TOKYO - The ninth-generation Corolla is more smartly appointed than its predecessor, signaling a clear shift upmarket for Toyota's best-selling small sedan.
This Japan-market version of the Corolla is a direct reaction to the eighth-generation fiasco. When the previous Corolla was launched in 1995, it became closely associated with the practice of 'decontenting,' the process of removing features to hold down a new car's cost and price. The hope was that buyers wouldn't notice. But longtime Corolla buyers hated the car's cheap look and feel.
Toyota hurriedly put the missing features back into the last Corolla for a minor model update in 1997.
The ninth-generation Corolla has a wood-grain instrument panel offset by bright gauges similar to those used in Lexus models. An expanded interior will allow the Corolla to compete with bigger rivals. It's also longer, wider and taller than its predecessor.
Styling for the Japanese-market Corolla was initially carried out by Toyota's European studio, then revised by designers in Japan.
A 1.8-liter engine is now included in the range in addition to the 1.3- and 1.5-liter units offered previously.
Takaki Nakanishi, Merrill Lynch Japan's auto analyst, said: 'Decontenting is over.'