Along with the key to my tester for the first week of 2017, I feel like I’m being handed a piece of automotive history.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla in its lovely Blue Crush Metallic paint looks like a little gem. It’s actually a big gem in the crown of Toyota Motor Corporation.
The Corolla started out as a sub-compact and first launched in Japan in 1966.
What was going on in Japan at the time? Executives at Toyota foresaw a Japanese ‘motorization boom’ with the realization that families were moving to the suburbs. The need for family cars was going to explode.
Other factors in Japan in this era included the burgeoning television and the advertising dollars moving towards it rather than newspaper.
According to Toyota’s Global website, everyone was thinking about the three Cs (air-conditioning, colour TV and cars).
The prescient thinking of Toyota executives brought about the construction of a sprawling plant in Takaoka which would be solely dedicated to the manufacture of the Corolla, at a rate of 30,000 per month. Shocking! said the media, considering Toyota was building 50,000 vehicles total per month.
The first-generation Corolla went on sale in November of 1966. The sub-compact was technologically advanced for its time. A floor-shift transmission inspired by European vehicles, for example, as opposed to the standard column shifter, was a first for Japan and Toyota. They saw it as a requirement for the coming ‘highway age.’
Also a first in Japan, the Corolla had a MacPherson strut front suspension which lightened the vehicle and lowered manufacturing costs.
Tatsuo Hasegawa, known as the Father of the Corolla, foresaw the globalization of his ‘creation’ and wanted the vehicle to live up to its responsibility to bring happiness and well-being to ‘everyone on Earth’.
By 1974, at the ripe old age of eight years, it had become the best-selling car in the world and has remained at or near the top, fighting it out with that other global happy car, the Volkswagen Beetle, finally winning in 1997, when the Corolla became the best-selling nameplate in the world, surpassing the Beetle.
In July of 2013, Toyota reached the milestone of 40 million Corollas sold over eleven generations. Today, over 43 million have been sold in more than 150 countries around the world.
No wonder I feel a bit in awe about driving the Corolla, although I’m sure the experience would be much different than if I were tooling about town in the original.
The version I’m driving today is the SE, which is the best-equipped of the six models offered. It’s starting price is $21,290 and all the options bring the total MSRP to $26,928.47.
The sporty-looking compact is powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission. I’m not usually a fan of the droning CVT but Toyota does a good job of having the transmission mimic shifting so the drone is not apparent.
Our tester had the additional ($3,920) XSE Package which adds racy 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, satellite radio, navigation, a seven-inch display screen, push-button start and SofTex leather seating surfaces (including a blue piping and stitching that enhance the raciness), among other features.
I put the Corolla through its paces on the winding roads through Ferguson’s Cove, Portuguese Cove, Ketch Harbour and into Sambro.
The mix of low winter sun and snow squalls made for interesting driving conditions which were handled with aplomb by the snow tire-shod Corolla.
Sport Mode on this particular model, the sequential multi-mode shifter and the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters definitely boost the fun quotient.
The spacious back seat is impressive considering its designation as a compact car.
From its inception, Toyota has never skimped on the standard safety features available in the Corolla. In 1966, the 1.1-litre, 60-horsepower newborn had two-speed windshield wipers and impact-absorbing steering wheel, column and headrests.
Today, the eleventh generation version has standard safety features galore and ‘Toyota Safety Sense’ adds auto high beam, dynamic radar cruise control, pedestrian detection and lane departure alert with steering assist.
The word ‘corolla’ is Latin for ‘small crown.’ For this gem of a Toyota, it’s a well-deserved moniker for the vehicle mostly responsible for Toyota’s reputation of building reliable cars.
I love the idea of tooling about town wearing a crown in the 2017 Corolla.
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