2020 Toyota Corolla: The Evolution of a Bestselling Sedan

Consistently affordable, dependable, and downright sexy, the Toyota Corolla has been one of the world’s most popular cars for the better part of five decades. Since 1966, nearly 45 million Corollas have hit the roads, from the tip of Maine to Sedalia to the southwest corner of San Diego. That’s about 2 million cars for every year the Corolla has been the planet’s bestselling nameplate (1997).


Venerable as it is today, the Toyota Corolla went through several dramatic facelifts before earning the public’s respect. Here’s how we got to the latest, 12th-generation 2020 Corolla, which just happens to be available for sale and lease right now at a Toyota dealership near you. (Buckle up.)

1966-1970 Corolla (First Generation)

Corolla (1st Generation)

Toyota gave birth to its first-ever Corolla (E10) in November of 1966 at its Tokyo City plant. Its infancy was powered by an invigorating 1077 cc K pushrod engine, a four-speed manual shifter, and RWD. Originally available as a two-door sedan, the first-gen Corolla E10 eventually had a growth spurt; by 1970, Corolla was available as a four-door car (and two-door van), and came with a 1.2-liter 3K engine.

It quickly became the top-selling car in Japan thanks to its fresh, European-inspired, semi-fastback design. Corolla featured some unique equipment and features, including curved auto glass, reversing lights, a detachable rearview mirror, and aerodynamic side vents. Sporty add-ons included a center console box, radio player, heater, and bucket seats.

1970-1974 Corolla (Second Generation)

Corolla (2nd Generation)

By 1970, the little baby Corolla began taking its first steps into the real world, and Japan’s automaker quickly ramped up the production of its second-gen model to match suit. The Corolla E20 featured a completely restyled, rounded body with a single pane of side glass—a daring design decision at the time. That risk paid off, as Corolla continued trending in the direction of “best family car.” Second-generation Corollas were the first to be equipped with AM/FM stereos, air conditioning, windshield wipers, child locks, and glare-proof dashboard clusters.

A Corolla coupe entered the mix around this time, as did the Corolla Levin, which marked the model’s entry into the sports car arena. The 1972 Levin featured a five-speed transmission and a much larger double overhead camshaft engine (1588 cc 2T-G); in doing so, it garnered a growing fanbase of auto connoisseurs. This was the origin of 2T-G’s status as a Toyota legend.

1974-1979 Corolla (Third Generation)

Corolla (3rd Generation)

Carrying over its successful billing as “the ultimate family car,” the third-generation Toyota Corolla offered a new suite of standard safety and technology features. Bi-level heaters were incorporated inside, allowing drivers to recirculate air for better ventilation. An impact-absorbing structure was utilized and featured a crush zone, thicker door paneling, and stronger sheet metals. Three-point retractor seatbelts were standardized for the first time ever, too.

Perhaps the most significant improvement made over the second-generation model was its inclusion of a catalyst-based exhaust gas purification system. In laymen’s terms, this system reduced the Corolla’s emissions—and a more refined version of it can be found in most of today’s vehicles.

By the end of its run, the 3rd-gen Corolla started gaining traction in the U.S., and the rest is history.

1979-1983 Corolla (Fourth Generation)

Corolla (4th Generation)

Reimagined as a luxurious albeit family-focused sedan, the fourth-generation Toyota Corolla began exploring its individuality. Newer engine ranges. Better fuel economy. More room. Essentially, Corolla’s design team engineered the car to outperform all expectations. To do so, the team worked tirelessly through the holidays to deliver the model just one month before its release.

Improvements included disk brakes, a brand-new four-link coil suspension, an available diesel engine (Corolla’s first), electric door mirrors, and a four-speed automatic transmission.

1983-1987 Corolla (Fifth Generation)

Corolla (5th Generation)

Having sold 10 million units, Toyota Corolla entered its rebellious years with a bit of a well-earned ego—it could do no wrong—and an aura of superiority. As such, the fifth-gen model became the most comprehensive model change in the vehicle’s history.

It featured standard front-wheel-drive and revolutionized vehicles forever by incorporating computing technology into the design phase. Powerplants were engineered using elementary computers (Computer-Aided Design), as was the gearbox and aerodynamic exterior. Over 500 patents were issued to Toyota for world-first mechanisms and components at this time, including an electrically timed ignition spark, swirl control valves, and manifold converter assemblies.

1987-1991 Corolla (Sixth Generation)

Corolla (6th Generation)

Having been completely switched over to feature front-wheel-drive, the sixth-generation Corolla started to emphasize creature comforts to match consumers’ demands. Simply, the Corolla was to end the “old” image of family cars.

These Corolla models were designed to be wider and lower to the ground, with proportionately spaced pillars. Height-adjustable seat belts became the industry norm thanks to the Corolla, as did passthrough rear seats, cupholders, and advanced soundproofing.

1992-1997 Corolla (Seventh Generation)

Corolla (7th Generation)

Now on its own for the first time ever, the Toyota Corolla braced for a brave new adventure—one in which it was excited to see. All aspects of driving were enhanced with this generation; in fact, more than 350 components were either changed entirely or massively modified from the past generation’s model.

Galvanized steel made up 90% of the body, side panels were consolidated for an evener appearance, and waterproofing was enhanced by aerospace standards. In the cabin, passenger volume grew, carpeted cargo areas were added (with foldable rear bench seats), and road noise was further diminished.

When the 1997 Corolla model was released, Toyota’s bestselling vehicle officially became the world’s bestselling vehicle. You may even find some of these older used Toyota Corollas for sale at our Sedalia dealership, which just proves their resiliency.

1997-2002 Corolla (Eighth Generation)

Corolla (8th Generation)

Following its college years, the Corolla had some excess weight to shed. Toyota engineers did so by optimizing the model’s body structure with high-strength steel and recyclable materials, as well as an all-new aluminum 1ZZ-FE engine that made 125 hp. In doing so, the fuel economy was significantly improved. New equipment was added to the Corolla, including twin airbags, electronic pre-tensioning seatbelts, child seat anchors, daytime running lights, and a stiffened rear suspension system.

2003-2008 Corolla (Ninth Generation)

Corolla (9th Generation)

America received the ninth-generation Corolla in 2002 in three trims: CE, LE, and S. Engine power output increased from 125 hp to 130 hp. Passenger volume increased slightly, and sportier exterior accents were evident in the side skirts, rear bumper, and front-end. A new grille, rear lights, 15-inch wheels, and cabin trimmings were also seen on the 2005 model.

These Corolla sedans were also the first to receive attention from Toyota’s now-acclaimed Interior Study Team. Soft-touch plastic material was used throughout, upping the luxuriousness within the cabin while keeping costs down.

2009-2013 Corolla (Tenth Generation)

Corolla (10th Generation)

To some, the tenth-generation Toyota Corolla is the crème de la crème of sedans. Taking cues from its bigger brother (Camry), these Corolla models featured new Electronic Power Steering, roomier cabins, great fuel efficiency, and well-tuned suspension systems.

Additionally, the 10th-generation Corolla offered numerous first-evers, including hands-free Bluetooth, standard Star Safety System, USB audio connections, and a few other standard safety features to help it earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

2013-2019 Corolla (Eleventh Generation)

Corolla (11th Generation)

At McCarthy Toyota of Sedalia, we absolutely loved the last generation of Corolla. It had a unique front-end design, impressive fuel economy, LED headlamps, standard Toyota Safety Sense P, an elegant 7-inch touchscreen, Whiplash-Injury-Lessening front seats, and class-competitive cabin space.

View our certified used Toyota cars for sale in St. Peters to find a great deal on a CPO Corolla.

2020 Corolla (Twelfth Generation)

Corolla (12th Generation)

The newest arrival at our Sedalia Toyota dealership is the 2020 Corolla. Available as a sedan, hybrid, and hatchback, the Corolla features an aggressive, sporty style with an available 8-inch touchscreen, standard Apple CarPlay, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, SofTex sport seats, a moonroof, Adaptive Front-Lighting System, and a 2.0L DF engine that makes 169 horsepower.

If you’d like to be part of Toyota’s history, let’s chat. Contact our Sedalia car dealership at 660-826-5400 to set up a test drive or learn more about our Toyota incentives on the 2020 Corolla or any other new Toyota model. We’re located at 3110 West Broadway in Sedalia, MO. Visit us today!

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