By on May 31, 2012

Two weeks ago, I covered the arrival of the 11th generation Corolla in Japan. In Japan, the sedan is called Corolla Axio, the station wagon variant is called the Corolla Fielder. My report caused consternation amongst some readers who do not expect the arrival of the new Corolla before 2014. Instead of simply accepting that TTAC is ahead of its times, some readers ordered me to do better research. Your wish being my command (this time,) I went back to the scene of the alleged research crime to sit down with the car’s creator, Toyota Chief Engineer Hiroya Fujita. I asked him to explain to the Best and Brightest the birds and the bees of the new Corolla.

I also drove the car around the block a few times.

Fujita is a friendly man. When his eyes sparkle behind his rimless glasses, a laughter is quick to follow. This is the second Corolla in his career. He also led the development of the previous generation, “in its Japanese and South American version.” (Hint, hint.)

“Customers are different in each region,” says Fujita, and the Corolla will be adapted to these different tastes and requirements.

Asked how many Corollas exist in parallel in this world, Fujita says that there are “many Corollas, but the differences are small.”

Fujita confirms that this is the new generation Corolla which will eventually appear in the rest of the world once he and his colleagues are done with the adaptions.

One of the most obvious engineering requirements for the JDM variant was issued by the Japanese government. To qualify as a (lower taxed) compact car, vehicles must measure less than 4.7 m (15.4 ft) in length and 1.7 m (5.6 ft) in width. The new Axio complies with this requirement, while providing more space on the inside.

“U.S. customers think bigger is better,” says Fujita. Stateside, there won’t be a “honey, I shrunk the Corolla.” Fujita indicates that the increase in length will most likely translate into more trunk space, the cabin will be “almost the same.”

Fujita is a tease. He says that he cannot talk about the U.S. model because it still is in development, under a different Chief Engineer. Then he adds that the different Chief Engineer sits in the office next to him and that they are in constant communication. Occasionally announcing that the U.S. model is top secret, Fujita keeps talking.

The U.S. customer will not get the rounded windshield that provides the feeling of even more interior space in the new JDM Corolla. Forget about a wagon version in the U.S.

“I love technology” says Fujita, as he treats the new Corolla to a list of features that hitherto were only available in higher end Toyota and Lexus models. Will the new features survive the journey across the Pacific?

Fujita says that he can’t disclose details, and that the new ventilated driver’s seat may come to the U.S., or may not, depending on the colleague next door and the U.S. supplier. The chances of the automatic high beams coming to the U.S. currently are low. That feature is better suited to the “winding roads in Japan,” says Fujita. The U.S. engine will be a 1.8 liter, the CVT will stay at home in Japan. The new idle stop system also won’t make it across the Pacific, it is mated to the CVT.

What will never ever make it into a Corolla, at least as long as Fujita is in charge, is an instrument cluster in the middle.

“I don’t like it,” says Fujita, “and Corolla customers the world over don’t like it either.”

The ergonomics people tried to convince Fujita that sideway glances of the eyes are quicker and less distracting than up and down movements of the eyeballs, but the Corolla’s Chief Engineer is not buying it.

The new Corolla will not appeal to would-be car racers and horse power worshipers. The car is a crowd pleaser, more than a million change hands each year. Ever since I was on the launch team of the Golf in 1973, I developed great respect for mass market cars and their creators. Designing a supercar is easy, which explains the high numbers of people who dabble in it. The development of a mass-market car that is consistently successful over many generations is a demanding discipline that is mastered only by a chosen few.

With that thought in my head, I drive Fujita’s creation until I get lost on the way to Tokyo’s new Dinosaur bridge. I make a U-turn and head back. The turn is easy, the car’s learning curve is flat. To avoid complaints about different Corollas, I will leave the true driving impressions to Messrs. Dykes, Karesh, or even Baruth when the U.S. version will reach the U.S. shores two years from now. Or thereabouts.

Toyota provided the car and the engineer.

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45 Comments on “Review: 11th Gen Corolla, JDM Spec, And A Discussion With Its Chief Engineer...”


  • avatar

    Great work Bertel!

    Seems those forsaken central instruments will make it into th Etios. Too bad! Will serve to cheapen an already badly lacking car in the looks department.

    I take your hint hint to be that this will be the car in Brazil. How soon? Early next year or early this one?

    Seems those more verticalized backlights are all the rage now. The Chevy Cobalt (Brazil spec) has them as well as the new Sonic sedan. Not sure ’bout the looks of ‘em!

    • 0 avatar
      Magnusmaster

      If Toyota plans to sell in South America the same Corolla as in Japan they will do badly. First: the design is flat out horrible. It’s a clear involution compared to the current one. Toyota needs a new design style badly. And on top, the interior is horribly decontented, from what I’ve seen in photos. They can get away with low-cost stuff on the Etios, but on the Corolla, it’s far too much.

  • avatar
    threeer

    While styling is certainly (very) subjective…what’s with stylists making the car appear old before its time? Between the new Corolla and the new Versa, they already appear outdated (at least to me). Maybe that’s by design (pun intended) so that 8 years from now, you won’t be able to tell the difference between this and a 2020 model.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I really like the styling; the car has an aura of efficient compactness, but also a quiet grace and dignity. It’s upright and stately, but not harshly so. I believe this look will age far better than the Elantra or Focus. The current Corolla has always rubbed me the wrong way, so this is obviously a great improvement. I just hope they don’t muck about with it TOO much for the US version.

      • 0 avatar
        Type57SC

        It’s certainly safe styling, but looks like it could have been made 15 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        toomanycrayons

        I get a similar rub from the recent/all Corollas. This one reminds me of a butch Echo (slightly!) massaged visually by Abarth. Hey, maybe they’ll get that Fiat 500 model to do another commercial for the “Sport” version? The Corolla demo would spitty-uppy their morning Metamucil…

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The CVT with idle-stop sounds very attractive, especially if it’s priced for value.

  • avatar
    Bob

    It looks like the last generation Ford Focus from the side.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I pray the US version will have a 5 or 6 speed auto. Overall though, not a bad looking small car.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    “U.S. customers think bigger is better … the increase in length will most likely translate into more trunk space, the cabin will be almost the same.”

    The average American is taller and heavier than the average Japanese person. They desire a bigger car because they need a bigger car, so putting the extra size solely into the trunk is somewhat missing the point.

  • avatar
    readallover

    From the side it looks like a fattened Yaris with a modified Avalon in the last of the quarter panel. Ugh.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Using MTM calculations, it would appear those ergonomists are correct (using generic distances and layouts). I would bet that only using one eye to focus (nose blocks left eyethe during glance) would also reduce duration.

    The greenhouse proportions look stellar. Definitely utilitarian.

    It would be cool to have TTAC access CNE’s from other manufacturers to compare. Unless this is just Bertel’s bias/preference.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    OKAY. So none of the interesting gizmos or variants will make it to the US. But we’ll get a larger trunk.

    Well- thanks for the legwork anyways, Bertel.

  • avatar
    SV

    I’m sure the engineering is good, but this is the most ungainly-looking sedan I’ve seen in a while. It somehow appears to ride higher in front than in back, though I imagine that’s not really the case. Combine that with the comparatively lesser crimes of murky, poorly-resolved surfacing and that general trademark Toyota aura of cheapness, and this is a very unattractive car.

    Thankfully, the US Corolla is likely to look completely different.

  • avatar

    Gotta thank Mr. Fujita’s colleague for putting in a seat that goes low enough. I remember having to drive a Corolla craning my neck sideways for 600 miles. Not anymore. Forget the idle-stop. I hope the 11th gen keeps that little thing.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Current US Corolla: Length: 179.3 in. 4554 mm; Width: 69.4 in. 1762 mm.

    “To qualify as a (lower taxed) compact car, vehicles must measure less than 4.7 m (15.4 ft) in length and 1.7 m (5.6 ft) in width.”

    So, the new JDM Corolla will be 6 in longer and 3 inches narrower than the current US model, maybe.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I cannot believe it will be 66″ wide since that is around 4 inches narrower than the current crop of competitors and you would lose a lot of hip and shoulder room.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Same 1.8 engine and maybe, just maybe, one more gear is not exactly keeping up with the Joneses, but since it is still the best selling in its class in the US, I don’t expect too many changes, despite all the critical bashing its been getting.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The Corolla has always been a crowd pleaser and there is no reason to think that Toyota would mess up a good thing.

      Over the years there have been several Corollas in my extended family, and even though styling changed and the Corollas were never fancy or flashy, they all had this in common: durability, reliability, dependability, decent quality for the money, and retained value at trading time.

      That can’t be all bad.

  • avatar
    jbltg

    Don’t know about that styling…looks like the old Echo model to me.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    “Designing a supercar is easy, which explains the high numbers of people who dabble in it. The development of a mass-market car that is consistently successful over many generations is a demanding discipline that is mastered only by a chosen few.”

    Exactly right. And a sentiment that you’d be hard pressed to find on any other car blog.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I have to agree on the center console thing, I like being able to quickly look down than to change my direction while I’m driving.

    At the same time though I’m unsure about the Rollas “domestication”, when I buy a European or a Japanese car I want it to look and feel like one.

    When it comes to a bigger boot for the US versionwhy can’t they do the rational thing and just offer a wagon with the sedan?

    We have 4 or 5 variants of the Prius, we could use at least 2 Rollas.

    • 0 avatar
      righteousball

      Personally I feel that Mister Chief Engineer was being very broad and loose with his definition of how much the different Corollas have in common.

      Pre-launch Japanese scoop and current chatter? on the Japanese web both say Toyota has switched from the Prius’ MC-Platform to the Yaris’ B-Platform for the JDM Corolla.

      Which is also what Nissan did with the Versa. Deliberately put on a little too much car for the platform to handle, as a way to differentiate from the proper C-segment car above it (Sentra).

      The new JDM Corolla and the wider global Corolla now have a much greater size discrepancy, it’s really a Versa-Sentra relationship. That’s my understanding…

  • avatar
    carsRneat

    What’s with the wagon behind the Chief Engineer? Looks interesting – is this the model we will not get in the US?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    No center instrument cluster – too bad. I love it in my xB1 – no occultation of the speedo by the steering wheel.

    As others have said – that’s one homely car.

    Finally, Toyota had better avoid going the way of Honda. The next Corolla (in my opinion) needs to exceed the Elantra in looks, the 3 in crispness, the Civic in reputation, and the Focus in variations. But instead, it seems Toyota is just going to stick with bland since that’s what pays the bills. I’ll pass.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I commend you for your restraint in responding to readers who didn’t catch that your article was about the JAPANESE version.

    “Instead of simply accepting that TTAC is ahead of its times, some readers ordered me to do better research.”

    So many commenters, and some writers, on other sites would have responded with “try reading for comprehension, dummy.” You, Bertel, responded with civility, equanimity and a little (Hint, hint.) Bravo.

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    Two Years? Geez…the present corolla is an old man now. Sorry Toyota, after years of driving your stuff, I am gone somewhere else now and forever.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      With all the negativity heaped on this next Corolla here, it has occurred to me that Toyota now designs the Corolla for people who don’t read car blogs – good people, but not really enthusiasts of any stripe.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The irony being that said people make better car buying decisions than most of the people that spend their time reading about cars. Increased exposure to propaganda takes people further from the truth, naturally enough.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    A glance to the side is almost dizzying, whereas up down does not disorient or make you less likely to drive in a straight line. I have no doubt that the ‘glance time’ is in favor of side to side since periferal vision was probably more important to ancestors than down up. but I’d prefer the down up.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Bigger, heavier, with more plastic to save weight and cost, and the same boring styling.

    West Coasters who still think modern Toyotas last 20 years will eat this crapbox up.

    Everyone else will look elsewhere.

  • avatar
    redav

    “What will never ever make it into a Corolla, at least as long as Fujita is in charge, is an instrument cluster in the middle.”

    Give that man a bonus.

  • avatar
    tonymos

    What about the new Auris?

    Pictures were leaked these days showing the new C-segment/compact car for Europe (said Auris), so if all things Corolla-y are related worldwide – how are their relations?!

  • avatar
    klossfam

    For some reason when ANYTHING about the Corolla pops up…I doze off…It puts the vanilla in vanilla…

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Those are pictures of the new Corolla??? I think i saw this car about 10 years ago ^-^

  • avatar
    Simmonsfield

    I am still driving a 98 corolla, its way smaller than this revision.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I thought this was an editorial on a 2000 Toyota product or something from 12 years ago. The current car is boring and outdated. This thing is downright pathetic. The world is truly degenerating into a very dull boring place if this is the top selling compact of the future.


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