In 1966 the Toyota Motor Company debuted a vehicle that would become synonymous with reliability, quality, comfort and affordability. Welcome the Toyota Corolla.
If you travel the world today, you’ll find a Corolla. With more than 50 million Corollas manufactured since 1966, this little car has had an adventurous life.
Let’s dive down the rabbit hole on the history of the world’s best selling vehicle nameplate.
1st Generation 1966-1970
Designed as a family car that would meet the growing demands of the Japanese public.
The Corolla was created with features previously only found in luxury vehicles.
Floor mounted manual gear shifter, bucket type front seats, higher roof, making the interior more roomy and the 1.1 litre K-series engine that produced 60PS (59HP) at 6000 rpm.
Until it was replaced with the 1.2 litre 3K engine that produced 68PS (67HP) at 6000 rpm.
2nd Generation 1970-1974
Making it better became the new challenge that the Toyota design team now faced.
Following the public’s new found respect of the 1st Gen Corolla, Toyota had to up the ante.
Not just add to it like so many other car manufactures had tried and failed previously, but to step it up.
So Toyota stepped up, more curves on the body, better suspension, also more body types and of course the birth of the Levin Coupe.
The Corolla Levin Coupe with the T-series 2T-G engine that is recognisable among motorsport and JDM fans alike. The 2T-G 1.6 litre twin cam produced 115PS (113HP) at 6400 rpm.
3rd Generation 1974-1979
Changing it up this time with the 3rd Gen being labelled as the “ultimate family car”.
During this generation Toyota made safety and comfort a standard feature within the Corolla range. Seatbelts with emergency locking retractors, improved emissions due to overseas policy changes that Japan had adopted, and a new pillar-less design.
So many other features went into the 3rd Gen overall, most of which focused on safety, user comfort and reliability.
While the Levin now had fuel injection producing 115PS (113HP) at 6000 rpm including higher emissions restrictions.
4th Generation 1979-1983
Luxurious but economical family car. Welcome the era of increased disposable income.
During the 4th Gen Corolla, luxury was what the people wanted. So accordingly Toyota delivered in the form of greater comfort with an entirely new rear suspension setup, moving away from rear leaf suspension. Rack and pinion steering was now available.
Automatic air conditioning, electric mirrors and quite a bit more.
Sporting the new 3A-U engine that produced 80PS (78HP) at 5600 rpm with consistent power throughout the rev range.
Annual exports of the 4th Gen were 500,000 units sold to 116 countries and a total export of 4,730,000 units.
5th Generation 1983-1987
Delivering space and style to a younger generation.
With Toyota introducing a front wheel drive option in the family range, but staying with rear wheel drive on the sports models. Now Toyota now could offer more options in what is the world’s best selling car. With more safety features than before, including a crush-able body design to crumple in a controlled way during a collision. The Corollas design was setting a standard that the world would follow.
Say hello to the AE86 with the 4A-GE engine, to all JDM fans if you know then you know.
4A-GE oh where to begin, from rally to race and of course drifting, this engine has done it with elegance and pride. The 4A-GE engine is still highly sought after by its global fan base.
Producing 130PS (128HP) at 6600 rpm not much by today’s standards but back then oh yeah there’s that feeling.
6th Generation 1987-1991
Simplicity with slight curves. The 6th Gen Corolla focused on a new design that would propel the Corolla to a greater standard across the range and the world.
Features included better noise damping for a peaceful drive, electronic modulated suspension creating a pleasurable driving experience, all models now had front wheel options and front disk brakes across the entire range with greater braking force provided by a brake booster.
7th Generation 1992-1997
With global production of 4,300 units per day, the Toyota Corolla was truly the world’s most popular car.
New advancements that include, double lock waterproof connections and gold plated terminals for improved electrical connections. Increased dimensions for more passenger space and comfort which was noticeable in the rear seats.
Improved body strength using more high-tensile steel also a drivers airbag became standard on all models.
The 1.6 litre 4A-FE engine produced 113BHP at 6000 rpm.
8th Generation 1997-2001
Winner of the manufacturers championship in the 1999 World Rally Championship.
Now with twin front airbags and three-point seat belts as standard across the range, Remote central locking on all models.
1.4 and 1.6 litre engines using VVT-i Toyotas highly regarded Variable Valve Timing-intelligent and a radio aerial embedded in the rear window.
The Corolla has now been Japan’s best selling car for the last 28 years.
9th Generation 2000-2006
Feeling comfy. The exterior design was penned in Europe.
The interior roof height was increased by 90mm giving more internal space.
Sadly this was the end of the 4A-GE engine, but say hello to the 1.8 litre 2ZZ-GE, which was also available in a limited run of 250 units as the Corolla Compressor in Europe. The Corolla Compressor also has a more aggressive styling, lowered suspension and wheels unique to the variant. The Corolla Compressor, with its supercharged 2ZZ-GE producing 215 BHP.
1.39 million Corollas were sold world wide in 2005.
10th Generation 2007-2012
Known as the first Gen Auris, it became noted as Europe’s first full-production hybrid model.
11th Generation 2013-2018
Second Gen Auris. This re-introduced an estate version to Toyota’s C-segment line.
12th Generation 2019 onwards
At this point in the game Toyota now has 20 years of hybrid leadership in the industry.
The new Corolla debuted with Toyota’s dual hybrid 2.0 litre self charging electric powertrain boasting 178 BHP, and is also available in 1.8 litre hybrid and a 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 6 speed manual gearbox.
With increased overall length, height and a lower bonnet to improve the driver’s field of view.
All hatchback’s models now feature a roof spoiler and shark fin antenna.
LED lighting and a wagon variant that’s truly of its own and not just an extended hatchback.
All new interior design and materials, keeping up the tradition of making it new. A tradition that Toyota has consistently kept from the very beginning of the Carolla’s existence.
Where to from here?
Saying the name Toyota Corolla amongst a group of friends will pretty much guarantee a conversation.
This car has been around the world and back, changing every time with safety, comfort and enjoyable drivability being its key focus for the whole journey.
I personally look forward to seeing what the future holds for this wonderful little car, I say that as the first car I purchased was an AE92 Corolla.
With hybrid tech becoming an industry standard and getting better in every way with each new version that hits the market, I truly hope that Toyota stays with its ideology of making it better and affordable for everyone. Dear I say the Corolla is the perfect little family car that has inspired safety, and enjoyment for many past, present and future designs.
Thank you Toyota for creating something truly amazing and fun to drive.
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