This year marks a significant milestone of a certain car from Toyota. With over 40 million examples sold, chances are it's the car you either grew up with, learned how to drive in or even probably the car you're driving now.
We are, of course, talking about the Corolla, the world's most popular and most ubiquitous automobile nameplate.
This 2016, this compact car celebrates its 50th year in production over eleven generations. We pay tribute to Toyota's — and the world's — best-selling automobile nameplate by running through its origin story and each generation of the car that most of us probably grew up with, regardless of age.
First Generation Corolla (1966-70)
Our story begins in 1962, four years before the birth of the Corolla. The design brief for the first generation Corolla was laid down in three simple points: Make the car efficient, lightweight (due to metal supply) and of high quality. The car was supposed to powered by a 1.0 liter engine with 45 PS with an overhead cam design.
Because Toyota was planning to offer this car in the west, the car needed to be of high quality. According to Tatsuo Hasegawa, chief engineer of the first and second generation Corolla, “The Corolla will compete both in Japan and overseas with European made cars in the same class, and the superiority of the Corolla over the competition will be ensured through 'performance' and 'economic efficiency.'”.
The final product was unveiled to the public on October 1966, with sales beginning the month after. Called the E10 series, it was initially available as a 2 door sedan from the start. The range eventually added a 4-door and a wagon soon after. Engines consisted of a 1.1 liter OHV with 60 PS while later models got a 1.2 liter with 68 PS. It rode on struts in front and leaf springs at the back and got front disc brakes later on in its life cycle.
Second Generation Corolla (1970-74)
With the success of the first generation Corolla, top management knew that they had to step up their game with the second-generation model. Development for the new model started in 1967. For the E20 series, the team faced major crossroads as to whether to adhere to the design of the original model or completely change it. In the end, they decided to make the car bigger and give more curves to the car's body surfaces. Tatsuo Hasegawa took the helm yet again in the development of the E20 series Corolla.
The second generation Corolla was also built in the Philippines under Delta Motors. Local Corollas were powered by the 1.2 3K engine with 68 PS and 93 Nm of torque. For those looking for a sportier drive, the Corolla soon gave birth to the Levin. At the time, it was unheard of putting in a 1600cc engine in a subcompact car but Toyota did so in 1972. Wrapped in a sleek coupe body we call "Mango," it was powered by a twin-cam 2T-G engine with an output of 115 PS and 142 Nm of torque — figures that are still competitive by today's standards. By the end of its production in 1974, Toyota had produced 2,406,860 cars. My grandfather was one of the over two million owners and the car was even in the family for 28 years. Needless to say, these were really sturdy cars.
Third Generation Corolla (1974-81)
Work never seems to stop over at the Toyota headquarters. A year into to E20's production, Toyota began work on the third generation Corolla in 1971. Now called the E30 series, the all-new car also brought in a new chief engineer for the Corolla project, with Shirou Sasaki taking over for Tatsuo Hasegawa.
The car's development was just in time, too. In 1972, the first oil crisis hit and forced many manufacturers to downsize engines and consumers looking for smaller, more efficient cars. Toyota had to build a car that is not only bigger but also efficient as well. After three years in development, the E30 Corolla made its debut on August 1974.
Like its predecessor, the E30 Corolla was also built here under Delta Motors. For the sedans, the 3K engine carried over from the previous generation. Delta would later release a sporty coupe called the SR. With a 1.6 liter engine, it was considered a brisk car in its heydey. By the end of production in 1981 (1979 in Japan), Toyota had produced 3,755,029 Corollas.
Fourth Generation Corolla (1979-83)
A lot of automakers felt the sting of the fuel crisis. At the time, economies were just beginning their recovery but the second oil crisis hit yet again in the late 70's. With the lessons learned from the first crisis, Toyota began the development of the fourth generation Corolla, the E70, in 1975 with Fumio Agetsuma leading the team with efficiency and aerodynamics in mind.
In the Philippines, the E70 Corolla was again built by Delta Motors. Local E70 Corollas were available in two body styles in the form of the sedan and the Liftback. Corolla sedans were powered by a 1.3 liter 4K engine that put out 74 PS and 105 Nm of torque. The Liftback, on the other hand, got a bigger 1.8 liter engine. In addition, new 4-link coil springs connected to a live axle and rack and pinion steering further improved the car's ride, handling and comfort. Unfortunately, this would be the last Corolla sold by Delta Motors before closing its doors during the latter half of the Marcos era. Things were much better in Japan though. The E70 saw the introduction of the 'A' engines which also powered the iconic AE85/86 Trueno and Levin.
Fifth Generation Corolla (1983-87)
With Delta closing in the Philippines, the fifth generation model holds the rare distinction of not being sold in the country. Perhaps it could be said that we missed out on this transitional generation of Corolla, being the first to feature front wheel drive.
Fumio Agetsuma led the Corolla team yet again but he proposed something drastic to the top executives. For more cabin room, he proposed that the new Corolla be front wheel drive, freeing up space that was taken up by the rear wheel drive layout. On November 1979, the top executives approved the layout change and set the foundations for the modern Corolla. Thanks to the move to front wheel drive, this allowed the new Corolla to feature fully independent suspension. Being front wheel drive, the engine was placed transversely, maximizing space even more. Bringing it to the modern age was a range of EFI engines, an upmarket interior and more electronics. While the sedans moved to front wheel drive, the two door models would remain rear wheel drive and would give birth to an icon enthusiasts simply call AE86.
Sixth Generation Corolla (1987-92)
Affectionately called the "small body" locally, development for the E90 Corolla began in the early 80's. This generation also marks the return of Toyota in the country under TMP or Toyota Motor Philippines. Development was led by Akihiko Saito, who wanted to turn the Corolla into a mini-Cressida. The design brief of this model involved boosting quality, a bigger body and better driving dynamics.
First introduced in 1987, the Philippines didn't get this model until 1989. Now built in the Santa Rosa plant, the small body was available in three variants. First was the base model XL which first came with a 4-speed manual, steel wheels and a bare interior. Better equipped was the XE model which added a tachometer and topping the range was the 1.6 GL. XE and XL models were powered by a 1.3 liter 2E engine while the 1.6 GL featured the 4A engine, albeit carburetted. In Japan, the top selling motor was the 5A which had fuel injection and 1500 cc. There was even an electronically controlled suspension option for the JDM market called Toyota Electronically Managed Suspension or TEMS.
Seventh Generation Corolla (1991-97)
With Akihiko Saito also leading the engineering team of the E100 Corolla, he wanted to bring in the high quality levels found in the E90 and take it the next level. Nicknamed the "big body" in the Philippines, Saito drew inspiration from the Lexus LS400 and gave the seventh generation Corolla big car features in a small package.
Larger and curvier than the E90, the E100 Corolla offered more room, a higher quality interior and introduced fuel injection in the Philippines. Built in the Santa Rosa plant, there were three variants to choose from: The XL, XE and GLI. The XL was commonly used as a fleet car and became the de facto cab of the 90's. XE models offered more equipment and alloy wheels while the GLI boasted fuel injection with its 4A-FE engine. It was also the first time Toyota offered an automatic transmission for the Corolla in the Philippines. The minor model change in late 1995 brought in many firsts in the segment such as airbags and three point seat belts at the back. No surprises then that it became the country's top-selling sedan.
Eighth Generation Corolla (1995-00)
It could be said that the eighth generation Corolla had a difficult birth. Japan's bubble economy had burst which was then followed by the Asian economic crisis. For E110 Corolla, Toyota had to tighten their belts for the new car.
Nicknamed the "Lovelife" in the Philippines, the E110 had six objectives to meet: weight reductions, ensure safety performance, improve quietness and fuel efficiency and focus on the environment. Engines were carried over from the big body for the Philippines with 1.3 carburetted, 1.3 fuel injected and 1.6 motors residing under the hood. Efficiency was slightly improved thanks to a 50 kg weight loss. Airbags and Anti-lock brakes were standard on the top-spec 1.6 GLI models. Later in its production, a 1.8 liter engine joined the lineup and the introduction of the Altis name.
Ninth Generation Corolla (2000-2007)
Did you know this particular generation was supposed to drop the Corolla nameplate? The Asian Economic Crisis hurt Corolla sales and suffered a drop in brand equity. As a result, the team examined the possibility of changing the Corolla name. Development head Takeshi Yoshida did not approve of the name change, saying that Corolla was a historical brand that had gained a favorable reputation worldwide.
With that, Yoshida had an uphill battle to climb. His idea was to “start from scratch” while retaining classic Corolla traits. Internally called the E120, Toyota made the Corolla significantly bigger, repackaged the suspension for more room and introduced a new range of 'ZZ' engines. Toyota was making a huge gamble during the car's development as Japan's economy hadn't fully recovered.
With that said, the gamble paid off with its introduction in 2001. Called the Corolla Altis in the Philippines, the E120 became a huge seller in the country thanks to its wide range of variants. Available in base-model J, mid-level E and top-spec G, there was an Altis for everybody.
Tenth Generation Corolla (2006-13)
Building on the success of the E120 Corolla, the E140 Corolla saw further development in Europe to improve refinement and handling. The tenth generation also saw the Corolla's 40th year in production. For this generation, there were three versions available, the narrow body, wide body and E150.
In the Philippines, we got the wide body in 2008 and most of the trim levels and engines carried over. The J variant was dropped, making the E the new base model while the G became the new mid-level variant. The new top-spec model was called the V. The E140 received a minor model change in 2010 and added a 2.0 liter engine in the range, a first for the local Corolla. Another first for the local Corolla was the addition of a continuously variable transmission, exclusive to the 2.0 V
Eleventh Generation Corolla (2013-current)
We now arrive at the current generation Corolla. It now rides on the new chassis called the New MC Platform. According to Sinichi Yasui, chief engineer of the E170 Corolla, the team wanted to inject more excitement with the new model.
With styling cues from the Furia concept, it is perhaps the most aggressive-looking Corolla to date. With the focus on fuel economy and emissions, the E170 Corolla boasts a more modern engine with Dual VVT-i, retooled suspension, more cabin space and equipment and better economy with the continuously variable transmission. Like before, the Philippine-spec Corollas are available in three variants, namely E (base), G (mid) and V (top). Just in time for it's 50th anniversary, Toyota gave the E170 Corolla a minor update with a new front fascia and more equipment.
Over the past 50 years, the Corolla grew from B-Segment to C-Segment, received bigger engines, gained loads of space and went from rear wheel drive to front wheel drive.
One thing has remained the same about the Corolla: it has always been a car with many stories from its owners, be it current or former. The Corolla has been part of the motoring landscape not just in the Philippines, but worldwide. 50 years from now, we wouldn't be surprised if it still is.
Happy birthday, Corolla.