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Twelve generations of the world’s best-selling car: the story of the Toyota Corolla


The first and the eleventh generation maintain the same identity (Toyota)

The most popular vehicle in the world. That “label” is unique and is in the hands of the Toyota Corolla. The first model was presented in Japan in 1966. Available with two different bodies, a two-door and four-door sedan and a two-door station wagon, was designed to be a “car for the people”, although it offered a good build quality and outstanding equipment, with characteristics that were only used to be seen in higher segments.

Inspired by the Latin word for “flower crown”, the name “Corolla” was chosen in the hope that the vehicle would flourish in the automotive market. And that is precisely what he did: in three years, the first generation became the best-selling vehicle in Japan and its popularity soon spread to other countries.

Depending on the brand, deep analysis and incorporation of customer feedback were always an integral part of the development of each new model generation. As a consequence, in all the new versions that reach the market, Toyota still maintains the DNA of the first model, adding technological and quality improvements to continue offering a product that continues to make all its users fall in love with the best price-quality ratio in all markets of the world.

The last generation incorporated hybrid engines for our region (Toyota)
The last generation incorporated hybrid engines for our region (Toyota)

The 50-year history of the Corolla

In November 1966, Toyota opened a new plant in Takaoka, in Aichi Prefecture (Japan), dedicated exclusively to the production of Corolla. Two years later, production began in Australia and Malaysia, focusing on region-specific vehicles.

Between 1965 and 1968, Toyota long doubled its total annual production, from 480,000 to 1.1 million vehicles, a testament to Corolla’s remarkable contribution to the company’s growth. Exports to North America started in 1968, and rapid commercial success in this market helped cumulative worldwide sales reach one million units just four years after launch.

In Europe, the Corolla was introduced in April 1967. European production, at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Turkey (TMMT), in Sakarya, Turkey, began with the seventh generation of the model in 1994.

The rudimentary interior of the first generation (Toyota)
The rudimentary interior of the first generation (Toyota)

In 1997, Corolla became the world’s best-selling model, with cumulative worldwide sales of more than 22.65 million units. By 2013, 40 million Corolla units had already been sold globally. From 2002 onwards, the commercialization exceeded one million copies a year.

First generation (1966-1970)

Led by Tatsuo Hasegawa, Head of Development, the Corolla designers set out to captivate the hearts of the general public. The main objective was to create a sporty model, both by image and by driving feel.

First generation - Toyota Corolla
First generation – Toyota Corolla

This revolutionary new vehicle was offered with various body styles and It adopted numerous innovative technologies never before seen in the Japanese market, such as the MacPherson suspension or the four-speed transmission. The model range consisted of a two-door sedan, a four-door sedan and a two-door station wagon.

Second generation (1970-1974)

The great challenge for the engineers and designers of the Japanese brand was to reissue the success of the first model in this new generation. Under the motto of “a completely revamped Corolla”, its exterior design evolved with fresh lines, while, under the chassis, a larger leaf spring rear suspension improved ride comfort and handling.

Second generation - Toyota Corolla
Second generation – Toyota Corolla

In 1972, the range was expanded to four body types, with the launch of a coupe. With its renowned 2T-G engine, the Corolla Levin version became the vehicle of choice for sports car enthusiasts.

Third generation (1974-1979)

The year 1974 was a turning point in Corolla history. The strict regulations on emissions forced to redesign the engine and the exhaust system to be able to market the new generation. As a result, Toyota spearheaded the development of catalytic converters, which are still used today.

Third generation - Toyota Corolla
Third generation – Toyota Corolla

This series also benefited from another technological innovation: the wind tunnel. This advancement gave it an improved exterior design to cut through the air more efficiently. In addition, the interior, quality and ergonomics also took a quality leap, and the Corolla began to position itself as an economical model that offered features of the higher-end vehicles.

Fourth generation (1979-1983)

In 1979, after going through another oil crisis, the Japanese economy managed to recover. With that renewed optimism, the fourth generation Corolla jumped onto the world stage. It had been rethought as a luxurious yet economical family vehicle, with superior performance that met the diverse needs of users. In a context where aerodynamics played a larger role in vehicle design, the new Corolla was tuned for more than 400 hours in the wind tunnel.

Fourth generation - Toyota Corolla
Fourth generation – Toyota Corolla

To avoid a radical break with a design and concept that had increasingly loyal customers, the Corolla evolved within continuity, with sharp lines on a more boxy style. Underbody, comfort and stability were improved with a new four-link coil suspension and, to meet environmental pressures, a new 1.8-liter diesel engine was introduced.

Fifth generation (1983-1987)

In your role as head of development, Fumio Agetsuma set out to make this generation as innovative as possible. This new model It was the first to be created with the help of a computer, saving time and resources on engine and exterior design. With its sloping front end and rounded shape, the new vehicle was the first in the series to feature front-wheel drive, a challenge for the engineers.

Fifth generation - Toyota Corolla
Fifth generation – Toyota Corolla

Rear-wheel drive coupe options focused on sports car features through a 1.5 or 1.6-liter engine. This last variant, commonly known as the Hachi-Roku (eight-six in Japanese), in reference to the chassis code (AE86), was the last front-engined, rear-wheel drive Corolla.

Sixth generation (1987-1991)

In 1987, the key word in the development of the new Corolla was quality: both in the sensations that the vehicle conveyed and in the way it would make its owners feel. For the engineers, it was essential that this new vehicle not only satisfied its owners, but that it captivated them with higher quality.

Sixth generation - Toyota Corolla
Sixth generation – Toyota Corolla

More than 2,000 enhancements were proposed to more than 100 component manufacturers to increase performance, from reducing noise levels to introducing soft-touch materials on the console and buttons.

Seventh generation (1991-1995)

It was one of the series that had to fight the most with changes in the industry and the arrival of new competitors. The structure and chassis had been modified from its predecessor and customers were not entirely satisfied with the perceived changes.

Seventh generation - Toyota Corolla
Seventh generation – Toyota Corolla

Its aesthetics took more rounded lines and the designers paid special attention to offering a larger space for the whole family. It was made in Japan, the United States, Canada, and Venezuela.

Eighth generation (1995-2000)

With a shrinking economy in Japan, the development team set out to create a model that goes back to its origins, following the motto of “a car for the people”. This generation became a more efficient and cheaper vehicle to buy and maintain.

Eighth generation - Toyota Corolla
Eighth generation – Toyota Corolla

Toyota’s strategy was excellent because they managed to recover it, turning it into a vehicle that transcended generations and nationalities and evolved to become the best-selling vehicle in Japan.

Ninth generation (2000-2006)

One of the great changes of this model was in this generation because for the first time it was designed in Europe. This specimen, whose mission was to break with the past and set a bar for the 21st century, was developed from scratch with the goal of being popular and inexpensive.

Ninth generation - Toyota Corolla
Ninth generation – Toyota Corolla

It added a wide variety of engines, improved its ride comfort and stood out for the quality of its interior.

Tenth generation (2006-2013)

With the release of the 10th generation, a new design direction arrived. Developer Soichiro Okudaira wanted the new Corolla to have a global perspective and scale. Dynamic performance was up there with the best in Europe, while ease of use and space were enhanced for the North American market.

Tenth generation - Toyota Corolla
Tenth generation – Toyota Corolla

For this development, Engineers followed the five-minute print rule, whereby customers would appreciate the quality of this new model within five minutes of driving.

Eleventh generation (2013-2019)

It hit the market with the title of “the world’s best-selling vehicle.” With more than 44 million Corollas sold in more than 50 years, the launch introduced a new exterior style, with a particular emphasis on perceived quality and superior levels of safety and technological equipment.

Eleventh generation - Toyota Corolla
Eleventh generation – Toyota Corolla

As in the previous generation, Toyota presented two alternative versions, which were very different from each other in terms of their designs. These new generations were developed to meet the demands of different marketsThe E160 version being destined for the Japanese market and the E170 for other markets, including America.

Twelfth generation (2019-present)

This new model is built on the new GA-C platform, derived from the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which, according to the brand, allows to combine an attractive design with a superior level of stability and driving feel.

Twelfth generation - Toyota Corolla
Twelfth generation – Toyota Corolla

In terms of design, the front end is an evolution of the “Under Priority” design philosophy and the rear styling reproduces the front execution through the shape of the bumper and the inverted trapezoidal design of the trunk lid. It is probably one of the cutest generations of the model.

This evolution added hybrid engines and added comfort and safety equipment.

Recognized around the world, the Toyota Corolla has already sold almost 50 million units in more than 150 countries.

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