The Toyota Corolla is a compact car produced by Toyota of Japan, known worldwide for its reliability, conventional engineering, and low fuel consumption. In 1997, the Corolla became the best selling nameplate in the world. Toyota has sold over 35 million Corollas since its launch in 1966, making it the best selling car of all time. Within Toyota’s current inventory line-up of American cars, only the Land Cruiser is an older name than the Corolla.
The first Toyota Corolla was launched in Japan in October 1966, and exports to the United States began in 1968 at about $1,700USD. First generation models included a 2-door sedan, 2-door coupe (aka Corolla Sprinter), 4-door sedan, and 3-door wagon. In 1970, the Toyota Corolla became the number 2 best selling import in the US.
Second Generation (1971–1974)
The second-generation (E20 Series) appeared in 1970 for the 1971 model year and had “coke-bottle” styling. It had a longer wheelbase than the previous generation. The front suspension design was improved greatly, using a swaybar, however the rear remained relatively the same. A 5-door wagon was added. Grades for sedan were Standard, Deluxe, and Hi-Deluxe. The coupe was offered in Deluxe, SL, SR, SR-5, and Levin GT. The TE-27 Levin GT is featured in Auto Modellista, a racing video game by Capcom.
Third Generation (1975–1979)
The third-generation Toyota Corolla (E30, E40 & E50 Series), built from 1974-81 (worldwide versions), marked Toyota’s greatest growth in the United States. Road & Track was critical of the 1975 Corolla, however, calling it “large and heavy” and “expensive” compared to the Honda Civic and Datsun B210. They also criticized the “relatively crude rear suspension” and lack of interior space and poor fuel economy when compared to the VW Rabbit. The base model cost US $2,711 in 1975, but one needed to step up to the $2,989 “deluxe” to get features comparable to the contemporary pack. However emissions became a problem further into the 1970s and the 4K engine became popular because of its low fuel consumption.
Fourth Generation (1980–1983)
The fourth-generation model (E70 Series) was released in 1979. It was boxy and was the last generation to have the enitire lineup in rear wheel drive. The fourth generation was the last series with a 2-door sedan and 3-door wagon. Although most of the fourth generation was replaced by 1984, the station wagon and van versions were offered into 1987.
Fifth Generation (1984–1987)
The fifth generation (E80 Series) is generally regarded as the most popular Corolla when measured against its contemporaries, and some 3.3 million units were produced. This model, from 1984, moved the Corolla into front wheel drive, except for the SR-5 and GT-S which continued on the older rear wheel drive platform, along with the three-door “liftback” (E72), three-door van (E70) and five-door wagon (E70) of the previous generation, that were still being produced.
A hot DOHC 16-valve engine, designated “blue/black top” 4A-GE, was added in 1983 on the rear-drive cars. It was a 1.6 L (1587 cc) I4 and produced an impressive 124 hp, turning the Sprinter Trueno (Japan), Corolla GT Coupe (Europe) and Corolla GT-S into a popular sports car. This engine was also combined with the front-drive transaxle to power the mid-engined Toyota MR2.
The two-door coupes and three-door liftback forms were notable for the line’s first use of pop-up headlamps, which the equivalent Corolla Levin sports models did not have. These SR-5 and GT-S models have been immortalized in the anime series Initial D, and have been also featured in the computer and video games: Need for Speed; Underground 2; Gran Turismo 3 & 4; and Auto Modelista.
A new short back hatchback (3- and 5-door) Corolla FX, built at the US NUMMI plant, appeared in 1987. It was available with either SOHC or DOHC engines, the latter marketed as the FX-16.
Also in 1987, the first US-assembled Corolla rolled off the assembly line in Fremont, California.
Sixth Generation (1988–1992)
The sixth generation front-wheel-drive Corolla (E90 Series) was introduced in 1987. The all wheel drive Sprinter Carib wagon used a solid axle rear suspension with coil springs, while the rest used struts all around. It was sold from 1988 to 1994 and had different bodywork to other Corollas. It was called the All-Trac in the US and sold with the Tercel or Corolla name in some countries. The Corolla All-Trac Sedan was sold in very small numbers.
The North American models feature longer bumpers and small red indicator lights on the quarter panels. Minor changes for 1991 model years were Toyota (T) ellipse emblem on the grille, all-red tail lights, door-mounted and manual lap front seat belts, and new wheelcovers for DX.
1988 marked the 10th anniversary of the Corolla in the US and a major milestone: the sale of the 10 millionth unit. American production of the sedan took place at NUMMI and Cambridge, Ontario.
SR-5 and GT-S models (AE92 body) now came in the FWD platform. Both models still featured a more sporty design with flip-up headlights and is arguably the better looking Corolla design when compared to the older AE86 rear wheel model. The GT-S came with a slightly upgraded “red/top” 4A-GE twin can engine during years 1988 & 1989 wich featured a 5 rib block design for greater durability. In 1990 & 1991 the GT-S received the rare “silver top” 4A-GE witch removed the TVIS system and introduced a higher 10:1 compression allowing this engine to put out 140hp compared to the older “blue-top’s” 116hp in american models. In years 1990 & 1991 the SR-5’s 4A-F got upgraded with feul injection making it a 4A-FE. 1991 was the last year the SR-5 and GT-S were sold in the US.
Seventh Generation (1993–1997)
In June 1991, the seventh generation Corolla (E100 Series) was introduced for the 1993 model year. It was larger, heavier, and more expensive, with development chief Dr Akihiko Saito wanting to develop a ‘mini-Lexus’, after success with that range’s flagship. It had a rounded body shell and featured driver airbag SRS. With its 97 in (2465 mm) wheelbase, the Corolla had moved into the compact size class once occupied by the Toyota Corona and Camry. The coupe was dropped for North America, replaced by the Paseo.
The LE was discontinued for 1996, and the base is also offered with CE Package. Sport Corollas were no longer imported during and after this generation as well as 4WD versions.
In 1997, the 20 millionth Corolla rolled out from the factory to the showroom.
Eighth Generation (1998-2002)
The eighth generation Corolla (E110 Series) received a head-to-toe makeover, including a new engine and safety features. All North American Corollas were now being built in California (by NUMMI) or Canada (by TMMC). A new all-aluminum engine powered all Corollas and made this generation lighter than its predecessor. In the US market only sedans were offered. Grades were VE, CE, and LE. The Touring Package with side skirts, a whiteface instrument cluster, and aluminum wheels are reserved for CE and LE. VVT-i variable valve timing was added to the engine for 2000. For 2001 model year, the VE was deleted, the CE became the base model and the sporty S was added as the replacement of the Touring Package.
Ninth Generation (2003 – 2008)
The ninth Corolla generation (E120 Series) came to the United States in Spring 2002 as a 2003 model. It is also known as the Corolla Altis in Southeast Asia. The 2003 Toyota Corolla had a lengthened wheelbase of 102.4 inches (5 inches longer than the previous model). This is the same length wheelbase as the original 1983 Camry. The car was powered by a 1.8-liter DOHC, 16-valve engine rated at 130-hp. For the 2005 model year, a sporty XRS model was introduced. It was powered by a high-revving 172-hp 2ZZ-GE engine and 6-Speed manual from the Toyota Celica GT-S and Lotus Elise.
The Corolla has also spawned another multi-purpose vehicle, the Toyota Matrix, sold in Canada and the United States, and forms the basis of the Pontiac Vibe.
In 2005, the 30 millionth Corolla rolled out from the factory to the showroom.