A Brief History of the Toyota Corolla

First-generation Toyota Corolla

Since its debut in 1966, the Toyota Corolla has been a best-selling commuter and family car that is practical, affordable and fuel efficient. With over 40 million Corollas sold, the current generation of Toyota Corolla is as popular as ever. Now available as a hybrid, the 2021 Toyota Corolla offers the latest entertainment technology, safety and driver assist features, premium comfort amenities and tons of options. Get to know the Toyota Corolla a little bit better.

The First Toyota Corolla

Designed in Japan to appeal to mass market drivers, the first Corolla was a two-door saloon that everyday drivers and families could be proud to own. Toyota’s new vehicle not only had to be affordable but powerful, technologically advanced and stylish. No easy feat. Initially built with a 1.1-liter engine, slightly bigger than the common 1.0-liter engine of the time, the first-generation Toyota Corolla pumped out 59 horsepower and 61 lb-ft of torque. It was soon upgraded to a 1.2-liter engine with 67 hp and 69 lb-ft of torque, and a four-door sedan and two-door station wagon model were introduced. The first Corolla also featured reclinable bucket seats, a paint coating technique called protective electrostatic coating and the latest safety features of the time.


Second-generation Toyota Corolla

The Next Generations

After establishing itself as a family car to be desired, Toyota introduced the next generation Corolla in 1970 with more comfort features, a better driving experience and bold new exterior design. The second-generation Corolla also introduced the two-door coupe model and a 1.4-liter engine. Features normally available only in luxury vehicles were made available in the new Corolla, including A/C, AM/FM stereo and windshield washers. A sporty version of the Corolla, the Toyota Corolla Levin, was launched in 1972 with 113 hp.

The third-generation Corolla was introduced in 1974 and emphasized beating the strict new emissions standards gaining traction worldwide. The new Corolla was made wider with a quieter cabin and ergonomic interior. Even more pains were taken to make the Toyota one of the safest cars on the road.

In 1979, Toyota introduced the fourth-generation Corolla with even better fuel efficiency and a focus on understanding what consumers really wanted from their vehicle. A diesel engine was introduced for the first time in 1982 that offered even better fuel economy and started better in cold weather. New suspension, a more aerodynamic body and a complete makeover of the interior were also trademarks of the fourth-generation Corolla. The Toyota Corolla became the best-selling car in the world at 4.73 million units*, with Toyota producing an unprecedented 10 million units since its inception.


Fifth-generation Toyota Corolla sedan

The Corolla Gets FWD

In 1983, it was time for the fifth-generation Toyota, now available with front-wheel drive. For the first time, the Corolla was designed with the aid of computer technology and the exterior completely redesigned. New transmission options were introduced, including a new four-speed automatic transmission in addition to the four- or five-speed manual. Once again, the Corolla became a best-seller.

The sixth-generation Corolla debuted in 1987 with more engine options than ever, from a 1.3-liter 2E to the 1.8-liter 1C engine. Rear-wheel drive was discontinued, marking the first time the Corolla was available only with front-wheel drive. The seventh-generation launched in 1992 and was larger, faster and safer.

By 1995 when the eighth-generation Corolla rolled out, Toyota began designing different models for different markets, further improving sales. North America only got the Corolla sedan, while Japan and Europe had more options with the Corolla sedan, hatchback, liftback and five-door estate. The new Corolla was lighter, more powerful and more fuel efficient. In 1997, the Toyota Corolla became the best-selling nameplate of all time*, with 23.5 million sold, beating out even the VW Beetle.


Ninth-generation Toyota Corolla sedan

A New Millennium

With the turn of the century came a new Toyota Corolla. In 2000, Toyota redesigned the Corolla yet again, aiming for the younger, more stylish market. The interior became more premium, handling improved, and fuel economy continued on its upward trajectory.

In 2006, Toyota changed the Corolla nameplate to Auris in Europe and Japan, continuing with the tenth-generation Corolla in the U.S. The eleventh-generation Corolla debuted in 2012, and some Corolla-Auris markets got a new hybrid option.

In 2018, Toyota dropped the Auris name and returned to calling it a Corolla worldwide. The current, twelfth-generation Toyota Corolla is now available as a sedan, hatchback or hybrid sedan in the U.S. 


XSE Apex Edition shown in Cement with Black Sand Pearl roof and available accessory black rear aero spoiler.

The Toyota Corolla Today

The Toyota Corolla has evolved into a stylish vehicle with all the modern amenities: state-of-the-art technology and safety features, premium interior materials and amenities, with endless customization options. Still a leader in fuel efficiency and affordability, the 2021 Toyota Corolla and Toyota Corolla Hybrid now pump out up to 169-horsepower, get up to 53 mpg** and are as popular as ever.

Explore all the options for a new 2021 Toyota Corolla or Toyota Corolla Hybrid at Freeman Toyota. We are family-owned and have been serving the Bay Area and Northern California drivers for over 50 years. Shop our large Toyota inventory online or visit Freeman Toyota in Santa Rosa, California, to test drive the Toyota Corolla of your choice. Interested in a pre-owned Toyota? Freeman Toyota offers a wide selection of Certified Pre-Owned and used Toyota Corollas at an incredible value. Freeman Toyota in Santa Rosa, CA. Dog-gone friendly since 1963.

*Source: GarageDreams.net

**EPA-estimated 30 city/38 hwy/33 combined mpg for 2021 Corolla L, LE, SE Apex CVT and XSE Apex; EPA-estimated 29 city/37 hwy/32 combined for 2021 Corolld XLE; EPA-estimated 29 city/36 hwy/32 combined mpg for 2021 Corolla SE 6MT; EPA-estimated 31 city/40 highway/34 combined mpg for 2021 Corolla SE CVT and SE Nightshade; EPA-estimated 28 city/35 hwy/31 combined mpg for 2021 Corolla SE Apex 6MT; EPA-estimated 31 city/38 hwy/34 combined mpg for 2021 Corolla XSE; EPA-estimated 53 city/52 hwy/52 combined mpg for 2021 Corolla Hybrid LE. Use for comparison purposes only. Your mileage will vary for many reasons, including your vehicle’s condition and how/where you drive. See www.fueleconomy.gov.