Toyota Corolla Celebrates 50 Years of Affordable Transportation
Just in case you may have missed it, the 2017 Toyota Corolla has received a retooled look and a bevy of new features in preparation for its 50th birthday bash. Much like the RAV4 we tested last fall, the Corolla now comes equipped with Toyota Safety Sense-P technology and a standard back-up camera on every model. The economically minded compact car from Toyota has changed quite a lot over the years, with the 50th Anniversary Special Edition seen here being the latest in a well-documented fifty chapter book. But before we jump into the thick of it, here are a few key additions that make the 2017 Corolla a cut above all its predecessors.
The aforementioned Toyota Safety Sense-P includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection functions, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warnings with a steering assist function, and automatic high beams. Other standard features include a back-up camera, bi-LED headlamps on L, LE, and LE Eco models, while complex-LED lights come on SE, XSE, and XLE versions. There also is that nicely redesigned interior with all of its fresh audio enhancements and that overly assertive front grille, which works quite well with the palate of new exterior colors.
The 50th Anniversary Special Edition seen here has a bit more spunk in its trunk, as it’s based upon the more performance oriented SE model and receives a fat handful of aesthetic and tech additions to celebrate turning half a century old. Only 8,000 of these one-off models are slated to be sold in the U.S., and while they will be by no means performance machines like the highly coveted classic AE86 Corolla or the rear-wheel drive FR-S, this celebratory compact sedan does have some slick add-ons that warrant noting.
A few of our favorite additions to this anniversary edition are the 17-inch alloy wheels, complete with dark gray inserts and machined faces, Toyota’s new “Complex-LED” headlamps, and those mixed media black seats, with their Black Cherry contrast stitching. That custom black interior also gets more Black Cherry stitching across the steering wheel, shift boot, and along the center armrest, with even more black cherry accentuating dash panels and door trims.
Buyers will also receive a set of 50th Anniversary Edition floor mats that match the exterior badging, a 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen, and Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation, which includes the clever Scout GPS Link App. There also is a color 4.2-inch multi information display (MID), a Smart Key entry system with push button start, and a moonroof that is available for an additional fee.
Color choices are all 50th Anniversary exclusive and include an interior matching Black Cherry, Classic Silver, and a Blizzard Pearl. While this special edition will be available beginning in the fall of 2016, pricing has yet to be announced, and being a Corolla we can’t imagine it breaking the bank. So in the meantime, let’s take a moment and delve into a brief history lesson to better understand what made the Corolla such a hit and why we still have eyes for the classic models.
Forever focused on offering a balanced blend of quality, styling, performance, and affordability, the first Corolla rolled out in Japan back in November 1966 prior to hitting U.S. shores in 1968. Efficient, easy to drive, and extremely simple, it was an instant success for the automaker, practically doubling Toyota’s annual production from 480,000 to 1.1 million vehicles in just three short years.
Toyota originally had plans to only build 30,000 Corollas a month, but Americans couldn’t get enough of the quirky little compact Japanese contraption, and changes were made. By 1970, the Corolla was the second best-selling import car in the country, and to this day remains the automaker’s top seller, as approximately 1.5 million of these cars get sold across the globe every year. Assembled in 16 plants worldwide, this unassuming serving of Japanese engineering is one of the greatest success stories of all time, and while the latest generation is a fantastic vehicle, we would rather have the classics like the wagon and 1600 GT seen here.
Like all cars, the Corolla has evolved over the years, and as MacPherson strut suspension, two-speed wiper motors, and back-up lights gave way to family-friendly sedans and three-door “liftback” sports coupés, America continued to buy them up with wild abandon. Eleven generations later, it’s hard to believe that the car seen on the previous page is even remotely related to the humble machine seen here; yet here we are, and dammit would we sell an organ or two to get a hold of a first-gen Corolla wagon.
For as aggressive, glossy, tech-rich, and safe as the latest Corolla is, there is no competing with the classics, both in regards to styling and personality. Modern advancements are mind-boggling amazing, but many vehicles these days don’t have that soul — and that’s why the argument for a genuine automaker resto-mod remains valid.
Many true enthusiasts want to have the best of both worlds, so it would be fantastic to see anniversary edition vehicles begin to sport the exact proportions and body lines of the originals, but with all of the safety, power, and convenience specs found in the modern model. It would be ultimate homage to the original, and would make for one hell of a collector car, regardless of what year it was born. Retro has never really went out of style, and hopefully one day automakers will realize this.
The 50th anniversary Corolla is a nice gesture. But Jaguar knows how to throw a party.