an ordinary car, they want something more dynamic."