Toyota Corolla: World’s Best-Seller Completes 50 Years | Nostalgia

Kudos, Toyota Corolla! This year marks the 50th birth anniversary of yours. You have cheered up more than 44 million households so far since 1966, passing on your legacy to models of 11 car generations and retaining your peculiarity in terms of build quality, passenger safety, affordability, and unmatched reliability all through these years.

Toyota corolla success 50 years

Toyota Corolla nameplate celebrating 50 years of global presence

As rightly christened as ‘Corolla’, meaning ‘crown of flowers’ in Latin, you have blossomed into a top-selling, most popular car nameplate across the globe, with strong presence in almost every regional markets, and have certainly help your maker to bloom phenomenally all these years. You entered India only in 2003 when you were in your ninth generation as a petrol-only model, yet very soon secured yourself an unbeatable position in the premium saloon segment for the past 14 years or so. Wishing you very best, you are set to live long in the years to come!!

Romanticism aside, the idea of being the best-seller with 44 million car has its own grey areas, especially for a modern car like Corolla. The contemporary marketing practice of applying a car nameplate across a wide range of cars is the problem here. There has never been uniformity in packaging across global markets even with the same generation – the Corolla we had in India wasn’t same as the one in US or Japan. Other top-spot legendary cars like VW Beetle or Ford Model T never had such an advantages, and so they are pushed to second and third positions in global best-sellers list respectively. That is not to undermine Corolla’s success feat, it is one of the biggest single automotive success story ever.

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Interestingly, the Corolla is not really celebrated in markets like USA and Europe, as we do here in India. Primarily because they have even better cars in the segment all through its time, the Corolla was never a driver’s car with its weedy performance. It also lacked a personality of its own, and is of an economy kind of car. But for all its alleged boringness, the car was a reliable work horse and has earned a reputation of being a dependable car that was also well-equipped.

Toyota Corolla S

World’s Best-seller: Every fifth car Toyota has ever sold is a car with Corolla nameplate.

It is also acknowledged worldwide that all Corollas were easy to drive, have light clutch and steering in every generation models since the beginning. I have also heard this narrative in India, as I recollect a car dealer some years back saying that Corollas are often preferred by women owing to this factor, although it may be partly of his conviction that women always prefer cars that can be driven easily. Nevertheless, with my own experience of driving every Corolla models we got, its easy drivability is hardly refutable. And the 1.8-litre 16 valve VVT-i petrol engine was fun to drive even when it has only 125 PS of power initially, now it has been tweaked to offer 140 hp of power. However, the 1.4-litre D4-D diesel motor of the car was a bit of disappointment owing to its weedy performance on par with the segment standards, and still Toyota has not worked on this front.

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Years back in 2007, in a small town of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, I spotted an imported seventh-generation 1995-model year Corolla in a familiar auto-repair garage where I usually service my car. I was told that the car belonged to a local owner and is up for a clutch assembly overhaul. That was a North America-spec car with a 1.8-litre petrol engine. It had typically 90s appeal and outlook – wide body, lower road stance, long bumpers, and even had original wheel covers.

Toyota corolla sedan

I was so much into that car that I convinced the owner to let me take his car for a spin. It was fun to drive and a better handler than my 1999 Fiat Siena, but the ride was little stiffer in spite of independent rear suspension. I had driven the ninth-generation car before driving the old generation, yet the experiences with the old and new models were comparable. That’s the Corolla’s legacy across generations I would say.

Of all the Corollas, the ninth-generation is my personal favourite. The present-day car exhibits a stunning design, with its swayed front face and elegant interiors. The upcoming 2017 Corolla is expected to be even better in terms of design and engine performances as well. This points to the fact that Toyota is discovering upmarket styling and taste with the Corolla, moving aside from its pedigree of being dull and boring, reliable-only cars. The Corolla is trying to be a different flower now.

Next, would you like to read more on Toyota, or similar articles from Nostalgia section?

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran

Editorial consultant (Automotive and Technology), academic, and blogger based in India. He can be reached at

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