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A short history of the Toyota Corolla

A short history of the Toyota Corolla

The name has stayed the same, but the car has changed almost beyond recognition. Introduced in 1966, the first-generation Corollas had an almost dainty, small-wheeled look typical of Japanese cars of the period. This carried through into the second generation (1970) and third generation (1974) models, though the cars gained in size and weight during this period.

The fourth generation (1979) saw a major change in image, as the Corolla transformed into a square-edged Euro ‘box’. It must have seemed like a dramatic leap forward in styling at the time.

Our cutaway features the 5th generation Corolla, which ran from 1983-1987. This was the Corolla at the height of its powers. Toyota used an ‘E’ designation for successive Corolla generations, and this iteration, the E80, sold in vast numbers – no fewer than 3.3 million.

A history of the Toyota Corolla explained

Its successor, the sixth-generation E90 (1987-1991) had broadly the same shape but softer edges, and it was the precursor of another major styling shift – the seventh-generation E100 (1991).

The Corolla had morphed again, this time into a softer-edged but also more anonymous vehicle, and successive generations have broadly followed contemporary automotive design trends. The Corolla name lives on, but some of the character of the brand has inevitably dissipated.

By July 2013, Toyota had sold no fewer than 40 million cars bearing the Corolla name. It’s become the best-selling brand of all time, beating even the VW Beetle.

It’s also formed the basis for a whole bunch of cars you might not have realised were Corollas at all, like the Sprinter, the Sprinter Trueno, the Levin, the Chevrolet Nova (1985-1988), the Geo/Chevrolet Prizm (1989-2002) and the Australian Holden Nova (1989-1996).