Yesterday you’ve read the Corolla Tercel Road Test, now read about its sister.
Well, it’s sister by name, at least. This is again from 1980 January issue:
I find this car to be better looking than either its “sister”, the Tercel, or even the rest of the Corolla line.
IMO, the best and one of the last RWD Corollas, with the bulletproof 3T-C hemi engine, and in 1983, the reliable 4A-C.
The most body styles of Corolla (1980-83) of ANY generation … The iconic E70.
Had a 1982 Corolla SR-5 hardtop coupe around 1990-92. Now own two E70 2dr sedans, an 81 and an 83.
Asked if they’re for sale, all the time. Never are. 😛
I like this generation of Corolla, and in this bodystyle. But reading this article made me think of several things:
* Toyota used the Corolla name on a lot of different cars at the same time. Like Olds did with Cutlass, and Chrysler did with LeBaron;
* I’d really want a Plymouth Fire Arrow! I wonder what (if any) standard features it had for that kind of price differential.
The Tercel was only badged as a Corolla in certain markets (I think mostly in the U.S.), for reasons not entirely clear; it was a completely different car. The other Corollas, of which there were many, were more closely related, although in this generation, there were literally dozens of variations, including six different body styles.
I had a 83 four door sedan that had been fitted illegally with the 1800T engine and 5 speed but the bottom end was knocking so out it came and the standard 4k went in, it was ok to drive but nowhere near as good as the 82 Mazda 323 panel van it replaced as my get to work car, noisy buzzy with mediocre cornering ability it nonetheless did its job looking for all the world like a yellow rollerskate on oversize alloy wheels.
…they sure had a rust problem …the ‘K’ series engines were nice in their smaller sizes (2K, 3K etc) …was the equivalent small Mazda sedan known as the ‘808’ back in the late ’70’s? …I recall the 808 being rather smooth and pleasant to drive at the time with a heavenly gearbox when compared with the contemporary offering from GM’s bug-eyed Chevette ..:(
My 323 panelvan was the rear drive variety ex JDM imported new into OZ 1500 engine but only a 4 speed two door whale tail variety but though a rear seat had been fitted the van floorpan meant only small children or amputees could use the rear seat, great little car cost a case of Boag’s draught to buy threw in a 2nd hand engine and drove it for 3 years.
One of the many cars that Toyota “made their legend on” .
The rear wheel drive Toyotas of this decade had the smoothest, sportiest “Snick-Snick-Snick” 5 speed manual transmission & shifter mechanism of just about any car or truck that I have driven…..included the highly worshiped BMW’s.
…yes very true ..even nicer than Ford’s Escort/Cortina gearbox …and the Mazda 808 (rear drive configuration) was every bit as “snicky” as Toyota’s (I wonder if the same Japanese transmission supplier made both boxes??)
…at the time, in defence of their ‘stir-the-bricks’ ‘clunkmobile’ gearboxes, the English brand suppliers used to say that the reason for the delightful changes of the small Japanese manual transmissions was just that.. ie: that the internals were “small and delicate” and therefore easy to push this way and that with the selectors, but that they were so ‘fine’ that they would not last well …and therefore you had better stick with the tractor-style gearboxes of the English offerings if you wanted to stay mobile for long …lol …what rubbish …I never heard of the Jap gearboxes failing due to being under-engineered … did they?? …it was more a case of beautiful engineering quality and machining precision that made them so lovely to use . .
there haven’t been gearboxes so nice however in my opinion since the mass migration to FWD a generation ago
I really wanted one of these in 1980-81, but I was still prejudiced against ALL Japanese brands. Besides, in 1981, this competed with the GM J-cars and on paper the GM cars appeared to be miles ahead of these Toyotas.
It didn’t help that the small Texas town I lived in at the time was an hour or more from a Toyota dealership.
My choice would be an SR-5 2 door and not the almost a “stripper” model pictured here.
My cousin Heather got the Liftback version of this car in 1980, though hers was an automatic, with the SR5 package. It was a great, honest car and she loved it. She had been out of college for a few years, and was sick and tired of the hand-me-down ’72 Dart Swinger that she had been driving, so this Corolla was her first new car.
Though she lived in Memphis and bought the car there, she called her car-crazy cousins (my brother and me) to ask our advice. My brother loved his ’76 Celica, and steered her to Toyota. Heather looked at the Celica, the Corolla and the Tercel. The one that was right for her was this Corolla (in Liftback guise), so Toyota’s covering-all-bets market strategy worked well. The Corolla’s combination of proven mechanicals with clean, fresh styling and high quality hit the mark for her perfectly.
She brought the car to New Orleans many times to visit, so I got to spend a nice amount of time with it, including driving it after I’d gotten my license. As I remember the car, it felt solid, with good road feel and competent handling for an economy car. Even with the automatic, the engine was decently responsive (OK, it was slow, but this was the early ’80s so expectations were low) with a refined smoothness. As for interior roominess, given that hers was the Liftback, back seat headroom was fine. The interior materials were straightforward and seemingly very high quality, especially for the price of the car.
It was so good in fact that Heather saw no reason to get anything other than a Toyota to replace it, and she has been driving import brands ever since. Based on my family’s experience, I think this was the period when Detroit absolutely lost it. For that generation of first-time car buyers, there simply wasn’t much on offer from the domestics for someone seeking a fun, well-priced, modern looking and most importantly, well-made small car. So for families like mine, where domestics had been the go-to choice for decades, suddenly new cars from Japan came on the scene and just blew everyone away with their high quality and thoughtful details. Once that genie was out of the bottle, there was no going back…
I’d say kudos to Toyota for becoming what GM once was: a profitable, conservative business that successfully met a broad cross section of needs with a very competent product line-up.
One of Toyota’s classic (to me) shapes. No fuss, just clean lines. I drove my first (and only?) one during driving school in 1985. It’s amazing how many variants they put out there, some of them practically overlapping (this one and the liftback for example). There were millions of these all over the West Coast back in the day, now not too many left.
IIRC Car and Driver referred to “…two different hatchback coupes, one for people who need rear headroom and one for those who don’t.” There was also a trunked hardtop coupe but it was a late (MY ’81) arrival.
The hardtop was available from the start in Japan — I’m not sure why it was such a late intro here.
I had a 1980 base two-door sedan in the early/mid ’90s. It had suffered greatly from the one and only weakness of these cars, rust, and my ownership was mostly marked by re-patching previous owners’ quick fixes (think, plank attached to sheetmetal for a back bumper since the original and its’ supports had all rusted away). Eventually, I drove it to the junkyard with a good engine; the body was just too far gone to save but that engine probably ran somebody’s milking machine for the next ten years.
Cleanly styled handsome cars, but the rust monster ensured that even here on the West Coast they are rarely seen today.
I had an 81 sport coupe as my ride back in my undergrad & grad days. here it is getting its bumper replaced. The cool party trick it did, that wasn’t so far mentioned, was that the stereo was mounted in a swiveling box. Yielding radio control to who it faced.
I took a very hard look at the first gen SR5 Liftback in 78. Delightfully smooth engine, iirc a pushrod 1.6 hemi. Shifter never led me astray, except the need to pull up on the lever, at a very awkward angle in a left hand drive car, to overcome the reverse lockout. Clean styling for late 70s Japanese. And room for my stuff! At the end of the day, the headroom was too severely lacking, so I passed.
Car and Driver had a writeup when the Liftback came out in 76. Their report started out saying something like “to see the original first paragraph of this report, read the report on the Honda Accord in this issue” They went on that while the Liftback was a very impressive package, it only suffered in comparison to the even more impressive and timely Accord.
Here is the first gen Liftback. As with the second gen, there was a coupe version, but I have a well known wagon fetish.
Pulling up for Reverse was one thing that impressed me during a short drive of my boss’s W123 240D (back when you could get them with a stick).
I love these old road tests, keep them coming. It’s so interesting to compare the technical specs to the ones you see in more modern reviews. While I realize this is an early-’80s economy car with a live rear axle and ancient suspension technology compared to today… 0.67g on the skidpad sounds absolutely abysmal! In fact, I don’t think I’ve read a review of any car from the 2000s where that figure was below 0.7 or even close to it. Maybe a pick-up truck filled with scrap metal.
I’d be interested to see that figure for a really terrible handling barge, like a ’70s Lincoln, but I doubt any magazine ever even measured lateral acceleration on those boats. Did they even measure that at all before the 1980s?
There’s a great story about Brezhnev taking Nixon for a wild drive out of Camp David in his new Continental (an official gift). Nixon (and the Secret Service) was terrified. Brezhnev afterwards declared that it handled very will. Perhaps he didn’t have much to compare against, or else he was messing with him.
I bought a 2 tone black/grey 82 SR5 hatch in 1989. It would have been the mid-cycle refresh because it had dual mirrors mounted on the greenhouse, not the door (the same change made in Celicas), and sharper looking taillights. Also alloy wheels and seats were a pleasant fabric, not the vinyl of this tester. SR5s had full instrumentation, and mine came with A/C that continued to blow cold 10 years later.
It was a fantastic little car, and I regret trading up to an 86 Celica GTS. The Corolla gave me 80,000 miles and could have gone 80,000 more I’m sure.
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