Toyota Corolla History
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The Toyota Corolla, by this point, is nothing less than an American institution. The compact four-door sedan is the car that changed U.S. buyer expectations forever, and slowly built Toyota from just another Japanese carmaker to the largest auto company in the world. The humble Corolla picked up the baton that the Volkswagen Beetle dropped in the 1970s, and it has been among the best-selling small cars ever since.
There have been ben generations of Corollas over 40 years, with an entirely new design expected for the 2014 model year. Each generation has reinforced Toyota's reputation as the purveyor of reliable, sensible cars that could last hundreds of thousands of miles. They may not have been stylish, they may not have been exciting, but they almost never let down their owners--and the market rewarded that characteristic handsomely.
Over its lifetime, the Corolla has gone from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive, and the lineup has encompassed sedans, coupes, hatchbacks, wagons, even fastbacks. But throughout its life, it's kept its reputation intact. Two to three years after Toyota's unintended acceleration fiasco of 2010, the company's reputation has largely recovered and consumers are continuing to buy the existing, aged Corolla despite what are now clear deficiencies against a new and much tougher set of competitors.
Those include the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze, and a host of second-tier entries as well: Mazda 3, Nissan Sentra,Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Jetta among them. Toyota hopes to up the excitement quotient in the next Corolla, which will be launched as a 2014 model and draw its more adventurous styling cues from the sporty Furia Concept, along with much-improved connectivity and interior appointments.
See our full review of the 2013 Toyota Corolla range for more information, including options, pricing, gas-mileage ratings, specifications, and photos,
We gave the current, outgoing 2013 Corolla a rating of 7.2 out of 10, based on it being trouble-free transportation for a low price. While its powertrain is now behind the curve, and its fuel efficiency nothing to call home about, it continues to sell in huge numbers to buyers who want trouble-free, if unadventurous, transportation. Shoppers often compare the Toyota Corolla to the Hyundai Elantra, or consider many newer alternatives, including the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, or Nissan Sentra.
The current version of the Toyota Corolla, launched as a 2009 model, did not make the leap ahead in design or refinement that competing compact sedans did in their recent iterations. For 2010, safety was stepped up, with ABS, stability control, front side and side curtain bags, and active head restraints all made standard. And you can even get a navigation system, among modern conveniences, as an option on uplevel Corolla models.
For the first two years of its latest generation, the Corolla was sold in luxurious XLE trim, which included better interior appointments--albeit at a higher price. Also for those years, an XRS version of the Corolla offered the Camry's engine, a 2.4-liter, under the hood for much quicker performance. In more recent years the 'S' trim has offered some of that model's appearance, but at a more affordable price. For 2013, the Corolla saw only the most minor of feature changes.
Base versions remained with no power windows, no power locks even, and embrace the cheapskate simplicity (although Toyota finally made power windows, locks, and mirrors standard in 2012). For 2013, Toyota introduced a slightly different grille with added chrome, and all models but the base L received a new 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system with Bluetooth hands-free calling, Bluetooth audio streaming, and USB connectivity. Toyota also announced plans to phase out Japanese production for the U.S. Corolla--with the automaker likely moving more production to Tupelo, Mississippi instead.
Many other models over the years have also, formally or informally, been part of the Corolla family (the Matrix and Tercel are two), and the Corolla has been sold by GM dealerships through some years—mainly the late '80s through the '90s—as the Chevrolet Nova, Chevrolet Prizm, or Geo Prizm. This past decade, the Matrix and Pontiac Vibe are closely related to the Corolla.
Rear-wheel-drive Corollas actually continued in sport-coupe form until 1987, but by then sedans had the front-wheel-drive layout that maintain today. Over time, the 1.6-liter four has been expanded to a 1.8-liter, and the optional three-speed automatic got four speeds, but the Corolla hasn't grown that much larger.