1966 ~ 1975
: Introduced in Japan
The first Corolla came to the United States in the summer of 1968
riding on a 90-inch wheelbase in two-door coupe, four-door sedan and two-door wagon body styles. It was the smallest car Toyota had sold in America up until that time. A 60-horsepower, 1.1-liter overhead valve four-cylinder mounted longitudinally in the engine bay sent power to a four-speed manual transmission and then to a solid rear axle. The first Corolla's unibody structure had a strut front suspension and mounted the rear axle on a pair of leaf springs. The second Corolla showed up for the 1970
model year with a wheelbase stretched to 91.9 inches and power coming from a new 1.2-liter version of the OHV four making 73 horsepower. The strut front and leaf spring rear suspension carried forward. The Corolla got even better during the 1971 model
year as the engine grew to 1.6 liters and output expanded to 102 horsepower. The grille was redesigned for the 1972
model year, becoming fussier to no great aesthetic advantage. There were few changes for either 1973 or 1974
other than larger bumpers to accommodate federal regulations and the introduction of sporty SR5 models with five-speed manual transmissions.
A total of five Corolla models was available for 1975
. The price leader, a two-door sedan powered by a 1.2-liter engine, was joined by a four-door sedan, a two-door hardtop, a sport-oriented SR5 hardtop and a five-door station wagon — all powered by the 1.6-liter four. The standard transmission in all models, except the SR5, was a four-speed manual. A five-speed manual was again standard in the SR5 and optional in the other Corollas. A three-speed automatic was also available. Emissions standards were stiffening during the mid-'70s and a catalytic converter was included in the '75 Corolla for the first time.
1976 ~ 1985
A new three-door hatchback was added to the Corolla line for 1976, called the "Liftback"
. Also introduced for '76, and sharing its front-end styling with the Liftback, was a new Corolla Sport Coupe in both standard and SR5 configurations. The fastback styling of the Sport Coupe gave Toyota a sporty car to sell that was slightly less expensive than the larger Celica. Front-end styling of the sedans and wagons was modified for 1977
with a more conventional grille but these were never particularly attractive cars; they were overwrought in their details and undistinguished in their shapes. But they seemed to run forever. The Corolla finally in 1978, dispensed with the rugged but primitive leaf spring
rear suspension in favor of a more compliant coil spring system (the station wagon continued to use the leaves). The new unibody above that suspension was larger (the wheelbase was now 94.5 inches), stronger and more attractive in a boxy, clean-cut sort of way. A new 75-horsepower, 1.8-liter version of the OHV four powered the new Corolla with four- and five-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmissions available.
Next major change came in 1982
when the automatic transmission was upgraded to a four-speed unit. Upgraded with a new 1.6-liter
overhead cam engine in 1983 that was both smoother and more powerful than the previous 1.8. Introduction of the front-drive Corolla sedan for 1984
. However, the SR5 Coupe and Liftback and the station wagon continued atop the previous-generation Corolla's rear-drive chassis. The front-drive Corolla was as conventional as it had been in a rear-driver layout. The same 1.6-liter, SOHC engine used in the rear-drive Corolla sat transversely in the front-driver's engine bay feeding either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The rear was held up on coil springs. A few early fifth-generation front-drive Corollas were powered by a four-cylinder diesel. Midway through the 1984 model year, the rear-drive Corolla coupe and Liftback were offered with a new dual-overhead cam, 16-valve version of the 1.6-liter four rated at a robust 124 horsepower. This DOHC engine, along with the front-drive Corolla's five-speed transaxle, also served as the drivetrain in the midengine MR2, which came to America in early 1985
1986 ~ 1995
A new front-drive Corolla "FX" coupe was introduced in 1987
. Produced at the NUMMI joint venture production plant in California (run by both Toyota and General Motors), the FX was a conventional hatchback in the Volkswagen Rabbit mold and was available with either the SOHC or DOHC, 1.6-liter engine. When equipped with the DOHC engine, it was known as the FX16. The FX also marked the start of Corolla production in North America. The rear-drive Corolla coupe and Liftback were replaced with a new front-drive coupe in 1988
. The station wagon was available with either front-wheel drive or full-time All-Trac all-wheel drive. Trim levels were base DX and better-equipped LE for the sedan, DX and SR5 for the wagon and SR5 and GT-S for the coupe. The FX hatchback was still part of the mix, though it was discontinued after a year. All engines were DOHC, 16-valve inline four-cylinders — the sedans, front-drive wagon and SR5 coupe got a carbureted 90-hp motor; the All-Trac wagons got a fuel-injected 100-hp version and the GT-S won the day with a 115-hp EFI version. Transmission choices were familiar — a standard five-speed manual with the option of a three- or four-speed automatic, depending on the trim level. Thirteen-inch wheels were standard, though the GT-S got 14-inch wheels, as well as four-wheel disc brakes and a six-way adjustable driver seat with sport bolstering.
All Corollas benefited from fuel injection in 1990
, and the base engine was now rated for 102 hp. Meanwhile, the GT-S enjoyed a significant bump in horsepower — now measured at 130 — and five additional lb-ft of torque for a total of 105. In addition, an entry-level standard sedan was added to the lineup — it had all the basic Corolla equipment, including cloth upholstery, but wore a skinnier set of tires and could only be optioned with the three-speed automatic if you didn't want to shift your own gears.
Significantly larger than the car it replaced (it rode on a 97.0-inch wheelbase), the 1993 Corolla sedan and wagon
moved up a size classification from "subcompact" to "compact" according to the EPA. Power for the basic Corolla sedan came from the same 1.6-liter engine used in the sixth-generation car, but a new 1.8-liter, DOHC, 16-valve four making 115 horsepower was offered in the ritzier Corolla DX and LE models. A five-speed manual was standard, with a three-speed autobox optional on the base sedan and a four-speed optional on all other models.1994: New this year were locking retractor seatbelts in passengers' positions and CFC-free refrigerant for cars with air conditioning. The DX sedan got new upholstery, all audio systems were redesigned and the 1.8-liter engine lost 10 horsepower for 1995
in order to comply with stricter emissions regulations, but it did get a smidge more torque for a total of 117 lb-ft (versus 115 previously).
1996 to Now
The LE model was discontinued in 1996
. Additionally, the front grille received a color-keyed frame and the taillight panels were revised with the DX getting a full-width treatment. Inside, the interior trim was revised, and an integrated child seat was added to the options list. Upgrades to the manual transmission yielded shorter throws, improved feel and more positive gear engagement. In 1997, the DX wagon was dropped
, but a special CE (Classic Edition) sedan was offered and it incorporated a number of popular features in one value-priced package. Among the standard goodies were power windows and locks, A/C, power steering, a four-speaker stereo, manual remote mirrors and special floor mats and exterior badging. All models received additional side-impact protection to meet new federal standards. 1998 saw the Corolla grow again in its eighth iteration
, with an all-new, all-aluminum 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine rated at a healthy 120 horsepower — exactly twice what the engine in the first Corolla was rated back in 1968. Only a sedan was offered this time around, and there were three trim levels — base VE, midlevel CE and highline LE. The VE was stuck with an optional three-speed automatic, while CE and LE buyers qualified for the four-speed unit.
Changes for 1999 were minor. The VE model was given a cassette stereo, and the LE now came standard with last year's Touring Package items, including a front stabilizer bar, wider 14-inch tires, a tachometer and various exterior cosmetic enhancements. 2000 - The company added its VVT-i
variable valve timing system to the 1.8-liter engine, which boosted output to 125 horsepower, made for a fatter torque curve and allowed the Corolla to achieve low emission vehicle (LEV) status. New front and rear fascias, headlights and taillights appeared in 2001
, as did a quasisporty S version of this popular compact. S models came with unique wheel covers, foglights, intermittent wipers and color-keyed moldings, mudguards and grille. Inside, it offered sportier upholstery, a tachometer and a faux leather-wrapped wheel. In sum, the S was more about cosmetic upgrades than actual sport. Meanwhile, the base VE model disappeared — the CE took its place, along with its unloved three-speed automatic. 2002 - The Corolla line was unchanged, though Toyota lowered the prices for the optional value packages.
, Corolla was available as a base CE, luxury LE or somewhat sporty S, the new Corolla rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase, which is more than five inches longer than the Corolla it replaces. The front disc/rear drum brakes work well (ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution is optional on all Corollas). Add in excellent rack-and-pinion steering, and this is as close to a luxury car ride as any small economy sedan has ever offered. The engine is an evolutionary development of the all-aluminum 1.8-liter, DOHC, 16-valve engine from the previous Corolla and is now rated at 130 horsepower. The five-speed manual transmission's shifter is precise, and even the base CE-grade Corolla has four gears in its optional automatic. There's a lot to like about the sporty 2004 Toyota Corollas
. Start with the fun-to-drive Corolla S. Color-keyed underbody spoilers and side rocker panels. Then check out the refined LE and the affordable CE. While each is a little different, they're never at a loss for fun.