The Toyota Corolla is a successfully mass-produced compact vehicle in production since 1966. Upon its debut in Japan, the Corolla was sold at Toyota Corolla Store locations, formerly Toyota Publica Store. In Latin etymology, the word “corolla” loosely translates to “small crown”. The first four generations were rear-wheel-drive, but transitioned to a front-drive design in the fifth generation.
Production of the Corolla commenced with the E10 series from November 1966, assembled at the Takaoka Plant in Toyota City, Japan. Public sales of the Corolla took place in the former Publica Store dealership chain, then renamed Toyota Corolla Store. The Corolla’s wheelbase measured 90 inches (2286 mm), and exterior length at 151.5 inches and 58.7 inches in width. The base engine option was a 1077cc (1.1L) inline-4 producing 60 horsepower. An unusual feature for its class was a floor-mounted manual transmission (4-speed), which was then seen as a type of mechanical setup reserved only for trucks.
In March of 1968, Toyota Auto Store locations in Japan began rolling out fastback versions of the Corolla, called Sprinter. The Sprinter was the 2-door coupe model in the Corolla lineup, leaving the official Corolla models to be available as 2- or 4-door sedans and 2-door station wagons. 1968 was also the year exports to North America started. American Corollas were available with the same 1.1L inline-4 engine. In 1969, both the Corolla and Sprinter got updated with a larger engine, the 1.2L 3K. This engine pushed 65 horsepower. The first generation Corolla was produced until 1970.
May 1970 saw the debut of the E20 series. Wheelbase for this generation was amped up slightly, to 2335 mm (91.9 in). Besides the sedan, coupe, and wagon, a van was added to the Corolla lineup. North America did not get the van model. Also, the engine lineup was more limited than the vast array that was available in Japan. American Corollas got either a 1.2L 3K-C or a 1.6L 2T-C. In 1972, two sporty models called S5 and SR5 were introduced, both with the 102 horsepower 1.6-liter engine. The chassis code for the USDM SR5 coupe, TE27, is the same as the JDM Levin model. Production for the second generation Corolla ceased in 1974.
In April 1974, the E30 generation debuted. The wheelbase was extended to 2370 mm (93 inches). “E30” is a common designation for this generation overall, as there were different models with different chassis codes. For example, E30 and E31 denoted the two- and four-door sedan models, and the E37 was the hardtop coupe. The only chassis North America did not get was the van, or “E36“. Power for American Corollas came from either a 1.2L 3K-C or a 1.6L 2T-C, although during the oil crisis of the early 1970’s the smaller 3K engine was a more popular engine.
Although the E30 generation hadn’t finished production yet, in March of 1979, the E70 generation debuted. The difference between it and the E30 was the wheelbase; it was extended to 2400 mm (94 inches). It was also more powerful. All-new were the 1.6L 4A-C and 1.8L 3T-C engines for North America. However, Japan got the Corolla Levin with the 1.6L 2T-GEU, producing 115 horsepower. The new design for the Corolla reflected a trend towards being more economical, aerodynamic, and aesthetically pleasing. Trim levels ranged from Standard, DX, DLX (wagon), and SR5. In 1982, a rectangular two-headlight front end design was implemented as the mid-cycle facelift.
May 1983 saw the debut of the fifth generation (E80) Corolla, and to that end, the first generation to feature front-wheel-drive. This generation retained the 2400 mm wheelbase from the previous generation. Most notable about the E80 generation was the “go-fast” AE85 and AE86 variants, nicknamed “hachi-roku” (“86” in Japanese). Unlike the base lineup, these were rear-wheel-drive; the last Corollas in history to be rear-wheel-drive. The Japanese-market Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno got power from a 1.6L “red top” 4A-GE throwing 128 horsepower at 6600 rpm. The North American models in the “AE86” range each got different VIN codes and less power than the Japanese version. The three trim levels were DX, SR5, and GT-S, and power to each of these came from as follows: both the DX (AE85) and SR5 (AE86) got 87 horsepower at 4800 rpm, and the AE88 GT-S threw 112 horsepower at 6600 rpm. Undoubtedly, the power figures of the GT-S are much closer to those of the Japanese version. Transmission options for the “AE86” were either the T50 5-speed manual or the A42DL 4-speed automatic. This AE86 series was produced until 1987, coinciding with the end of the production run for the E80 Corolla overall.
The sixth generation E90 Corolla made its debut in May of 1987. In addition to the Japanese production in Toyota City, as well as worldwide production of the Corolla lineup, there were other production locations for different markets. For example, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) built Canadian-market models in Cambridge, Ontario; and New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) built US-market Corollas and the GM-Toyota joint-venture Geo/Chevrolet Prizm in Fremont, California. Likewise, in Australia, the Holden-Toyota alliance built the Holden Nova in Dandenong, in the state of Victoria.
Out of five body styles available for Japan, North America got the sedan, coupe, hatchback, and wagon. North American Corollas did not come in the hatchback; however the captive-import Geo Prizm model was available as a hatchback. The AE92 sedan came in Standard, DX, and LE trims. There also was a 4WD sedan with the AE94 VIN code. The coupe was available in SR5 (AE96) and GT-S (AE98); however they remained front-wheel-drive along with the rest of the Corolla lineup. These were virtually the same with the Japanese-market AE92 Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno coupes. Besides the front-wheel-drive DX wagon (AE94), there was also a 4WD version (AE95) called All-Trac, or simply “4WD“. This model was equivalent to Japan’s Sprinter Carib model. The engine lineup for North America consisted of variations of the 1.6L 4A, with power ranging from 95 to 135 horsepower.
June 1991 saw the debut of the E100 series in Japan. The base model in the lineup was the Corolla FX, available in 4-door sedan, 5-door station wagon, and van. Coded AE101, a two-door coupe called Corolla Levin returned to the lineup, and new for 1992, two “pillared-hardtop” sedans called Sprinter Marino and Corolla Ceres debuted.
In model year 1993, the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California started production of both the US-market E100 Corolla and the second generation Geo Prizm. The Corolla was available in four trims: Standard, CE, DX, and LE. Both a 4-door sedan (AE101/AE102) and 5-door station wagon (AE102) were available across the lineup. The Geo Prizm was available only as a sedan. Motive power for the Corolla came from the 1.6L 4A-FE and 1.8L 7A-FE. The 4A-FE turned out between 100 and 105 horsepower, and the 7A-FE between 105 and 115 horsepower. In 1996, the Corolla gained a refresh, featuring clear turn signal lights in the taillight cluster. In 1997, the DX wagon was dropped, and in June 1998 in Japan, both the Sprinter Marino and Corolla Ceres hardtops discontinued production. Also, the Detroit-based Geo brand was defunct.
May 1995 saw the debut of the E110 series in Japan. Body styles included the E110 and E111 sedan, wagon, FWD Sprinter Carib, and 2-door Levin coupe. Also available in the lineup were the 4WD Sprinter Carib and 4WD sedan. The engine lineup consisted of a 1.3L 4E-FE, 1.5L 5A-FE, 1.6L 4A-FE and 4A-GE, 2.0L 2C-III, and a 2.2L 3C-E.
In 1998, the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California and TMMC plant in Cambridge, Ontario started production of the North American market E110. This vehicle was available only as a 4-door sedan. Available trim levels were the VE, CE, and LE. To make this car lighter than the previous generation, an all-aluminum 1.8L 1ZZ-FE engine was installed with a timing chain. This yielded higher fuel economy and power ratings. From 1998 to 1999, the 1ZZ-FE turned out 120 horsepower. Very similar in regard to this model, the third generation Prizm debuted; albeit this time a Chevrolet model.
In 2000, the Corolla was facelifted and given an upgraded engine. The 1.8L 1ZZ-FE was now fitted with Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which brought power up to 125 horsepower. The VE was dropped and replaced by the S model, and the CE shared its “base” designation in the lineup. In Japan, the Sprinter model was discontinued; and in 2002, the Chevrolet Prizm ended production.
August 2000 saw the debut of the ninth-generation E120 Corolla in Japan. This model was based on Toyota’s global “MC” platform, used for compact and mid-size front-wheel-drive vehicles. The Corolla came available in four body styles: 4-door sedan, 3- and 5-door hatchback (Corolla RunX), and a 5-door station wagon called Corolla Fielder. Filling in the segment gap left by the discontinued Sprinter was a new model called Toyota Allex. The Allex was significantly similar to the Corolla RunX, but was considered more upscale and in its own lineup. The highest trim level on the Corolla RunX was the RunX Z Aero, which, hence the name, featured a notable aero kit on the exterior, and the 1.8L 2ZZ-GE engine as its power source. This was the same motor to be employed in the second generation Lotus Elise sports car, making 190 horsepower.
The E120 generation made its debut in North America in early 2002 for the 2003 model year. Although it was available only as a 4-door sedan in CE, LE, S, and XRS trims, Toyota in partnership with GM developed both the Corolla-based Matrix and Pontiac Vibe 5-door hatchbacks. Both shared the same 102-inch wheelbase, and engine options. The Pontiac Vibe was produced by New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) in Fremont, California as a successor to the long-discontinued Chevrolet Prizm; whereas the Toyota Matrix, although heavily sharing much architecture with the Pontiac, was a niche vehicle all its own in the North American Toyota lineup.
Throughout its entire production run, the North American E120 Corolla had the 1.8L 1ZZ-FE as its base engine for the CE, LE, and S models. This unit turned out 130 horsepower. For the 2005 model year, a sporty model trim called XRS was introduced. The XRS added a more potent 170 horsepower 1.8L 2ZZ-GE engine, a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission and an aggressive body kit. The XRS was a corresponding model to the Matrix XRS and Vibe GT. The Corolla XRS was produced for only two years. Production for the E120 Corolla ended production in 2007 in Japan, and in 2008 in North America.
October 2006 saw the debut of the tenth-generation (E140) Corolla in Japan. It was available in both the Corolla Axio sedan and the Corolla Fielder wagon. The RunX hatchback was discontinued, and replaced by a new model all its own lineup, called Toyota Auris. Also based on the Auris, a replacement for the Allex, called Blade, debuted in the Japanese Toyota lineup. Both the Auris and Blade rode on Toyota’s “New MC” platform, which was an updated version of the existing MC platform. This Japanese lineup is considered the “narrow-body” in the tenth generation Corolla lineup, as it was narrower than its international counterparts. The JDM Corolla measured 1695 mm (66.7 in) wide, versus the international Corollas’ 1760 mm (69.3 in).
The North American “wide-body” E140 debuted for the 2009 model year. It featured significantly larger Camry-like styling, and came available in 5 trim levels in the US, and 4 trim levels in Canada. The top-of-the-line for both markets was the XRS, which, like the previous generation XRS, featured an aggressive body kit. Power came from a 2.4L 2AZ-FE producing 158 horsepower and 162 lb/ft of torque. The rest of the lineup was powered by a 1.8L 2ZR-FE. Also that year, the second generation Matrix and Pontiac Vibe debuted, both featuring the same powertrain options (1.8L 2ZR-FE in the base models; 2.4L 2AR-FE in the Matrix XRS and Vibe GT). In April 2009, General Motors filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the failing Pontiac brand. Although marketed as a 2010 model, the second year of the second generation Vibe ended production in August 2009. The Pontiac brand was shuttered in October of 2010.
After the discontinuation of the Pontiac Vibe and the Pontiac brand altogether, the lineup was left only with the Corolla and Matrix. 2011 saw a cosmetic update to both. In the US, the XLE and XRS were discontinued, but the XRS continued in Canada. In 2013, the Matrix discontinued American production, with Canadian models still selling into the 2014 model year.
The eleventh generation Corolla debuted differently in Japan and internationally. Japan got the “narrow-body” E160 in Axio sedan and Fielder wagon forms. The international wide-body (including those sold in North America) had the chassis code E170. The JDM E160 rode on Toyota’s subcompact B platform, while the E170 rode on the New MC platform.
The Japanese-market E160 Corolla debuted in May 2012, rolling off production lines in Miyagi and Shizuoka prefectures. In 2013, a hybrid system much like what was found in the Prius c (called “Toyota Aqua” in Japan) was introduced to the Corolla lineup. Although continuously variable transmissions (CVT) were commonplace throughout the lineup, the Hybrid model featured an E-CVT to assist its 72 horsepower 1.5L 1NZ-FXE engine. An August 2013 article by Green Car Congress states that the Corolla Hybrid could achieve a fuel economy rating of 3.0L/100 km (77.6 mpg US) under the JC08 test cycle of MLIT (Japan’s ministry of transportation). In April 2015, the Axio and Fielder received a facelift, as well as a new collision safety system called “Toyota Safety Sense”.
January 2013 saw the debut of the Corolla Furia concept at the North American International Auto Show. It featured notably aggressive exterior styling and larger stance. In August 2013, the production version based on the Furia concept debuted for the public. Initially available only as a 4-door sedan, the Corolla came in four trims: L, LE, LE Eco, and S. All models except the LE Eco got Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) with the 1.8L engine. This produced 132 horsepower. The S model got a CVTi-S, which simulated a sporty shift-feel. Other features available on the Corolla included a smart key/push-button start, power moonroof, and a backup monitor.
The production version of the Scion iM hatchback, based on the Toyota Auris, made its North American debut at the New York Auto Show in April 2015. It was intended partially as a replacement model for the discontinued Scion xB, but probably more to the likes of the Toyota Matrix. Power came from a 1.8L 2ZR-FAE, producing 137 horsepower – 5 more horsepower than the Corolla. Unfortunately, for the iM, both the hatchback and the Scion brand were not very successful. Toyota’s February 2016 announcement concerning Scion’s fate came true in August that year, with some 2017 models transitioning into the Toyota lineup. After the iM’s 2016 season, it became the Corolla iM in the Toyota lineup.
2017 saw a huge update to the Corolla lineup: it was given restyled front and rear fascias, Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P), and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Also featured in the lineup were the upgraded Eco LE and a limited-run 50th Anniversary Special Edition. The Eco Le now produced 140 horsepower from its 1.8L hybrid engine system.