There’s nothing that defines Toyota’s spirit, heritage, strength and confidence quite like Corolla. Since its birth in 1966, Corolla has been progressing with the times to respond to the needs of the eras in which it’s been produced.
This year, Corolla celebrates its 50th anniversary thanks to our customers.
Since 1969, 11 generations of New Zealand’s favourite car have featured in our lives and our memories. We’ve learned to drive in them and relied on them to take us on family holidays. We’ve trusted them to keep the kids safe in the back seat, and we’ve depended on them to minimise repair bills and maintain their resale value. For so many good reasons, Corolla has long been a member of the Kiwi family.
In 50 years, Corolla has made significant records of various kinds, such as the ‘World’s Best-Selling Car’. Milestones have been reached and achievements made since the launch of the first Corolla in 1966, with more than 44.1 million Corollas* having been sold globally.
(* The Corolla includes all vehicles named ‘Corolla’. Source: TMC, Japan)
The first generation arrived in New Zealand in 1966 as a humble 1.1-litre, two-door car with the design concept of “a practical car that could be driven for many years”. In 1968 Consolidated Motor Industries gained an additional licence, enabling the model to be assembled in Thames.
It wasn’t long after its introduction that this model became the second-best-selling car on the planet. In 1971, in a slightly larger size, the second-generation sedan, wagon and SL coupe provided a more spacious interior, with a 1.6-litre engine and greatly improved driving performance.
The third generation introduced a more stylish design and the body size was increased again to improve collision safety. The cleaner, more efficient Corolla benefited from another modern-day development, the wind tunnel, for testing the vehicle’s aerodynamics. The results from this testing heavily influenced its design, helping to create a car that cut through the air more efficiently. A sedan, wagon, van and SR hardtop were all part of the third generation.
Corolla Fun Fact: 1
One Corolla is sold approximately every 15 seconds worldwide!
With its memorable, straight-lined, rectangular form, the 1979 fourth generation became bigger inside and out. In New Zealand Corolla led its class by outselling the Ford Escort, Honda Civic and Vauxhall Chevette.
The Corolla SE and DX Liftback were the sensational newcomers to the Corolla range, and were the cars to be seen in. Space with style, performance with remarkable economy, and superior handling with uncompromising reliability: the new Corolla was a car for the ’80s, with the DX introducing the all-new, super-economical 4K series 1,300cc engine.
The big news for Corolla in 1983 came in March when the 10-millionth Corolla was produced, and a new 1.6-litre overhead cam engine that was both smoother and more powerful than the previous 1.8-litre was introduced. It was a hint of what was to come next.
The 1984 fifth-generation Corolla saw a major shift from the rear wheel drive layout to the front wheel drive front drive layout. It was the first to receive local attention, with suspension tuning by Chris Amon and interior improvements made with the assistance of Jan Beck improving features such as ride, handling and interior. The most notable benefit of the change was the significant expansion in interior space. The ‘incredible Corolla’ television commercial was fronted by John Davidson, the presenter of a popular television show at the time, That’s Incredible.
The New Zealand-developed GT Liftback and Hatchback variants were introduced, which included leather seats (this was unique in its class), a locally engineered aerodynamic package and the very sporty 4A-GE engine. Five-speed manual or three speed automatic transmission was introduced.
In 1988 the sixth generation was designed to increase the perceived quality of Corolla, and was ahead of its competitors in the New Zealand market at the time.
The rear-drive Corolla coupe and Liftback were replaced with a new front-drive with more refinement and capability than the rear driver it replaced.
Transmission choices were standard five-speed manual and the option of three- or four-speed automatic.
Equipment levels on the sixth generation were a bit spartan by today’s standards, with conveniences such as air conditioning, power steering, and stereo being optional.
In June 1990 the 15-millionth Corolla was produced.
In 1992 the seventh-generation Corolla was larger than before and featured an extremely high-quality interior and exterior.
By 1993 Corolla was ready for another generational change, and an upgrade to the engine when the 1,800cc DOHC power plant was introduced.
Global changes up to this point had had little impact on models available to the New Zealand market until 1988, except for another milestone when Corolla in 1997 became the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, overtaking the VW Beetle.
Taking a step back from the seventh generation, the 1998 eighth generation returned to the original Corolla concept of a simple, convenient and compact vehicle. This model was the last to receive locally designed suspension and trims, as the closure of the plants in Thames and Christchurch saw manufacturing move to Japan at the end of 1998.
Corolla Fun Fact: 2
If all 44.1 million units of Corolla were connected in one line, they would go approximately five times around the Earth! *The length of the current-generation Corolla for Japanese market (4.4 met res) times 44.1 million un its. In actuality, the body size of Corolla differs depending on the market and the model .
The Corolla again grew in its eighth iteration, but managed to lose some weight and increase its fuel mileage thanks to a new engine and a generally more efficient drivetrain. This was aided by a new, all aluminium, 1.8-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine rated at a healthy 120hp – exactly twice the engine rating back in generation one! In 2000 the company added its VVT-I (variable valve timing) system to the 1.8-litre engine, boosting horsepower to an output of 125, at the same time achieving low emissions.
In 2001 the ninth generation saw Corolla being reborn from its traditional conservative image to an image of more modern elegance. It featured a body that reached the maximum limits allowed for a compact car in Japan, and the interior space was also greatly increased by extending the wheelbase.
The 2003 Corolla was an evolutionary development of the all-aluminium, 1.8-litre DOHC, 16-valve engine from the previous generation and rated at 130hp.
Compared with the wide variety of models available in previous years, this Corolla was more comfortable and roomier than ever and was built to provide years of trouble-free motoring.
The 10th generation introduced the Corolla hatch diesel and Corolla Edge in hatch and sedan.
The latest Corolla generation revolutionised what had gone before. The entire range was re-thought and re-engineered – not a task to be taken lightly when you’re talking about the world’s best-selling vehicle.
Corolla Fun Fact:3
Since Toyota’s founding around 80 years ago, over 230 million vehicles have been sold, that’s one out of five holding the Corolla nameplate!
Corolla Fun Fact: 4
50 years have passed since the firs t -generation Corolla was exported to Australia in 1966.
Currently, the Corolla is sold in over 150 countries and regions.
In 2013 Toyota reached a huge milestone: the 40-millionth Corolla rolled off thE production line!
In 2016 the Corolla hatch hybrid was introduced to New Zealand. The world’s all-time best-selling car and the world’s best-selling hybrid technology were combined. Take a fresh look at Corolla – you’ll thoroughly appreciate the evolution of New Zealand’s most loved car.