There are very few cars that can come close to the Toyota Corolla regarding ubiquitous cars. Over 49 million units have been sold globally. It is proof of the build quality and dependability that many customers have associated with the brand. While the Corolla doesn’t have the flashiest appearance, its continuing mass-market appeal is a testament that many still choose function over form.
Corolla in Latin means small crown. The name was derived from the Toyota Crown. More than 50 years along with 12 generations, the car is still the king of the compact passenger car. Let’s take a look back at the Toyota Corolla evolution.
First Generation 1966 – 1970
The small car made its debut in 1966. For its two and four-door models, the original Corolla came with a semi-fastback body style. There was also an estate version with two doors. The bodies used an electrophoretic as well as electrostatic body coating.
Toyota Corolla 1966 - 1970
In terms of interior, the car offered amenities like a centre console, heater, radio, and armrests. Toyota introduced a floor-mounted shifter, which was the first for a Japanese car. The rear seating of the Corolla was so generous that it was comparable to a living room sofa.
The car used a 1.1L engine with a high-mounted camshaft and a five-bearing crankshaft.
Second Generation 1970 – 1974
The second generation was introduced in 1970. Following the booming of the Japanese economy, personal mobility became increasingly important.
The second-generation car had bigger exterior dimensions. Toyota also added a new coupe body style. The front seats had higher seatbacks and an increased sliding range. Other amenities include air-conditioning, AM/FM car stereo, and windscreen washers.
Toyota Corolla 1970 - 1974
Engine choices were the standard 1.2L or a 1.4L. For extended range, a larger 45-litre fuel tank was added.
Toyota released the high-performance Corolla Levin variant in 1972 with a Solex-carburetted 1.6L 2T-G twin-cam.
Third Generation 1974 – 1979
Toyota wanted to make an ultimate family car when it was designing its third-generation Corolla. The car not only had to keep up with the success of its predecessors but also had to follow the U.S. Clean Air Act.
The third-generation vehicle had a more angular body style. For the Coupe variant, the B-pillar was removed.
Toyota Corolla 1974 - 1979
A one-piece moulded headliner allowed ample headroom. Switches were placed at the centre console. The front seats were tipped by a foot-operated device to improve access to the rear.
A new engine lineup was used, together with the Toyota Total Clean System.
Fourth Generation 1979 – 1983
The release of the fourth-generation Corolla came just when Japan was recovering from the global oil crisis. The model was said to be an economical but luxurious family car. Five body styles were offered at that time: two- and four-door sedan, coupe, hardtop, van, and liftback. In 1982, Toyota added an estate version.
Toyota Corolla 1979 - 1983
The interior was redesigned and seating was improved. The new Corolla used the new 1.5L 3A-U engine accompanied by the 1.3L and 1.5L engines from the previous generation.
Fifth Generation 1983 – 1987
The fifth-generation Corolla was introduced in May 1983 with the most comprehensive change. Toyota used computer technology to design the exterior, develop the engine and manage control of the gearbox and engine.
The sedan, liftback, and hatchback models used a front-wheel drivetrain. Meanwhile, the coupes had the rear-wheel-drive. The rounded wedge silhouette and the slanted nose became the signature of the car.
Toyota Corolla 1983 - 1987
A lowered floor helped maximize the interior space with the steering wheel moved forward and a more vertical rear window adopted. Power front windows and central door locking became standard equipment.
The engine lineup included the 1.3L, 1.5L and the 1.6L.
Sixth Generation 1987 – 1991
The seventh-generation Corolla came in either all-wheel-drive or front-wheel. It was a result of more than 2,000 proposals made by the development team who worked with over 100 parts manufacturers.
Toyota Corolla 1987-1991
The new model had rounded edges with a wide and low stance and a prominent shoulder line for the illusion of length. The interior was further improved with extensive soundproofing, more ergonomic instrument placement, and easy-to-reach controls. Toyota also increased storage spaces.
Engines included a 1.3L 2E, 1.5L 5A, 1.6L, 1.5L 3E, and 1.8L 1C diesel.
Seventh Generation 1991 – 1995
By this time, the car was already one of the most popular cars in the world with about 4,300 units manufactured daily. The inspiration for the new car was taken from the Lexus LS 400 but with a more curvy design. Toyota used polycarbonate to make the headlamps and integrated the front bumper into the galvanized steel body.
Toyota Corolla 1991 - 1995
The overall dimensions of the cabin interior were increased, creating more passenger space. The sedan model had a 420-litre trunk space.
Engines included 1.3L and 1.6L engines. In 1993, Toyota introduced a new 2.0L diesel engine in the UK market.
Eighth Generation 1995 – 2000
Toyota used extensive computer analysis to design the eighth-generation Corolla to save the weight of up to 70 kg by optimizing the body structure.
Toyota Corolla 1995 - 2000
Design input from Europe led to a more stylish aesthetic. The version for the European market was recognized internationally.
Engine lineup included a 1.3L, a 1.6L, and a 2.0L diesel.
Ninth Generation 2000 – 2006
The ninth-generation Corolla was the first to be designed in Europe with 5 versions offered including sedan, estate, three-and five-door hatchback, soft-roader, and MPV.
Toyota extended the wheelbase by 135 mm, reduced the overhangs, and increased the average roof height by 90mm.
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Toyota Corolla 2000 - 2006
The cabin used soft-touch plastics with more visible switches. The Corolla also had Optitron gauges that were found on Lexus flagship models. Nine engines were installed. Toyota decided to remove the coupe body style and the 3A-GE twin-cam engine.
Tenth Generation 2006 – 2012
The tenth-generation came in two platforms: the standard E140 chassis for the Japanese market and the bigger E150 for overseas markets.
Toyota Corolla 2006 - 2012
The exterior of the car was more angular. The overseas models still kept the Japan-market interior. Engines included a 1.6L and a 2.0L.
Eleventh Generation 2012 – 2018
The eleventh-generation had an international design with a sloping roofline and raked windshield.
Toyota Corolla 2012 - 2018
The car still had smaller dimensions to follow government regulations. The versions for the Japanese market offered a hybrid option. Engines included a 1.3L, a 1.5L, and a 1.8L. For overseas versions, there were a 1.2L, a 1.8L, and a 2.0L.
Twelfth Generation 2018 – Present
The current version shares with the Lexus UX the Toyota New Global Architecture platform. The latest model comes in three styles including sedan, station wagon, and hatchback. 11 engines are offered including 1.8L and 2.0L hybrid power plants.
Toyota Corolla 2018 - present