From boy racer to elegant driver - How the Toyota Corolla has evolved through time

<i> Image: Motorpress </i>
<i> Image: Motorpress </i>

The Toyota Corolla has been a mainstay of South Africa's automotive industry, transforming itself from fresh-faced boy racer to elegance on wheels.

The very first model made its debut back in November 1966, sporting a puny 1 000cc engine producing as much as 57kW. More than 50 years later, plenty of things have changed.

'Boxes' and 'Bubbles'

It has seen many guises over the years with people name-picking some models such as the 'bubble', 'wetlook' and 'boxie' variants that have become so popular here.

What was your favourite Corolla model and why? Do you own a Corolla, or an older-generation model? Email us your images and tell us your story.

Review: Toyota Corolla Hatch XR - A hit without a shadow of a doubt

South Africa never received the first (E10) and second (E20) generations which are not a disappointment, greater improvements were yet to come.

                                                                              Image: Quickpic

The Corolla was once the king that dominated all but has since been usurped by the Hilux becoming SA's new favourite 'child'. The sales figures of the latter speak for themselves too, constantly bringing in excess of 2500 in new vehicle sales every month. If bread and butter were an example for the brand then the Hilux is it.

Corolla revival

The Corolla was at the height of its performance powers in the late '90s to the early 2000s with the release of the 8th generation. It was the 4A-GE 1.6l 20-valve engine that jostled Toyota up amongst the sports cars of the era.

                                                                            Image: Calvin Fisher

The gradual maturity and diversion away from previous generations is the design cues of later Professional, Quest and Esteem models. There seems to be a general connotation amongst the younger crowd that the Corolla is seen as more of an 'older dad' car or, an Uber ride.

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post owns a '98 Corolla RSI 20V. She says: "I purchased my Blacktop 20V almost 12 years ago, as a third owner at that, and I love that car more than some of my former boyfriends. Up until I drove the fifth generation Supra earlier this year, nothing has brought me such immense joy and pleasure from a Toyota model. It's driving pleasure has been hard to beat, and while all cars "grow up" the current Toyota models have lost that feeling in recent years.

"With that said, the new Corolla Hatch is a breath of fresh air to the range, and has awoken the tenacious spirit of Toyota once more. With more edgy looks, and fun-to-drive handling and an increase in performance, the Corolla is on its way to being a being a popular choice again."


While the design of newer models might be something of a bitter pill to swallow to fans of yesteryear, it makes complete sense from a sales and buying perspective. Corolla sedans now target the comfortable family car audience, where it also faces competition with the likes of Hyundai's Elantra and many others.

Toyota has had plenty of successful hatchback models in the past with its Conquest and Avante variants. The name made a comeback this year with the launch of the Corolla Hatch, its appeal now firmly aimed at the younger crowd, and with good reason.

The Corolla might not be Toyota's best-seller but its legacy is deep-rooted in the local auto industry. It might be all grown up now, but it's a car that will always be loved.

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