TOYOTA HAS NEARLY always banked on reliability and comfort to sail its ships, flair in exterior design not being one of their fortes. In recent years however, there has been a conscious effort to turn this around, make the cars look more desirable and draw people to showrooms based on the styling of the car. This can be seen with cars like the GT 86, and closer to home, the Fortuner and the Innova Crysta, both sporting a bolder design language than their predecessors. The Altis is the next car to re-align itself to the new found sharper styling elements. Unlike its siblings though, the Altis is a facelift and not a generation change as there are still a few years left in the life of this premium sedan. The makeover works very well on the outside. The sedan sports a much sharper front end with elongated and angular headlamps running into a sleeker grille, a revised bumper adds to the freshness of the updated car, and even the tail lamp cluster is an all-LED unit like the headlights. So there’s a noticeably new face to the Altis that definitely makes it look expensive and desirable.

Inside, you will notice a landscape oriented Android phone-like infotainment screen. The touch sensitivity is better than infotainment screens you find as OE fitments on other cars but there’s one grouse: it keeps going back to the language screen every time you start the car and doesn’t register it. The aircon controls are completely new and there are plenty of soft touch surfaces all around the dashboard, with a livelier beige colour than the dark interiors the pre-facelift car sported. There are more functions on the steering wheel and the side aircon vents are now circular units.

It sports the same 1.8-litre petrol and 1.4-litre turbo-diesel engines. The car tested is the petrol, making 138bhp and 173Nm of torque. The Altis is all about relaxed cruising so it gets a lazy CVT instead of a torque convertor or a dual clutch ’box; nor does it get a turbocharged motor making a lot of horsepower and torque. Instead it builds its power late and higher up the rev range, pulls slowly but smoothly and prefers a light to moderately heavy foot on the gas. The Altis has very comfortable seats and is damped well to soak in bad roads but it won’t carve corners like a Jetta or an Octavia. Buy it if you are chauffeur driven and want a car that will run a decade or more without any mechanical issues. You might also buy it for its styling now.