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The Toyota Corolla is the world’s best-selling car by a large margin. In 2021, the venerable compact reached an astounding statistic, 50 million units produced. That occurred over the course of 55 years and 12 different generations. 

To put that figure into context, the next best-selling car is the Volkswagen Golf, with 35 million produced. The Ford F-Series pick-up truck, produced since 1948, comes in at just under 42 million units produced and still falls short of Toyota’s compact hero.  

Toyota’s tribute to the Corolla gives the nod to car culture and Japanese art

Toyota Manga Series depicting the 1980s version of the Corolla. Part of Toyota's tribute after 50 million units were produced.
Toyota Corolla Manga Series, 1980s | Image Courtesy of Toyota Japan

50 million is a lot of Corollas, and Toyota is right to celebrate. To mark the occasion, Toyota has produced a five-part Manga series. For those unfamiliar with Manga, it is a Japanese comic or graphic novel with a distinctive style dating back to the late 19th century.

Toyota’s Manga features the Corolla in each decade since the 1960s. They took inspiration from real-life Corolla owners and turned actual photographs into illustrations. Each part shows the real picture below the stylized art. 

Perhaps the most famous Manga to feature a Toyota Corolla is Initial D, which focused on the Japanese street racing scene. In the US, the car was known as the Toyota Corolla Sport liftback and came in either GT-S or SR5 trim. However, enthusiasts and gearheads the world over know it by its JDM moniker, the Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno. It remains, to this day, one of the most iconic cars ever produced.  

The Toyota Corolla through the generations

Toyota Manga Series depicting the 2020s version of the Corolla. Part of Toyota's tribute after 50 million units were produced.
Toyota Manga Series, 2020s | Image Courtesy of Toyota Japan

A Toyota Corolla exists in nearly every possible configuration, including a sedan, hatchback, wagon, coupe, crossover, and even a minivan. The first generation, the E10, started in 1966 with a front-engine, rear-drive sedan. More body styles were added, and in the early 1980s, the Corolla switched from rear-drive to front-wheel drive. In its twelfth generation, the Corolla is available in three body styles, sedan, hatchback, and wagon (outside of the US).

Toyota has recently applied the Corolla name to a new crossover, the Corolla Cross. The branded crossover is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. 

The more exciting option is undoubtedly the upcoming Toyota GR Corolla. Coming at the end of 2022, the GR Corolla will be available only in the four-door hatchback body. It will use the all-wheel drive setup found on the GR Yaris. The engine and horsepower haven’t been confirmed, but the 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine found in the GR Yaris puts out 268 horsepower. It is expected that the GR Corolla will use a version of that engine mated to a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. 

The Toyota Corolla’s legacy

The Corolla’s legacy is one of versatility. It will undoubtedly go down in history as one, if not the best-selling car of all time, but is also many things to many people. 

A large number of car enthusiasts got involved in car culture, tuning culture, drifting, and racing because of the influence of Initial D and the AE86 version of the car. The Corolla has appeared in professional drifting, most notably with Papadakis Racing. It was used by Toyota in the World Rally Championship. The Corolla also and has a long history as a road racer. Currently, Toyota is showing off a hydrogen-powered Corolla race car that hints at its future in motorsport.

Perhaps more importantly than all the racing, trophies, and on-track glory is the Corolla’s legacy as one of the most reliable and efficient cars on the market. Corolla’s have ferried families on road trips, taken people to work, and have been trusted members of countless households. Its versatility is almost unmatched, and there is a model and trim level for every type of buyer and every type of use. 

50 million units produced is an astonishing milestone, and the Manga series is perhaps the most Toyota and Japanese way to honor the legendary compact car.

Related: Why the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Will Make More Sense Than a Prius In Your Daily Life


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