To criticise the way the Toyota Corolla turned out would be questioning the judgement of over twenty million customers. Still, Toyota realised the car wasn't good enough and through 'Kaizen', the policy of continual improvement, the Corolla ingredients were analysed, re-evaluated and remixed to form the 1997 car. Bond villain-like, it carried on the tradition of global domination where its predecessor had left off, but in Britain we've never really warmed to the Corolla. The attractions of rivals such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf have been too much, leaving the Corolla as something reserved for geriatrics and photocopier salesmen on the road to a constructive dismissal claim.
Toyota certainly wanted to cover all bases. Upon launch in 1997, the eighth-generation Corolla boasted four body styles; a three-door hatchback, a four-door saloon, five-door liftback and an estate. Three engines were available, two petrol and one diesel powered. The petrol engines were of 1.3 and 1.6-litre capacity and developed 85 and 109bhp respectively. The diesel was a 2.0-litre unit, developing 71bhp. In October 1998, new trim levels were announced. The previous Sportif models were redesignated as S models, and a GLS model was introduced, to sit just above the GL specification. Since then there have been a number of special edition models introduced, the most significant being the sporting Corolla G6R, a 1.6 G6 model with bigger wheels, more aggressive body styling parts and a leather interior. This model quickly sold all of the 462 UK cars that were put up for sale.
The biggest change to this model Corolla came in early 2000, when it adopted a similar face to the Avensis. This Toyota 'family' look is less distinctive than the previous styling achievement, but the Corolla range was strengthened in a number of ways. The four-door saloon body shape was deleted, the 1.3-litre engine was dropped in favour of a 1.4-litre unit with variable valve timing (VVT-i) and a new 1.6-litre VVT-i engine was also introduced. The diesel versions received a 1.9-litre engine capable of 52mpg, a unit that only lasted until the end of the year when it was replaced by the 2.0-litre D4-D common rail turbo diesel from the larger Avensis. Interiors were spruced up, the body was made stiffer to help handling and the trim levels were rationalised. Four designations were decided upon - S, GS, SR and GLS. By keeping the basic look ostensibly similar, Toyota had unveiled a brand-new ninth-generation Corolla via the back door. The look was far from similar when Toyota rolled out this car's successor at the end of 2001. With sharply chiselled looks, the Corolla had been brought up to speed in the one area it had always been deficient - sharp styling.