Toyota Corolla turns 50

The life of the world’s favourite car

As Russia and America fought a mesmerising space race and Beatles fans excitedly awaited the next hit, Toyota was readying its own historic launch in 1966 – the new Corolla. Today, as the world’s most popular car with over 40 million sales, Corolla reaches another incredible landmark: 50 years of production.

Taking its name from the ring of petals around the centre of a flower, the Corolla was conceived to meet the changing needs of commuters in Japan’s rapidly developing economy in the mid-1960s. The need for people to get around in their own vehicle was growing and this led to the development of guiding principles that still exist today: continue to evolve and meet consumers needs whatever country they live in.
 
This ‘Always Staying Ahead’ philosophy has ensured the Corolla has remained a car for the people, offering affordable, reliable and easy-to-live with motoring. 
 
From its early beginnings, all the way to the car we know today, we’ve charted a selection of the Corolla’s highlights over the last half-century.

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Crown of flowers is born: 1966-1970

Led by development leader Tatsuo Hasegwa, the Corolla’s engineers and  designers were given a brief to capture the hearts of the public. And a  leading principle, early in the programme, was to create a car that was both sporty in the way it looked and drove. 
 
The revolutionary Corolla was offered in a variety of body styles – two-door coupé, four-door sedan and two-door estate – and adopted many pioneering technologies not seen in the Japanese market before, such as Macpherson strut suspension and a four-speed transmission.

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All-new Corolla: 1970-1974

With production of the first-generation coming to an end, the Corolla’s engineers and designers had the unenviable challenge of building on the success of their first triumph. In the year that the one millionth Corolla was built, the second-generation model was launched, designed from a clean sheet of paper as an ‘all-new Corolla.’ 
 
While the exterior styling evolved with gently curved surfaces, under its body a larger rear leaf suspension also made advances in ride comfort and handling. The Levin model, born in 1972 with its renowned 2T-G engine, would go on to be the sports car lover’s choice of ride.

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Cleaner, leaner new Corolla: 1974-1979

With strict exhaust emission regulations coming into force, the third-generation Corolla was born in demanding times and this meant that its engine and exhaust systems needed development in order for it to be cleared for sale. As a result, Toyota pioneered the use of catalytic converters, technology which is still being used today.
 
The cleaner, more efficient Corolla also benefited from another modern-day development – the wind tunnel – and the results from this testing heavily influenced its design, helping to create a car that cut through the air more efficiently. Inside, interior quality and ergonomics were improved making the Corolla feel like a car from a higher price bracket for passengers and driver alike.

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Wind-cheating Corolla: 1979-1983

With a global oil crisis behind it and the Japanese economy on the mend, the fourth-generation Corolla was launched with renewed optimism. With aerodynamics playing an ever-increasing part in car design, the Corolla’s engineers would spend over 400 hours honing the Corolla’s shape in the wind tunnel.
 
To avoid a radical departure in design and feel for the increasingly loyal fan-base, the Corolla’s shape was an evolution rather than a revolution, featuring sharper lines and a slightly squared-off style. Inside, comfort and stability improved with a new four-link coil suspension and, to satisfy environmental pressures, a new 1.8-litre diesel was introduced to the market.

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Computer-designed Corolla: 1983-1987

In his role as development leader, Fumio Agetsuma set out to make the fifth-generation Corolla as innovative as he possibly could, saying that it should incorporate breakthroughs in every area, as the original had. The new model was the first to be engineered with the aid of computer – saving time and resources in the design of the engine and body.
 
With its slanted nose and rounded wedge shape the new car would be the first to house an engine in the front, as well as being front-wheel drive, a real challenge for the engineers.

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Real quality Corolla: 1987-1991

The key target behind the development of the sixth-generation Corolla was quality; both in how it felt but also how it made owners feel. It was essential that the new model didn’t just satisfy, it needed to excite them with greater quality. 
 
Over 2,000 improvements were proposed to over 100 parts manufacturers to make all areas of the car perform better, from reducing noise levels to introducing soft-touch materials across the dashboard and switches. There was no doubt, this would be the best quality Corolla so far.

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Memorable family favourite Corolla: 1991-1995

The seventh-generation Corolla was developed to appeal to customers through charisma and personality around three core themes: stylish design, driving performance, safety and reliability.
 
With a focus on the finer details as well as providing ample room for the family, the engineers aimed to create a car that would give deeper owner satisfaction and more memories of quality, family moments.

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The number one Corolla: 1995-2000

Environmental and economic considerations were at the forefront of engineers minds for the eighth-generation Corolla. With a sluggish economy in the home country, the development team set out to make a new car that satisfied customer demand; one that reduced the impact on the planet, was more efficient and cheaper to own and maintain.
 
What they got was just that, a car that transcended generations and nationalities by evolving to become the number one selling car in Japan – as well as the world’s best selling car, with global cumulative sales of over 22 million – by reducing the cost of ownership and providing a safer, quieter and higher-quality alternative.

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21st century Corolla: 2000-2006

Designed for the first time in Europe, the ninth-generation Corolla was tasked with breaking links with the past and setting standards for the 21st century. 
 
Developed from scratch with affordability, ease of use and reliability at its heart, the new model’s hallmark was its interior quality – where a high-tech Optitron display was used on the dashboard meters – and ride comfort that would rival cars from higher price bracket.

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Truly global Corolla: 2006-2013

The Corolla’s 40th anniversary served as a fitting milestone  at which to introduce a new styling direction. As development leader of the tenth-generation, Soichiro Okudaira, set out to produce a car with truly global perspective and scale.
 
Dynamic performance was benchmarked with the best vehicles in Europe, while ease of use and space had to measure up to the best North America had to offer. Through its development, engineers worked to a five-minute impression rule, where customers would be expected to recognise the improvement in quality of the new Corolla within five minutes of their first drive.

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From strength to strength: 2013-to present

Coinciding with the year the 40 millionth Corolla rolled off the production line, the eleventh-generation Corolla hit the roads with a confidence, style and quality that befits the world’s best-selling car. Featuring a dynamic new look, premium interior finish – including the new Toyota Touch 2® multimedia system – and a host of safety systems, the new Corolla is the most technologically advanced Corolla to date.

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In 2016, quality and desirability levels are at an all-time high, meaning – even after 50 years – the Corolla is still top of its game. The introduction of a stylish grille, LED headlamps and alloy wheels give it an inspiring new look, while the upgraded multimedia system, enhanced interior and Toyota Safety Sense technologies ensure it’s a car you’ll appreciate spending time in, and want to talk about.

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As testament to the impact the Corolla has made in 50 years, it is currently produced at 15 Toyota plants around the world, is sold in more than 150 countries and regions, and accounts for one in five of the total Toyotas sold in our near-80 year history.
 
Enjoying a rich history filled with technological, design and quality advancements, the Corolla has remained faithful to its original concept of anticipating customers needs and providing cars for people to enjoy the world over. 
 
The icon is set to live long into the future. Here’s to many more years with Corolla…

Toyota Corolla turns 50
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