Toyota has sold 50 million Corollas. It’s hard to wrap your head around a 50 million of anything, but it’s easy to understand when you remember that the Corolla has been a successful part of Toyota’s lineup for over half a century. Sure, over 55 years the Corolla has changed significantly; we’re long past the days of a rear-wheel-drive Corolla and sitting on the eve of a Corolla-badge crossover. Even still, the Corolla manages to fit customer needs and find plenty of new driveways. If you haven’t thought about the Corolla’s history, don’t worry, we’ll take you down the Corolla’s memory lane.
1966: First Generation
The first-generation Corolla was not long-lived in the United States, launching in Japan in 1966 but only hitting American shores in 1968. That first-generation Corolla—a budget-friendly, 1.1-liter inline four-cylinder-powered machine—was a departure from the muscle machines of the era. Even though the Corolla wasn’t as cool as, say, a ’69 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, these early Corollas did help establish Toyota in the United States.
1970: Second Generation
Growing for its second generation, this larger Corolla was better suited to American demands than the first run of cars. Now advertising 73 hp from its 1.2-liter I4, this peppier Corolla was gearing up to be a success. The second-generation Corolla also offered an automatic transmission, for those that didn’t want to shift their own gears. Toyota introduced a more powerful 88 hp, 1.6-liter powered SR-5 variant to help sway sportier buyers.
1974: Third Generation
With the third-generation Corolla, you might notice a prevailing trend. This car also grew over the previous generation and offered three engines choices. This generation also added fastback and liftback variants, which helped make it become a perfectly 1970s design. Rising insurance and fuel costs helped drive attention to these fuel-sipping machines.
1979: Fourth Generation
Welcome to the ‘80s. The Corolla arrived in time to greet the dawning of a new decade, bearing styling that marked the nameplate’s biggest departure yet. This futuristic-looking Corolla offered a pair of engines: a 1.8-liter cam-in-block engine that made 75 hp or a 1.6-liter overhead cam engine that made a whopping 90 ponies. This generation also introduced seat memory to two-door Corollas that featured power seats. This is also the last generation to feature a rear-wheel-drive platform.
1983: Fifth Generation
The Chicago Bears were set to dominate the NFL’s ’85 season, and Toyota’s fifth-generation Corolla, launched in 1983 in Japan, was set to hit our shores: a new, front-wheel-drive version. This car laid the groundwork for the Corolla we see on dealer lots today. Fortunately, Toyota didn’t leave the rear-drive Corolla entirely this generation and still offered the now legendary AE-chassis cars. The rear-wheel-drive AE85 and AE86 Corollas have become darlings of the drift world and tuning community. The starring role in the anime Initial D probably didn’t hurt the AE86’s standing as a great-handling sports car.
1987: Sixth Generation
While the AE86 kept rear-drive Corollas alive during the transition to front-drive platforms, those are absent in the sixth generation. That’s bad news for fans of touge or drift, but that doesn’t mean the sixth-gen Corolla—which launched in the US for 1989—is boring. The new all-wheel-drive All-Trac system helped push Toyota into the rally stages, and that all-wheel-drive system made its way to the Corolla. These all-wheel-drive Corollas might not be as popular today as the AE86 from the previous generation, but these have an appreciated place in Toyota’s history.
1991: Seventh Generation
If you grew up in the ‘90s, this is the Corolla that comes to mind. The seventh-generation Toyota Corolla—launching here for 1993—moved away from high-performance and settled into its role as a proficient commuter. The decision seemed like a good one, judging by sales, as this generation helped push the Corolla into becoming the best-selling car model ever.
1995: Eighth Generation
The eighth-generation began production in 1995, but it didn’t make it to the US until the 1998 model year. Corolla stuck with the successes of the previous generation and doubled down on its mass appeal. This generation also ushered in Toyota’s popular 1ZZ-FE four-cylinder engine. Derivatives of this powerplant still give motivation to Toyota cars today. One of the most important features of this engine was its use of variable valve timing, or VVT-i, as Toyota calls it.
2000: Ninth Generation
Like with the previous-gen Corolla, the redesigned model didn’t appear in the United States until years after its launch, with ninth-gen cars only arriving for the 2003 model year. This new Corolla continued the nameplate’s pivot towards creature comforts. A center console fit for 14 compact discs and a larger shell helped make this a sales success. Its conservative styling, however, made it less likely to stand out.
2006: Tenth Generation
The 10th-generation Toyota Corolla didn’t depart much from the previous car, in either styling or it US-launch schedule, again not appearing stateside until three years after the much of the rest of the world saw it. It added even more creature comforts as well as the 2.4-liter from the Toyota Camry in its options list, giving the Corolla a little more oomph.
2012: Eleventh Generation
The 11th-generation Corolla rolled onto our shores in 2013 with a ton of high-tech features that consumers desired—even demanded—from entry-level cars. High-tech features like adaptive cruise control and the Toyota Safety Sense-P safety suite are only among a handful of additions to this tech-heavy Toyota. This generation also pushed the Corolla further upmarket with a nicer overall interior. Toyota also replaced the traditional automatic transmission with a more fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission.
2018: Twelvth Generation
The current Corolla, debuting here for 2019, harkens back to its sportier history and is pushing in a more spirited direction. The addition of a Toyota Corolla GR makes this current Corolla fully embrace the sporting heritage that it shares with models like the AE86.
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross
Crossovers are king. Spinning the beloved and familiar Corolla nameplate off to a crossover is a logical choice. It’s still too early to say if this will be a wise move, but it follows the trend of expanding crossover lineups across product portfolios.
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