Iñigo S. Roces / Iñigo S. Roces | July 07, 2008 00:00
History RepeatsSeveral decades ago, a car game was conceived to keep rowdy kids occupied on long drives — Punch buggy, where you punch your seatmate every time you see a Beetle pass by was created during the heyday of the Beetle. The kids' arms would be sore and their vocal chords hoarse in a matter of minutes simply because of the sheer number of Beetles driving around then.
These days it ought to be updated to Punch Corolla. Every forty seconds, another new Corolla rolls off a dealer's lot. By the time you finish reading this story, eight Corollas have been sold. Odds are, if you've ever owned a sedan, one of them was likely a Corolla, and if you've been driving for quite some time, you've likely driven a Corolla at some point in time. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a country where a Corolla doesn't exist. And if there's any car to credit for Toyota's rise to becoming the number one car manufacturer in the world, it's likely the Corolla.
Exactly how many Corollas are out there? Well, it holds the record for being the best-selling car nameplate, with 32 million cars with a Corolla badge sold worldwide since 1966. A distant second is the Volkswagen Beetle at 21.5 million. It's taken the Corolla only 41 years to get to this spot, as opposed to the Beetle's 60+ years. No surprise that the Corolla has become every other manufacturer's benchmark at least as far as sales are concerned.
You'd think Toyota would have the formula down pat by now, yet it's taken them a good 7 years to come up with a replacement. On the other hand, Toyota's mantra has always been to produce "what is needed, when it is needed." The new Corolla might very well be an epitome of that very phrase.
The front steals a few cues from the Camry while the rest looks surprisingly similar to the previous model. Inside is a refreshed interior, but with new kit like nice new dials, steering mounted controls, electric seat adjustment, a modern climate control system and an integrated stereo system.
The power and handling department could certainly use some help as the new Corolla still accelerates and handles similarly to the last. Fortunate US customers have the 2.4 VVTi to play with but for us, 1.8L is as big as it gets.
Despite the similarities to the old, the new Corolla is wider, quieter and even easier to drive than the previous. The width is evident in the body's new shoulders. The quiet comes from better insulation at a cost of some extra weight. The ease of driving comes from the very light electronic power steering (light at low speeds and heavier at high speeds), sonar and the Corolla's great all around visibility.
Perhaps the best feature of all is the price. The base Corolla can be had for less than PhP800,000 and its top or the line, although 200cc less, is still less than all of its competition. There's also the reliability, ease of maintenance and parts availability that much of its competition have yet to match.
The differences might be disappointing for most that were expecting a little more effort on Toyota's part, especially considering this is their best selling model.
Of course, this kind of incremental change is nothing new to the Japanese. It's called Kaizen (making incremental improvements). It's the same philosophy beneath many of Japan's products, and also in a very famous German one, the Volkswagen Beetle.
When it comes down to it, there are a lot of similarities between the two; the mild changes model year to model year, affordability, parts availability, and ease of maintenance. Those factors had only served to help the Beetle's rise to the top and it's those same qualities that have helped the Corolla do the same in 2/3s the time.
You could say the Corolla is the Beetle of this generation in those aspects. Or rather the Beetle was the Corolla of the past generation. Whatever the qualms, 32 millions buyers worldwide obviously see something to like about it.
For those looking into purchasing one, be warned that it might not be the shining star the ads proclaim it to be. Perhaps Toyota still thinks that "what is needed, when it is needed" hasn't come yet.