Most of us can definitely agree that the cars of the past just don’t look anything like what we have now. The big clunkers of days gone by have been phased out and replaced with sleek, aerodynamic vehicles. Some models have stayed pretty close to the same, despite these upgrades. Most of us can pick out trucks and muscle cars from previous generations. But some vehicles, like the 2022 Toyota Corolla, are hard to link to their looks from the past. While the Corolla is now known as one of the best, most reliable compact sedans on the market, it didn’t start out that way. The history behind the Corolla is rich and interesting and is a huge part of why it has turned into the capable vehicle it is now.
The Corolla was originally conceived in the 1960s. This is the same timeframe as the quintessential Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, Dodge Charger, and others. Basically, the Corolla was thought up during the era of muscle cars. While tough and sporty-looking cars were what was popular during the time, the Corolla didn’t follow in those steps. Toyota thought a bit outside the box and gave drivers a simple family vehicle. While it wasn’t a whole lot to look at, the 1962 Corolla wasn’t priced incredibly high, making it an attainable vehicle for many drivers.
Despite being fairly priced, the Corolla didn’t receive a ton of traction. This had less to do with the capability of the vehicle and more to do with its cut-down features. Drivers loved that the Corolla was functional, but they didn’t want a vehicle that looked like it would fit in with their kitchen appliances. And the Corolla definitely looked a bit like a toaster oven when it was first produced. Due to its unattractive nature and the changing culture of the times, Toyota’s 1962 Corolla was a flop. This was a hard lesson for Toyota to accept, but we are glad the brand used it as a learning moment rather than just giving up.
With the cold reception to the original Corolla putting Toyota into uncertain waters, Toyota decided to re-do the Corolla. This time it made the vehicle closer to what the average driver was expecting. Instead of treating the car as a necessity, Toyota began to model the Corolla as a luxury. This started with a suspension redesign that made the Corolla ride more smoothly, and Toyota altered the engine and its placement in the vehicle. This redesign was no easy feat, and Toyota was investing a lot of money into acquiring plants capable of even manufacturing a vehicle with these changes. Against all odds, internal fights, and a factory reset, Toyota was able to produce this new version of the Corolla.
Released in the 1970s, the new and improved Corolla made its debut. It still appeared a bit toaster-ish, but this time, it didn’t look or feel like it should be sitting on a kitchen counter instead of the road. The second generation Corolla was still geared towards family driving, but instead of being focused on utilitarian purposes, Toyota made the second generation both comfortable and fun to drive. This elevated the Corolla to the top of the family car lineup. This could be partly attributed to Toyota’s willingness to include some basic comforts in its vehicles. Items such as an AM/FM radio, windshield wipers, and air conditioning, which were typically not included in lower-priced vehicles at the time, were available in the Toyota Corolla.
Third Time’s the Charm
While the second generation of the Toyota Corolla was received much better, Toyota was still missing the mark as far as sporty vehicles go. Toyota knew it had a gap to fill and wanted to keep itself in the lead for popular vehicles. The brand took its Corolla plans and adjusted, shifted, and changed a good portion of the vehicle. In 1974, a sportier, less family-oriented version of the Corolla was released, and it was one of the best-received versions of the car. This was a huge undertaking for Toyota because of the changing times. Toyota had to adjust quite a bit about the Corolla’s engines due to environmental policies being passed on vehicle emissions. However, despite these difficulties, Toyota released its new version of the Corolla for all drivers to enjoy.
Four Generations In
While the third generation of the Corolla was well received, Toyota still wasn’t getting the traction it needed. In an attempt to address that discrepancy, Toyota released the 1979 Corolla. The fourth generation was designed after a survey had been done on what drivers of vehicles were interested in. After everything from the survey was taken into consideration, Toyota put out its most popular version of the Corolla yet.
The updated exterior made the Corolla more aerodynamic, which helped maintain its popularity during the oil crisis. The changes were not exclusively made on the exterior; Toyota also focused on making the car comfortable on the inside, which involved changing the bumpers and making it less susceptible to road vibrations. These upgrades made the Corolla safer, and the fourth generation may well be considered the step that elevated Toyota above other manufacturers.
Fifth and Counting
Like the previous generations, the fifth generation Corolla was updated as a response to more cultural changes and expectations when it came to cars. Toyota was always responsive in listening to what its drivers wanted, and for the 1983 release of the Corolla, drivers wanted a lot of things. Features like front-wheel drive, roomier cabins, and more electronics inside the car were in high demand. Toyota was ever accommodating and, for later renditions of the fifth generation Corolla, even allowed for a little bit of vehicle diversity in terms of drivetrain and engine type. This allowed Toyota to appease both purist Corolla lovers who did not want anything changed about their beloved car and continue to appeal to new generations of drivers. This adaptability at even such an early timeframe helped make Toyota one of the leading automobile brands.
Going on Thirty
The sixth generation of the Corolla was released in 1988 and came with some major changes. Toyota no longer offered rear-wheel drive with the sixth generation, which frustrated some of the long-term Corolla fans, but it wasn’t enough to really harm sales of the Corolla. This change, among a few others, increased the driveability of the Corolla and made it smoother and easier to handle. Drivers across the board were more satisfied with the 1988 Corolla and the ease of use. This was also the year when the hard edges of the muscle cars became less popular, and rounded, soft, and bubbly shapes were becoming the height of vehicular fashion. This generation of the Toyota Corolla set records for the total number of units sold and really set the tone for following generations of the Corolla.
The Car We Know Today
The 2022 Toyota Corolla stems from a long line of incredible cars built by an understanding manufacturer. While there’s always more to uncover about the early days of vehicle manufacturing, the transformation that the Corolla underwent to become the amazing car it is today is like no other. While there have been far more than six generations of the Corolla for drivers to enjoy, and the current model is the 12th generation, Toyota made some huge leaps and bounds over the years that are hard to truly comprehend and appreciate until you compare where it started to where it is at now.