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Toyota Corolla: What Makes It the Best-Selling Car Ever?

August 23, 2013

The original version of the Toyota Corolla was first launched in Japan in November 1966, with simplicity and affordability at the core of its design. Now, in 2013, over 40 million Corollas have been sold worldwide, making it the best-selling car in history. But what is it about this little Japanese car from Japan which makes it king of the road?

Reliability

According to research carried out by extended warranty specialists Warranty Direct, a Corolla which is between 5 and 6 years old will only spend around 1.6 hours a year off the road for repairs, at a cost of around £290. All this results in a reliability index of 30.00 (where the average for all cars is 100 and anything less than this means a model is more reliable than most). Overall, the Corolla’s consistently excellent performance made it the most reliable car in its age-bracket in 2012, according to Warranty Direct’s figures.

Affordability

The simplicity of design and relatively low spec make Corollas cheap to buy, both new and second-hand. Although the Corolla was superseded in the UK by the Toyota Auris in 2007, it is currently possible to pick up a 1.6 litre, five-door 2003 Corolla for around £1500. But it’s not just the initial cost which makes the Corolla such an affordable option. Their smaller engine size and light chassis give them a superior fuel efficiency, compared with other similarly-sized cars, as well as making them cheaper to tax and insure. The Corolla’s aforementioned reliability and the relative cheapness of its parts also means it’s less costly to repair, even if something does go wrong. For a car which is cheap to buy, run and repair, the Corolla is hard to beat.

Adaptability

Over its 47 years in production, the Toyota Corolla has undergone ten distinct redesigns, allowing the model to stay consistently up-to-date with the progressive tastes and requirements of each new motoring generation.

The first gen Corolla was designed to overcome the misconceptions that Japanese cars were poorly-constructed or unreliable. Available as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan or a two-door wagon-body style, the first Corollas were powered by a 60-horsepower, 1.1-litre engine. The cars’ unibody structures and basic suspension meant that, while these original Toyota Corollas may not have been the most comfortable or aesthetically impressive cars in the world, their simplicity proved an undeniable asset.

Later models became progressively more powerful and sophisticated, and the range was extended to include a two-door hatchback model and bigger, heavier versions of the existing lines. However, innovations like the use of aluminium engine blocks to save weight, and aerodynamic design to reduce the vehicle’s overall drag coefficient, helped to maintain the subsequent models’ efficient performance.

On a more aesthetic level, later Corollas have become generally more sculpted and rounded in appearance, reflecting general changes in car body designs – allowing the various Corolla models to stay in line with changing consumer tastes.

Of course, the Corolla is not without its inevitable flaws. One consequence of keeping the various designs relatively cheap and light is a lack of features and occasionally questionable safety record. Earlier models were frequently ranked below average in terms of safety (although Toyota have worked hard in recent years to reverse this trend, with newer models generally being rated better than average). Some also argue that the design of the various Corolla models have undergone such major changes over the years that later models are, effectively, not even the same basic cars as the earlier versions. Detractors claim the various Corolla variants are, in fact, radically different vehicles, simply branded with the same name, making the range’s overall sales figures questionable.

Whatever your opinion, it’s clear that the Corolla is and has always been an enormously popular vehicle. When an affordable, reliable car is called for, Toyota Corolla remains the global go-to.

About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.