- Toyota Badge (credit: wallpapersafari.com)

The rise of the Toyota Corolla

How did this small economic car become so influential?

8w ago
16K

The Toyota Corolla took the world by storm when it was released in 1966. Becoming one of the best-selling cars in history. And was one of the cars that shifted the American market from big gas-guzzling V8s to smaller Asian made fuel-efficient cars. A car that would help change the world, and continues to influence the American market today.

The Corolla was perfectly timed in 1966, marketed as a small, affordable, and economical family car for the Japanese market. It featured an all-new suspension system. And a new 1.1-liter, 44 horsepower engine under the hood. The Corolla stood out from the regular 1-liter family cars of the competition. The Corolla was first available as a two-door sedan, but later had a four-door sedan version, and a wagon version as well.

First Generation Corolla (credit: Tumblr)

First Generation Corolla (credit: Tumblr)

During the first generation of the Corolla, the engine was expanded to the 1.2-liter engine, which produced 67 horsepower. Toyota also went out of its way to make the Corolla safe not only by Japanese standards, but also by the far stricter American standards. This would be a very smart move by Toyota, as the history would later prove.

The second generation of the Corolla came out in 1970. And it captured the Japanese domestic market for family cars as the first generation before it did. This built-up Toyota brand loyalty in Japan, and the Corolla would begin to be exported. The changes done to this generation of Corolla was the enlarged body, increased comfort and suspension, along with better handling.

By 1970, over one million Corollas had been sold, breaking the record for the Corolla. This second generation Corolla had a 1.4-liter engine. And it was released as a two-door sedan, four-door sedan, and a two door wagon. Like the previous generation. But where this generation differed was with the introduction of the two-door coupe version of the Corolla.

Second Generation Corolla Coupe (credit: Pinterest)

Second Generation Corolla Coupe (credit: Pinterest)

When the second generation was launched it was a success with the Japanese market. With several new features as standard, such as things like air conditioning, windshield washers, and an AM/FM radio. All of these features were considered luxurious for the 1970s and the Corolla was groundbreaking by making them standard in an affordable family car.

Where the Corolla really shined in the United States was during the 1970s oil crisis. The American consumer was hurt by the shortage of fuel for their big gas-guzzling V8s, and the Japanese cars began to take over as a result. Mainly due to their reliability and fuel-economy. Starting the trend that would continue to this day.

The third generation of Corolla came out in 1974, and by this point Toyota had a loyal fanbase in Japan, and in the United States. Regardless of this, Toyota's competitors were still trying to beat them when it came to fuel-economy and safety. As a result, Toyota spared no resources trying to beat its competitors, and it succeeded in that regard. Making the superior car when it came to safety, fuel-economy, and met all the increasingly strict emissions restrictions.

Corollas were synonymous with reliability by this point; however, this generation of Corolla had some engine issues. To meet new emissions regulations Toyota had to change their engine lineup to a new 1.6U-liter, and a 1.4U-liter engine. The U meaning that a new exhaust emissions regulation device was attached to the engine. These engines were lacking in power, and would have reliability issues. These engines would later be replaced with a smaller and more environmentally friendly engine that used a lean combustion technique.

Third Generation Corolla (credit: garagedreams.net)

Third Generation Corolla (credit: garagedreams.net)

This generation of the Corolla came available with the standard sedan, coupe, and wagon models that it had come with before. The coupe version was taken out of production early on in the generation, but was later reinstated. Toyota also made a new hatchback version of the Corolla, which wasn't a very big seller in the Japanese market, but was loved by the international consumer. The third generation Corolla was breaking sales records for Toyota in the international market, and 3,755,029 cars were sold in total. Making the Corolla a household name all throughout the world by this point.

In 1979, the fourth generation Corolla was released. And after the oil crisis of the 1970s was over, the consumer was more dependent on buying fuel-efficient cars. And the Corolla sales boomed as always due to this. The new Corolla was fitted with a new 1.5U-liter engine for this generation. And this new engine was highly regarded as a very good fit for this Corolla. This new Corolla produced 79 horsepower out of this new engine. There were other engine variants available at launch, such as the 1.3-liter, and the 1.6 liter. And later in the generation there was the 1.8-liter, which was discounted in less than a year, due to the updates done on the 1.5 and 1.3-liter engines.

And in 1982, Toyota announced the 1.8-liter diesel engine. The first diesel ever in the Corolla lineup. The power was lower than other models however. Only having a small 64 horsepower. On the bright side though, the diesel Corolla got amazing fuel-economy. The suspension and brakes were updated in this generation of the Corolla.

Fourth Generation Corolla (credit: toyota-global.com)

Fourth Generation Corolla (credit: toyota-global.com)

Toyota, being consistent and continuous with innovation, updated the interior for this generation as they did with all others. This generation featured a complete makeover of the interior however, unlike the previous generations which changed the interior up a bit. The seats were changed as well, with the coupe having bucket seats now. The sedan had a bench seat in the rear seats, and the hatchback received a new reclining seat setup.

The car boomed in sales. Being praised by the common consumer, enthusiast, and the automotive journalist alike, the Corolla sold well. As a result, however, Toyota could not produce enough Corollas to satisfy the demand and a total of 4,730,000 cars were built.

In 1983, a new generation of Corolla was produced. The fifth generation was intended to appeal to a younger generation of consumer. This was also the first time that front wheel drive was added to a Corolla. This generation of Corolla became the top selling car in Japan, and would continue to sell greatly in the world market.

Fifth Generation Corolla (credit: Wikipedia)

Fifth Generation Corolla (credit: Wikipedia)

This Corolla was chosen to be made with an additional front-wheel drive optional layout, as it was becoming increasingly prevalent in the car market. And was cheaper to produce over the rear-wheel drive layout. Toyota also began using computers heavily in the development process of this new car. This Corolla launched with the 1.5, 1.3, and 1.6-liter engine options. This version produced a 73 horsepower with some engines, and 82 horsepower with other engine variants.

The suspension was newly created for the front-wheel drive, and it was improved for the rear-wheel drive layout. Continuing Toyota's tradition with innovation. Even though the fifth generation Corolla didn't sell very well with older buyers, it sold extremely well with the new generation of buyers. Which was the intended market. This version of the Corolla would also become the best-selling car in the world at the time.

The sixth generation Corolla came out in 1987, with an emphasis on performance, quality, and style. The 1.3 and 1.5-liter engines came standard with this variant. There was also no rear-wheel drive variant for this Corolla. Making front-wheel drive a staple of the Corolla from now on. Along with the front-wheel drive, there was also a four-wheel drive variant for the wagon and sedan versions of the Corolla.

Sixth Generation Corolla (credit: toyota-global.com)

Sixth Generation Corolla (credit: toyota-global.com)

The chassis and handling were improved during this generation as well. More options were added for the car, giving ride settings for the car, such as "soft" and "hard" settings for the ride. Front end disc brakes were made standard throughout this generation, adding the quality of the handling and safety. Sales were also dominating the market; this generation of Corolla's would not have its rales record beat until 2010.

The seventh generation Corolla came out in 1992, and by this time, the Corolla was the highest selling car in the world. Toyota decided to add a more efficient and powerful 1.3-liter engine that produced 84 horsepower. There was also a 1.8-liter option that produced 113 horsepower. There was also the addition of galvanized steel across much of the body of the car, along with upgrades to the suspension and ride quality. Along with a larger interior for the passengers. Adding to the comfort of the car.

The eight generation Corolla came out in 1995, and unlike the previous cars made by Toyota, this was era was intended to make cars created for individual markets instead of trying to make a worldwide people's car.

Eighth Generation Corolla (credit: online.cars)

Eighth Generation Corolla (credit: online.cars)

The engine was revised and updated with a 2.0-liter diesel option for the consumer. This particular version produced 71 horsepower. Along with great fuel efficiency and reliability this version, along with the rest of the eighth generation. The other options for Corolla body styles were the sedan, hatchback, and wagon. Japanese and European customers were given all available options, while American consumers were offered only the sedan version.

The ninth generation Corolla came out in 2000. And it was produced available with a 1.3, 2.0, and a 1.4-liter engine. The Japanese version of the ninth generation Corolla came out in 2000, while the export model would have to wait until 2001, or 2002, depending on the country it would be exported to.

Ninth Generation Corolla (credit: toyota-global.com)

Ninth Generation Corolla (credit: toyota-global.com)

The interior of the ninth generation Corolla was updated to have a more modern and appealing look. Using lighter colors of plastic, and contrast between the dark and light plastic, the new interior was popular, and the car sold well. Primarily due to the standard things that made Corollas sell well. Such as reliability, affordability, and availability of the product.

Things changed significantly during the tenth generation of Corolla. When it came out in 2006, Europe's version of the Toyota Corolla had been renamed to the already popular Toyota, the Auris hatchback. In Japan the Toyota Auris also had been selling well, and was seen as an alternative to the Corolla. The sedan version of the Corolla would continue to be sold as the Corolla however.

Tenth Generation Corolla (credit: pressroom.toyota.com)

Tenth Generation Corolla (credit: pressroom.toyota.com)

This version of the Corolla would also include hybrid technology. Allowing for it to be far more fuel-efficient. Parking assistance that was prevalent in Lexus models, and Toyota Prius models, was also an option for the Corolla of this generation, during the latter part of the generation.

The eleventh generation of the Corolla came out in 2012, and had a revamped look to the previous Corolla. Toyota also prioritized fuel-economy with this generation of the Corolla. Making it their top priority would pay off greatly, as one of this generation of Corolla's main selling points was the amazing fuel-economy.

Eleventh Generation Corolla (credit: Automobile Magazine)

Eleventh Generation Corolla (credit: Automobile Magazine)

The hybrid version would be greatly produced and bought out during this market. And the Corollas from this generation are still popular with many still being common sights on the roads.

The twelfth generation Corolla came out in 2018, and is currently the generation that it is production. It continued with the standard Toyota innovations, and I would love to hear more about the car if any of you have any experiences with it, or any Corolla.

Sources: The Complete History of the Toyota Corolla - Garage Dreams and Rear Wheel Drive Toyota Corolla Cars: 1966-1983 (corolland.com)

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Comments (8)

  • I have a 2007. Feels sturdy as a tank, runs as smooth as it did almost 15 years ago. It’s my prime urban-commute/grocery-wagon.

      1 month ago
  • Good read about the Corolla. I had a 77 that was fantastic, the car even had the original build sheet. It had odd gears in the rear(4.11) which made it lighting quick off the stop lights. Sad to say I sold it after several years and 1 kid later. Wish I still had that car, super reliable and sporty. Been hooked on Toyota ever since.

      1 month ago
  • The thing is, it just works. It's fairly priced, not so cheap that it's throwaway, not so expensive that you need to treat it with care, it's damn reliable, as all Toyotas are, it has no quirks, other being boring, it's economical, easy to run. It's the perfect everyday car for everyone, car lover or not. If you don't care about cars and just want something to take the kids to school and you to work, it will be there all the time, long after you grew tired of it and want a new car, the dogs and kids won't chew through the interior, the ride is good. It's not too slow but won't scare anyone, it's techy enough that you can keep yourself occupied in it.

    For the car lovers, first of all it doesn't say that you're a car lovers, which trust me is a big bonus around normal people, whenever I accidentally got enthusiastic and talk about cars, people just say that they don't understand and don't care about what I'm talking about, it's relatively cheap so you can have an interesting, maybe a track day or classic car for the weekends that can break down, and sorta like keep everyone else away from your precious car without a thought. Plus you can surprise those who thought you're just a normie driving a Corolla by showing up in a more interesting car at an event. The Golf is a similar deal,but it's not sold in as many countries as the Corolla, and in my country at least, VWs are more expensive to buy and run, yet you'd sell them for less than a Toyota.

      1 month ago
  • I think the corrola has gotten better in terms of design every gen, the new one looks A M A Z I N G

      1 month ago
  • Now I can’t wait for the GR Corolla to arrive!

      1 month ago
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