I’m old. And when you’re my age, you’re allowed to spew random trivia from decades ago, and you will somehow sound credible. So let me pull out that I’m-44-and-I-was-already-conscious-when-Marcos-ransacked-this-country card, and tell you stuff you (probably) didn’t know about the Toyota Corolla, which you might also know today as the Altis.
1. The very first Corolla came out in 1966, making this year the 50th anniversary of the popular sedan. Back then, it chugged along on a 60hp 1,077cc in-line-four engine. It also measured all of 3,845mm in length, shorter than even today’s subcompact Ford Fiesta hatchback (which doesn’t have a trunk).
2. There was a time the Corolla was, hands down, the most popular car in the Philippines. So huge it was actually a ’70s basketball team in the PBA, with the most popular player in league history (Robert Jaworski, who else?) in its employ. When Toyota came back to the Philippines after pulling out in the early ’80s, the Corolla just very casually took back its throne, topping the local sales charts in the ’90s until 1998. It was overtaken by its stablemate Revo and the Honda Civic in 1999, dropping to third place.
3. As you read this, Toyota has sold an astounding total of over 44 million Corollas since the model’s introduction half a century ago. To put that in sharper perspective, the second-best-selling motor vehicle in history—the Ford F-Series, not the Volkswagen Golf or Beetle—has “only” managed some 35 million units. And that’s since 1948! Yes, humans apparently love the Corolla so much it should have its own emoji. Toyota boasts that if you park all those Corollas bumper-to-bumper in one line, they would circle the earth approximately five times.
4. The Corolla is currently available in over 150 countries, according to Toyota. That’s not the impressive fact. This one is: About one unit is sold every 15 seconds. The carmaker computed it. Last year, it sold a total of 1.34 million units, which comes out at 5,850 units a day (counting only the average selling days, which was 229), which…well, you get it.
5. Right now, the venerable Corolla is manufactured in 16 plants spread out in 13 countries, and these are Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada and the US. Ours, I believe, are sourced from Thailand.
6. Rumor had it that the fourth-generation model, with its traditional three-box design, was the handiwork of famed Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Apparently because it sported aesthetic elements—including “door handles set under the armrests in the lining of the doors”—that were unexpected from Toyota’s drawing boards. But the carmaker has officially confirmed that Giugiaro had no part in the car’s creation. You wish.
7. The seventh-gen E100 Corolla, which you likely call the Big Body, was said to have been patterned after the luxurious (and definitely bigger) Celsior. It had impressive dimensions precisely so customers would be able to tell the upgrade from the previous model. The nickname it earned in our market was a confirmation that buyers did notice the improvement.
8. Toyota has had a long history in motorsports, particularly in rallying. But its main weapon was the Celica, although the Corolla saw action in some minor events. A TE25 Corolla did win in a 1973 WRC leg in the US, but it came with an asterisk due to the absence of the European competitors. The Corolla’s true big break in the World Rally Championship arrived in 1997, when the FIA finally allowed teams to run a non-stock engine in a production model. Toyota promptly shoehorned a 2.0-liter powerplant under the hood of the AE111 European Corolla. The resulting Corolla WRC won the 1998 Rallye Monte Carlo in the hands of the great Carlos Sainz, and then the 1999 WRC manufacturers’ championship (sadly, Tommi Makinen earned his fourth straight drivers’ title that year, behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI).
9. In 1997, when I had barely spent a couple of years covering the motoring beat, Toyota invited me—along with 50 other journalists (or was it 49, and I was the 50th?)—to the launch of the eighth-generation “Love Life” Corolla in Hong Kong, where Gary Valenciano sang in one corner while we ate, drank and pretended not to know the lyrics to “Pasko Na, Sinta Ko.” That’s when I knew I would develop a bloated sense of self-entitlement and gain 100 more pounds if I stayed another 10 years in the business. I’ve been doing this gig for 21 years, just so you can make sense of my pompousness and triple chin.
10. Toyota killed the Corolla’s GT version as well as the Levin edition during the ninth generation, in circulation from 2000 to 2006. In other news, the best-selling car in the Philippines through this dark period was the Revo. Who needs sporty cars when you can bring the whole family to an out-of-town picnic in a van?!#@^
11. The current, 11th-generation Corolla has received a cosmetic makeover (in photo), and it has reached our shores. Toyota Motor Philippines unveiled the facelift at a media gathering last week. Among the changes are the new front bumper and grille, new-look headlamps with daytime running lights, new rear appearance, new wheel design, and even a new interior color (flaxen). The existing engine and transmission options are carried over. The new prices? The 2.0 V A/T is at P1,318,000; the 1.6 V A/T at P1,074,000; the 1.6 G A/T at P990,000; the 1.6 G M/T at P934,000; and the 1.6 E M/T at P894,000.