Proudly Corolla

The Toyota Corolla

There is a saying that goes: “It’s not where you from it’s where you’re at”.  We disagree. Because throughout history we’ve seen that the most successful people have powerful family trees. So knowing where you come from plays a crucial role in the trail you blaze for yourself. Regardless of the space you find yourself in.

That is true for cars as well. More so for none other than our beloved Corolla.

The “Era of the Family Car” started in 1966. It was in November of that year that the first Corolla — aimed at the Japanese general public — rolled onto the market to much fanfare. In the 47 years since, the Corolla has continued to evolve thanks to a philosophy of “always staying ahead of the times.”

Today, with a total production of 40 million vehicles and sales in more than 150 countries and regions, the Toyota Corolla has been recognized as “The World’s Most Popular Car”

The 2014 Toyota Corolla

The birth of a worldwide Corolla was made possible thanks to innovative thinking, technology and managerial decision-making that went on behind the scenes at Toyota Motor Corporation. All of these comprise the evolving elements of the “Corolla DNA,” which has been passed down from generation to generation within the Toyota Motor Corporation.

Let’s look back at the original concepts that were calculated to make the first Corolla a success.

The first-generation 1100cc Corolla went on sale in November of 1966.
The total population had passed the 100 million mark, spending for television advertisements was overtaking spending for newspaper advertisements, the economy was picking up steam, and the term “3 C’s” (air-Conditioners, Colour televisions and Cars) was on everybody’s lips.

“People are living in nuclear families out in the suburbs, which means they’ll need family cars to get around. A motorization boom is coming to Japan.”

This was the future that Toyota foresaw coming in just a few years; and this was what prompted the building of a sprawling, 1 square kilometre plant in Takaoka (Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture) devoted exclusively to manufacturing the Corolla. When Toyota announced they planned on manufacturing 30,000 Corollas a month, the media at the time were utterly beside themselves with shock. (At the time, Toyota’s monthly production was approximately 50,000 vehicles.)

The first-generation Corolla had a number of technologies, specifications, systems, etc. that were the first of their kind in Japan and for Toyota.
At the time, column shift transmissions were standard; however, Toyota recognized that floor-shift transmission was already common in Europe and would be required in the coming highway age. Thus the Corolla was equipped with a four-speed floor-shift transmission before other vehicles were. Also, after much research and testing, MacPherson strut suspension — which allows for a larger engine compartment and makes it possible to lighten the vehicle and reduce manufacturing costs — was adopted for the first time in domestic mass production.
A number of other innovative technologies, such as for improving the comfort of seats, increasing rear seat space, raising the height of the roof and adopting the long floor shift lever, gave the Corolla a competitive edge.

Third generation, 1974

Here’s where it all began. It’s not much to look at, wasn’t much of a performer and certainly wasn’t built to lure American drivers away from their plush luxo-barges. But with its water-cooled inline-four and four-speed transmission, the first-generation Corolla represented a big step forward for Toyota — especially compared to its previous vehicles, like the two-cylinder boxer-equipped Publica.

Engine: 1.1-liter I4, 60 hp; 1.2-liter I4, 65 hp
Transmission: four-speed manual, two-speed automatic
Curb weight: 1,521-1,565 lbs.

Fifth generation, 1983-1987

The 1970s fuel crisis made gasoline increasingly unaffordable for American drivers — which meant that American drivers could no longer afford to ignore small, relatively fuel-efficient imports like the third-gen Toyota Corolla. Unfortunately for Toyota the Corolla wasn’t the only Japanese economy car contending for American market share — it faced growing competition from the likes of the first-gen Honda Civic.

Engine: 1.2-liter I4, 55 hp; 1.6-liter I4, 75 hp
Transmission: four-speed manual, five-speed manual, two-speed automatic, three-speed automatic
Curb weight: 1,731-1,940 lbs.

Seventh generation, 1991

The fifth-generation Corolla was something of a global breakout for Toyota, with roughly 3.3 million of the utilitarian vehicles built and sold. Most of these little inline-four powered sedans, coupes and hatches were built on a front-wheel drive platform, putting yet another nail in the cheap, ubiquitous rear-wheel-drive fun coffin.

But, this was also the generation that spawned the lightweight, rear-wheel drive AE86 — you know that black-and-white drift mobile from “Initial D.” When you absolutely, positively have to Rage Your Dream harder than anyone else on the mountain, accept no substitutes.

Engine: 1.6-liter SOHC I4, 90 hp; 1.6-liter DOHC I4, 112 hp
Transmission: five-speed manual, three-speed automatic, four-speed automatic
Curb weight: 1,852-1,918 lbs.

The Toyota Corolla

Eighth generation, 1995

Arriving in North American markets in 1993, the seventh-gen Corolla didn’t really try to be anything more than a reliable, affordable transportation appliance for a market craving reliable, affordable transportation appliances.

It was beige, but so what? We still see these Corollas on the road occasionally, even in salty Michigan — which is a pretty strong testament to their reliability. We’d probably see them even more often if their styling didn’t keep them from flying far, far below our visual radar.

Engine: 1.6-liter DOHC I4, 100 hp/105 hp; 1.8-liter DOHC I4, 105 hp/115 hp
Transmission: five-speed manual, six-speed manual, three-speed automatic, four-speed automatic
Curb weight: 2,315 lbs.

10th generation, 2006

When these babies went on sale in North America in 1997, they were home grown – built at the planted in Cambridge, Ontario. Wagons, coupes and hatches were offered overseas, but we only got the sedan. According to sales materials and JDM-community legend, these Corollas were offered in a wide variety of colours. We’ve only ever seem them in beige and a particular shade of faded white.

Engine: 1.8-liter DOHC I4, 120 hp/125 hp
Transmission: five-speed manual, three-speed automatic, four-speed automatic
Curb weight: 2,414 lbs.

11th generation, 2014 and beyond!

By the time the 10th generation debuted, the Corolla had morphed from functional, affordable and efficient vehicle with a certain quirky charm to a functional, affordable and efficient vehicle with zero charm.

Or perhaps the first-gen Corollas only seem charming from the perspective of 40 years’ time — the author, at least, never had to live with one as a primary source of transportation.

Anyway, they were still making Corollas in 2006, a whopping 40 years after they started. We got the 10th generation cars in 2008 as 2009 model year vehicles.

Engine: 1.8-liter I4, 132 hp
Transmission: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Curb weight: 2,734 lbs.

 

As much as we rib the Corolla for being bland, it wouldn’t be entering its 11th generation if it didn’t deliver the goods to the segment interested in buying cars like it in the first place.

In most cases people don’t know what they want until someone gives it to them first. Toyota has perfected the art of manufacturing cars that people want – before they want it.

The Toyota Corolla – of which 40 million vehicles have been sold to date – is living proof.

About the author

Arthur Charles Van Wyk

Durban South Toyota is a flagship Toyota Dealer in South Africa. From humble beginnings in Rockview Road, Amanzimtoti, we have steadily grown to where we are today. Visit us at 2 Prospecton Rd, to experience a difference, in Service Excellence. Arthur is a Web Sensai, Brand Evangelist, Speaker, Blogger, Columnist, New Media Navigator and Agent of Influence. I am the founder of Durban based hybrid marketing agency Fluence and the speak that lit Durban-based offline social network SCHMooZ.

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