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Toyota Corolla Through the Years

Stephen Rivers

Over more than half of a century, the Toyota Corolla has taken the crown as the most sold car in history and kept it through numerous changes.

Twelve Toyota Corolla Generations and Counting

As we drive down public roads today we see hundreds of different makes and models, but only one can claim to be the most prolific, the most popular, and the most sold ever. That car is the Toyota Corolla. Beginning life in 1966 as a replacement for the Publica, the Corolla has seen massive changes in its more than 50-year lifespan. It came to America in 1968 and has since then completely changed the landscape of American roads. Today we dig into the details and find out how this pokey little car has managed to win over so many and sell over 44 million units throughout 12 Toyota Corolla generations.

First Generation (1966 – 1969)

1966 Toyota Corolla - All Cars Evolution on YouTube.com

1966 Toyota Corolla – All Cars Evolution on YouTube.com |  Shop Toyota Corolla on Carsforsale.com

  • Known as the KE10 or E10 internally, the first Corolla was far more sporty than its modern descendants.
  • To that end it was rear-wheel-drive and in Japan, it was by far the most powerful compact car available.
  • It was so fast in fact that it won the Australian Bathurst 500 in 1968 taking both first and second place.
  • A four-speed manual transmission was standard with the 1.1-liter 4-cylinder engine.
1969 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1969 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • It was that power that set it apart from rivals made by Subaru and Datsun who weren’t building engines over the government taxed 1000cc specification.
  • It was claimed to reach 60mph in just 10 seconds and easily cruise at a speed of 75 mph according to Toyota.
  • In addition, the small engine still allowed for excellent fuel economy, up to 60% better than similarly sized American cars of the time.
  • While it’s commonly known as the Little Crown in Japan, Toyota used the Latin translation, Corolla when introducing it to the American market in 1968.

Second Generation (1970 – 1973)

1972 Toyota Corolla Fastback - pressroom.toyota.com
1972 Toyota Corolla Fastback - pressroom.toyota.com
  • Sales of the original car were great, but Toyota was concerned about going too long without an update. So, just 2 years in the American market they updated the car completely.
  • While American companies were beginning the 70s by creating more powerful muscle cars, the Corolla became more refined in its second generation with more efficiency and more power.
  • A special trim level called the SR5 is created for the Corolla that offers a 102 horsepower engine and outstanding performance.
1972 Toyota Corolla wagon - pressroom.toyota.com
1972 Toyota Corolla wagon - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The base car used a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder that made 73 horsepower, a dramatic bump from the original Corolla with just 60.
  • The Corolla becomes available in 4 distinct styles, a 2-door sedan(2+2), a four-door sedan, a four-door wagon, and a new two-door coupe.
  • A new 5-speed standard transmission becomes available that’s basically the same as the previous 4-speed, but with an added overdrive gear for highway cruising.
  • An automatic gearbox was an optional extra for the first time.

Third Generation (1974 – 1978)

1977 Toyota Corolla Liftback - pressroom.toyota.com
1977 Toyota Corolla Liftback - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The third Toyota Corolla generation received a wider track and more luxury interior features.
  • Most of the switches and controls for the interior were moved to the center control stack in a format we see most cars use today.
  • In Japan, sales of the third generation were below Toyota’s expectation, but in the USA sales were outstanding.
1978 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1978 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • Over the course of the third generation, worldwide sales were in excess of 3.7 million total units.
  • Retracting front seat belts became standard in the Corolla for a time during this generation.
  • In 1976, the Liftback became available as a hatchback version of the Corolla that’s still well regarded and desired today.
  • By the end of the generation, the Corolla had officially taken the crown as the best-selling car around the globe.

Fourth Generation (1979 – 1982)

1980 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1980 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The fourth generation of the Corolla was the largest and the most squared off to this point in history.
  • The rear suspension was updated with coil springs in place of the original leaf springs.
  • A 1.3-liter engine was used as the base powertrain with a 1.5 and a 1.8-liter option also available.
1981 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1981 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • Disc brakes were fitted to the front of the Corolla for the first time.
  • Interior styling was also modernized with more centralized information for drivers in the dash and a unique two-spoke steering wheel.

Fifth Generation (1983 – 1986)

1984 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1984 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • Perhaps the biggest shift in the Toyota Corolla’s history happens in 1983 as the car changes from its traditional rear-wheel-driven layout to front-wheel-drive.
  • That change remains as the standard to which the Corolla will be built down to this very day.
  • Moving to a FWD layout also provides more space and efficiency for owners.
1986 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1986 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The sporty SR5 Corolla continued on with a rear-drive platform until the end of the generation in 1986.
  • The Corolla GT-S was also introduced with 112 horsepower.
  • The AE86 Corolla is the last Corolla to be sold with rear-wheel-drive and has influenced many motorsports with a heavy emphasis on drifting.

Sixth Generation (1987 – 1990)

1988 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1988 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • This Toyota Corolla generation focused on three main features: performance, style, and quality.
  • For the first time, a supercharged 1.6-liter engine is offered.
  • In 1987, a 1.6-liter “High-Mecha” engine is only found in the all-wheel-drive model of the Corolla and makes 162 horsepower.
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1989 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1989 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • In 1989, a 2.0-liter diesel engine is offered on all-wheel-drive models for colder climates.
  • In 1990, fuel injection becomes standard across the entire lineup for the first time.
  • All models also received disc brakes up front while higher-end models added ventilation to those discs.

Seventh Generation (1991 – 1994)

1993 Toyota Corolla wagon - pressroom.toyota.com
1993 Toyota Corolla wagon - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The seventh Toyota Corolla generation grew in size and refinement again.
  • The new 4E-FE engine is by far the most advanced ever in the Corolla with 4 valves per cylinder, fuel injection, and dual overhead cams.
  • Horsepower for the 4E-FE is bumped to 87 over the previous generation that made just 74.
  • A 116 horsepower 1.6-liter engine was optional and could push the Corolla to 121 mph.
1994 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1994 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • This generation sees the Corolla move up from sub-compact status to compact status as it takes over that space from the Camry.
  • Both engines were incredibly efficient achieving mpg ratings of 53.5 mpg and 50 mpg respectively.
  • The use of galvanized steel and a reduction in body panels results in a stiffer, better riding, and cleaner-looking Corolla.

Eighth Generation (1995 – 1999)

1996 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1996 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • With the introduction of the eighth generation, the Corolla started being market-specific with changes and major differences depending on where you bought it.
  • Just one example is that the US market had to wait until 97’ to get its hands on the latest Corolla.
1998 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
1998 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The engine utilizes an aluminum block for the first time pushing efficiency to new levels.
  • The new Corolla is actually some 150 pounds lighter than the previous car overall.
  • The Corolla becomes the most popular nameplate in history in 1997 as it overtakes the VW beetle.

Ninth Generation (2000 – 2005)

2001 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
2001 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The ninth generation was the most luxurious Corolla by far over previous iterations.
  • To achieve that, a large focus was placed on emulating many European brands and providing similar comfort levels at a much lower price point.
  • Base horsepower was up to 130 with the use of a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine.
2003 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
2003 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • It wasn’t released here in the North American market until 2002 as a 2003 model which gave Toyota extra time to refine it before release.
  • The XRS version in 2005 is widely considered the best front-wheel-drive Corolla in history thanks in part to its collaboration with Yamaha on its 170 horsepower engine.
  • It also used the same 6-speed manual transmission as the Lotus Elise of the same time period.

Tenth Generation (2006 – 2011)

2007 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
2007 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The XRS version continues on, but lacks the potent powertrain from the 05 model year.
  • The Corolla as a whole is much more refined with luxuries like leather, Bluetooth phone integration, and cruise control.
2009 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
2009 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • A 5-speed manual is standard while a 5-speed automatic is also available as an option.
  • A new feature called intelligent park is available on some models that help drivers parallel park automatically.

Eleventh Generation (2012 – 2017)

2013 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • This generation continues the trend of not arriving in America at the same time that it did in Japan, waiting until 2014 before it’s sold in the USA.
  • Three transmissions are offered including a CVT, a 4-speed automatic, and a 6-speed manual.
2016 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
2016 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • An economy-focused ECO version is offered for the first time in 2014.
  • A hybrid is also offered overseas with a 73 horsepower engine at its heart.
  • A turbocharged 1.2-liter engine is available for the first time, but never makes it to American shores.

Twelfth Generation (2018 – Present)

2018 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com

2018 Toyota Corolla – pressroom.toyota.com |  Shop Toyota Corolla on Carsforsale.com

  • The latest Toyota Corolla generation is the most aggressively styled model with harder edges and creases than ever before.
  • Engine options are available from a small 1.2-liter up to a 2.0-liter to satisfy all buyer’s needs.
2021 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
2021 Toyota Corolla - pressroom.toyota.com
  • The 2.0-liter hybrid motor makes 180 horsepower, the most for a Corolla since the 170 horsepower XRS.
  • Transmission options are also wide open with 3 different CVT options as well as a 6-speed manual.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Stephen Rivers
Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

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