Vintage R&T Review: 1975 Corolla SR-5 Coupe – Still The Best In Class Despite a Bit of Bloat

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The new 1975 Corolla was the third generation of what had become an instant hit for Toyota from the first year it was introduced in the US in 1968. R&T had then been quite impressed with it, calling it “an especially good small car”.  It got very good reviews almost universally in the press. This new Corolla was designed very much with Americans in mind, meaning it was bigger, wider, longer, roomier, quieter and softer-riding. But those were not exactly the qualities R&T favored, thus there was some disappointment expressed, most of all its reduced performance due to the twin factors of increased weight and emission controls. 

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0-60 time went up from a quite peppy 12.0 seconds  in 1971 to a rather sluggish 15.9 in this one. HP was down from 88 to 75. But driveability was quite good, as it was in many Japanese cars of the time compared to the very common issues with American cars. The Japanese had a head start in coping with aggressive emission regulations in their home country, and it showed. Despite the objectively modest numbers, the Toyota was found to feel brisk in traffic due to the responsive engine and slick-shifting transmission.

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The five speed transmission was excellent, “better than those cars costing four times as much”. That had been the case since the Toyota five speed was introduced, and it set a high bar for others. Handling was better than in the past, with less of the typical Toyota understeer.

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R&T had to admit that at 2335 lbs, the Toyota was still substantially lighter than its domestic competition. And the quality of its materials and assembly were clearly at the head of the class. It was also came well-equipped, unlike the domestics, which had to be optioned up with even the most basic amenities. In the end, R&T would be suitably impressed, as it was hard not to be, given the many strengths of the Corolla.