The arrival of the latest, eighth-generation Toyota Corolla marks another step towards Toyota's future regional car approach and away from its current world car strategy.
The new model has been adapted to European tastes. It comes with four body styles, four engine options and three equipment levels.
The localized models are part of Toyota's strategic plans to increase its European market share to 6 percent by the year 2005. Toyota felt it needed more local features to go along with the Corolla's worldwide reputation for quality and reliability.
The model recently came out best in a UK customer satisfation list by J.D. Power and Associates. It also scores well in the German ADAC reliability tests.
'We clearly needed a visual excitement to add to our quality image,' said Alan Marsh, vice-chairman of Toyota Europe.
The new Corolla is based on the 2465mm wheelbase of the outgoing model.
The platform has been strengthened to increase passive safety features. 'We had been lagging behind some of the top European brands in this respect, but the new car fully complies with the latest European safety thinking,' Marsh said.
The new Corolla's exterior is unique for the European market. Twin headlamps are a distinctive visual feature. The interior and exterior trim details for Europe were chosen by a European design panel of distributors and representatives of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Europe. The panel monitored the various design stages of the car.
Many body panels are unique to the European Corolla. On the popular hatchback, as well as the four-door sedan, only the doors are carried over from the Japanese Corolla. The hatchback is sold only in Europe.
The Corolla will initially be imported from Japan in all four versions: three-door hatchback, four-door sedan, five-door hatchback and station wagon.
The Corolla offers 1.3-, 1.6- and 1.8-liter gasoline engines and a 2.0-liter turbodiesel.
In early 1998, production of the Corolla five-door will begin at Toyota's European production facility in Burnaston, UK.
Later in 1998 the three-door hatchback goes into production there. By 2000, Toyota intends to sell 160,000 Corollas in Europe. Burnaston is expected to build 112,000 of them. Last year Toyota sold 116,000 Corollas in Europe.
'In 2005, total European Corolla sales should have risen to the 200,000 mark,' said Marsh.