MotorTrend Reveals Its Picks for the 9 Coolest Toyota Corolla Models

From compact sedans to off-roading trucks, Toyota has designed some of the best-known vehicles we know and love. The automaker has been working hard to break the mold of ordinary, bland models and take style to new heights. That’s especially true with the Toyota Corolla. What began as a modest model has evolved into the bestselling car of all time. Let’s take a look at MotorTrend’s top nine Corolla models.

1. 1966–1970 Toyota Corolla

Toyota exported the original Corolla to America in 1968. The automaker first introduced the car to Japan in 1966 with the slogan “The most wanted car by the market — presented to the world by bringing together the essence of Toyota’s technology.”

A 1.1-liter, 60-hp four-cylinder engine powered the car. And even though the engine seemed small and not so mighty, it was pretty reliable. The Corolla’s style was sporty and fresh, earning the first generation a spot on MotorTrend’s list.

2. 1970–1978 Toyota Corolla

1970s Toyota Corolla models MotorTrend
1970s Toyota Corolla models | LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP via Getty Images

The second-generation Corolla debuted in 1970. It packed a peppier 73-hp engine. These models included more comfort features and a better overall driving experience.

Overseas, Toyota introduced more muscular versions of this Corolla, including the Sprinter and Levin. There was even a wagon option.

3. 1984–1987 Toyota Corolla AE86

This ’80s Toyota Corolla should be in a class of its own. The GR86, which began as a Scion, is based on the sporty Corolla AE86. In Japan, the car was called the Hachi-Roku, Japanese for “eight-six.” Here’s a breakdown of the name:

• “A” represents the 4-A series 1.6-liter engine

• “E” represents the Corolla model line

• “8” represents the fifth generation

• “6” represents the engine’s cylinder head

4. 1987–1988 Corolla FX16 GT-S hatchback

The Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S was a sweet ride for many reasons. One reason lurked under the hood. A 16-valve dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine powered it. In addition, this 1.6-liter 4A-GE produced an impressive 108 hp at 6600 rpm. It’s the same engine in the Corolla GT-S AE86 and the MR2 sports car.

5. 1988–1991 Corolla GT-S sport coupe (AE92)

Even though the E90-generation Corolla GT-S coupe wasn’t rear-wheel-drive like the AE86, it used the same 4A-GE twin-cam four-cylinder engine. And if you’re into late-’80s styling, you’ll appreciate features like the pop-up headlights, GT-S Twin Cam 16-inch door graphics, and ribbed shift boot, MotorTrend reports.

This model might be the Toyota Corolla you didn’t know you wanted.

6. 2003–2006 Corolla XRS

This version of the Corolla is probably familiar to many drivers. It might’ve even been your first car.

The 1.8-liter 2ZZ engine found with the Celica GT-S and Matrix XRS also powered this model. That 170-hp engine revved to 8,200 rpm — pretty impressive for a small car. It also included higher-rate shocks and springs, 16-inch wheels, and a stiffened steering column.

7. 2003–2006 Toyota Matrix XRS

“Let’s take the Corolla XRS and bump it up a notch.” That’s probably what the automaker thought when designing the Matrix XRS (Toyota used the same engine, too). Yes, Toyota initially considered this hatchback a Corolla to boost sales. But unlike the Toyota Corolla, the Matrix had flat-foldable rear seats to make extra room.

8. 2020–present Toyota Corolla XSE sedan/hatchback

There’s no denying the latest Corolla models are sporty. Toyota jazzed up the styling features and added a more practical hatchback option to the lineup. In addition, XSE hatchback trims get an optional six-speed manual transmission.

Toyota’s goal of building more exciting vehicles has translated to other models in the lineup, including the Camry, the 86 sports car, and the luxury-focused Avalon. 

9. 2023 Toyota GR Corolla

You’ve never seen a Toyota Corolla quite like the GR. This hatchback is sporty and fun to drive, MotorTrend says.

Inspired by Toyota Gazoo Racing, the three-cylinder engine is the most powerful of its kind. It generates 300 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque and comes with a six-speed intelligent manual transmission (iMT).

With Normal, Sport, and Track modes, this Corolla is ready to push limits.

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