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Test Drives
21 Apr 10 22:07
Clean Gas Bi-Fuel Drive by TOYOTA
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It’s a GAS! Corolla Altis 1.6E Advanced CNG

The ol’ Rolling Stones rock ‘n’ roll band had a global hit in the 60s called Jumping Jack Flash … "it’s a gas, gas, gas." In those days the all cars were driven by gasoline (petrol) also called benzene. Thai “naam mann”.

Flash forward to 2010. Since petrol, gasohol (petrol and alcoh-ol) and diesel fuels are becoming more and more expensive natural gas is now the new economical and environmentally friendly alternative. Remember the black smoke belching Bangkok diesel buses. Those days are gone since BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration) installed CNG in the entire bus fleet. Late 2009 Thailand’s leading car maker Toyota launched its gas version of world popular Corolla model called the Corolla Altis Advanced 1.6E CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) the first factory made gas car in Thailand. No retro fit (do it your self installation) or Somsak’s corner garage installation.

CarSanook! tested the vehicle for a couple of days in Bangkok.
The 10th generation Toyota Corolla a car that has outsold all other four door compacts worldwide, more than 30 million Corollas have been produced, according to Toyota.

The looks: Compact and modern design. I like the multi layered front grill, the new headlamps and the protruding crimson red tail light cluster. The new styling feels fresh like those wing mirrors come with integrated turn indicators for additional safety especially during night driving.

Our test car came in a super white paint job. As you know, white is the new black when it comes to vehicle color charts in Thailand today and white vehicle is much cooler than a black especially in Thailand with April month temperatures hitting 40+ Centigrade. Step in side. Beige and light brown materials and some faux wood on the dashboard (which the English still call fascia) creating contrast – very Toyota. The upholstery and materials have a quality feel, user friendly and functional.

I especially liked the chunky air conditioning and radio/CD controls. And since this is a bi-fuel vehicle there is a separate little CNG meter and petrol/CNG switch on the dash board. When the natural gas runs out the system automatically switches to petrol and the gauge switches gas to petrol. No worries. Let’s look under the skin of this gas automobile.

The engine room is looks just like any Corolla apart from the extra gas lines and injector wiring. But in the trunk (British English the boot also German for boat) under the dark felt-lined cover we find a tidily installed 75-liter yellow chromium molybdenum tank capable of holding roughly 15kg of CNG. There is a weight increase as the heavy duty “gas tank” filled up adds 80 kg to the curb weight of the vehicle.

On the road the Toyota Corolla CNG version feels like most of the 1,6 liter Japanese four doors sedans. In comparison with the petrol versions our CNG tester felt bit slower on the uptake but steady once reaching cruising speed circa 120 kph. This because the extra weight and the CNG combustion properties.
The CNG also called NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle) running cost are less than one Thai baht per kilometer. Or roughly 60% less than standard petrol or gasohol vehicles. We managed approximately 13 km/kg of CNG or a running cost of only THB 0.67 per km which is about four times cheaper than running on E10 gasohol. Toyota CNG is still covered by the usual three-year/100,000km bumper to bumper warranty.

CarSanook! verdict: This Toyota CNG is loaded with the lowest running cost among the mass market sedans in the Kingdom and with the 2,000 CNG pumps now in operation and more being built makes this the perfect Bangkok home and workplace chugging CNG / NVG is absolutely a gas. gas, gas. And gas vehicles has been around since 1860 – but we didn’t know.

The bottom line? The sticker price. How much? The automatic petrol-CNG bi-fuel version of Corolla Altis costs THB 859,000.

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