Toyota Corolla vs. Toyota Sprinter: A Brief History

Toyota Corolla vs. Toyota Sprinter: A Brief History

With the price of gasoline almost on a continuous rise, the world market for small sedans have never been better, and suppliers of compact cars have been battling it out for supremacy on the world scene.

The Toyota Corolla is known as the world’s best-selling vehicle, having sold over 40 million units since its introduction, and has evolved into a number of different models and editions. Here we take a look at the history of the original Toyota Corolla sedan and its big brother, the Toyota Sprinter sedan in more detail.

Early History of the Corolla: 1966-1983

The Toyota Corolla sedan was first introduced in 1966, gaining immediate popularity with families who appreciated the safety and reliability the car offered without the big price tag. Later, when fuel prices began to rise, Corolla owners really began to appreciate its fuel economy, which helped to mold its acceptance even in big-car regions like the United States and the European Union. The Toyota Corolla was originally released as a front-wheel drive four-door sedan with a small 1100cc (1.1ℓ) four-cylinder engine.

Example of a used Toyota Corolla sedan from online Japanese used cars exporter BE FORWARD.

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In 1968, the Corolla was joined by an upmarket fastback version, the Toyota Sprinter sedan, which was based on the same platform. Both vehicles are practically the same, mirroring engine, transmission, and drivetrain options, with a few cosmetic differences in between them, such as differing grille-work, side mirrors, or fixed-vs-pop-up headlights.

An example of a used 1990 Toyota Sprinter sedan from online used Japanese car exporter BE FORWARD.

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The two vehicles were never sold side-by-side in the same dealerships. In Japan, for example, the Toyota Corolla was sold in the Toyota Corolla Store, which focused on economical vehicles. The Toyota Sprinter, on the other hand, was sold in the Toyota Auto Store (later, the Toyota Vista Store), an upmarket store. Other countries may have imported only one or the other of the two models.

The Corolla Boom: 1983-1987

Whereas the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Sprinter sedans had always been of similar appearance and performance, it has always led to some confusion, especially between the AE85 and AE86 coupes that were produced between 1983 and 1987. Take, for example, the AE85 Toyota Corolla Levin and Toyota Sprinter Trueno coupes, whose model names that meant lightning and thunder in their original languages. They have often been mistaken for higher performance, identically named AE86s.

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Above: An example of a Toyota Sprinter race car

The most popular of the Sprinters and Corollas, the fifth-generation E80-series, were produced before 1987. Before 1987, you could still find rear-wheel drive versions of both models, which made them especially popular with racing enthusiasts. Granted, these vehicles were light and economical, but you would never win a straight sprint race with them. On the other hand, because they were highly manoeuvrable and, reportedly fun to drive, they remain a favourite down to this day.

The most famous of the front-engine rear-wheel drive Toyota Corolla or Toyota Sprinter is the AE86, which was built for performance. These were equipped with a larger dual overhead cam engine for better performance than their Corolla or Sprinter sisters, which were equipped with smaller, single overhead cam engines.

An example of a late 80's Toyota Sprinter - BE FORWARD

Above: An example of a late 80’s Toyota Sprinter

The AE86 also featured a better anti-roll suspension and an optional limited-slip rear differential for better traction. In the late 1980s, when most compact cars and small sedans were switching over to front-engine front-wheel drive configuration, the AE86 Toyota Corolla and Toyota Sprinter coupes were the last to phase out rear-wheel drive in 1987.

From Sprinter to Allex: 1987-2000

After making the switch to producing only front-engine front wheel drive vehicles, Toyota continued to produce the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Sprinter, side by side, with little variation between the two sister models. Like many of the vehicles of the 1990s, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Sprinter actually grew out of the subcompact car segment into the compact car segment.

They also abandoned the squared shapes of the 1980’s and adopted the rounded bubble-profile of that time. The 1991 Toyota Corolla and Toyota Sprinter came equipped with a number of four-cylinder engine options, including gasoline and diesel, as well as a number of manual and automatic transmissions, some with full-time all-wheel drive.

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Both Corolla and Sprinter were made in coupe, sedan, and station wagon body styles. The station wagons have been exported to many countries as people movers. Both the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Sprinter are excellent choices, providing the safety features, fuel economy, and reliability that other brands lack.

For both models, you can find options including aluminium wheels, air conditioning, power windows and locks, and leather interior, as well as safety options including traction control and anti-lock brakes.

The Toyota Corolla and Toyota Sprinter models continued to mirror each other until 2000, when the Sprinter badge was changed to the Toyota Allex, which also continued to mirror its Corolla sister. The Toyota Corolla is still produced today in fourteen countries, and continues to be extremely popular throughout most of the driving world today.

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