Toyota Corolla (3rd generation)
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Third Generation Corolla's were released in 1975
, and featured a raised centre section in the grille that carried back to more angular bodies. Now there were a total of five Corolla models available, including two and four door sedans, a 2 door coupe, SR5 sports model and 5 door station wagon.
The 4 Door Corolla
For years many had wondered why AMI had taken so long to get around to offering a four door version of the Corolla - particularly when Datsun had been offering a four door on Its 1.2 litre range since the late sixties. We can offer no explanation as to why it took until the 3rd generation Corolla. Perhaps it was because, by 1975, some family buyers were starting to look closely at the economics of small car motoring.
The 4 door Corolla shared the upgraded treatment applied to the two door models which were released around 3 months earlier, but they had a higher level of standard equipment, coming in "SE" form only, which meant it was fitted with such Items as a heated rear window, radio and electric clock as part of the overall package.
More importantly, the styling did not suffer from the addition of two extra doors. In fact the four door had a certain "chunky" look around the rear wheel arch and C-plllar area that somehow didn't appear on the two door car. Because weight went up slightly, the 4 door Corolla suffered a cutback In performance that required the driver to stir along a little harder to keep pace in peak hour traffic, with the resultant knock on effect in fuel consumption. But it still had that smooth sweetness that had become a Corolla trademark.
By way of comparison, a 2 door 3rd generation was capable of low 19 second times when covering the standing 400 metres, while the four door would bump this to the over 20 second bracket. 0-100 km/h was also an unimpressive 17.5 seconds - around three seconds slower than some of its forebears were capable of recording. But to be fair, the car still retained enough pep to cater for the needs of most drivers and still managed to keep cars like Datsun's 120Y within sight.
Arguably the Corolla’s most serious competitor was GMH
's similar-sized Gemini. Although It suffered badly in a performance comparison, the Corolla moved well to the front when other factors like Interior noise level, comfort and even handling were taken Into consideration. It conveyed a solid, tight-knit Impression to the driver and was just as pleasant on the open road as it was in around-town commuting. The 1.2 litre engine may have required some stirring along but it was a willing, free-spinning unit and was happy when working hard. By 1975 Toyota had also conducted considerable research into getting as many of the resonance periods out of the exhaust
system as possible – and on the 3rd generation Corolla that research was paying dividends, particularly in the way the car would cruise happily at highway speeds without much intrusion from the mechanicals.
Like the two door, the four door had a degree of balance and sensitivity in handling that the majority of Japanese cars seemed to lack. Standard equipment radials, and steering with more response than you normally have expected in a Nipponese system made the Corolla a car with as much appeal for the driver as for passengers.
Inside the Corolla
Inside, the 4 door was trimmed to the same level as the two door. The neat and functional Instrument panel was virtually identical to the two door - except for the switch and warning light for the heated rear window and the electric clock to the left of the speedometer. It was a neat and functional layout which allowed easy and quick familiarity, with all major functions being controlled by two steering column stalks. The steering wheel was a small, well-placed unit which played an important role in transmitting messages through to the driver and the ratio was quick enough at 3.8 turns from lock to lock without being too heavy during parking manoeuvres. The gearshift was the normal slick Corolla unit and the handbrake was mounted on the floor between the two front seats.
The seat design was adequate, apart from a slight lack of under-thigh support common in nearly all mass produced cars of the 1970s. The backrests of the front seats were ratchet-adjustable and a comfortable driving position was available – even for 6 footers. The all important (for a 4 door anyway) rear seat accommodation was largely dependent on those sitting in the front of the car. If the bucket seats were set at their limit of rearward travel, back seat legroom was terrible. But if a compromise position was used four adults could travel with some level of comfort. Rear door openings were large enough to allow easy entrance and there was the bonus of courtesy lights for both front and rear doors – not all that common in 1975.
Given the courtesy light inclusion, it was a strange omission that Toyota did away with door armrests In both the front and rear of the car. All doors were fitted with plastic pull handles and locks were operated by push buttons rather than the sometimes confusing sliding locks used on most Japanese cars of the era. The ventilation system comprised four fresh air vents - two at either side of the fascia which could be controlled independently of the heating system and two central grilles which were closed off when the heater was In operation. The rear window demister was operated by a switch to the left of the heater controls, but the system lacked sufficient power to clear the window quickly when heavily fogged up.
The standard of finish on what was basically an economy car was beyond criticism, with blemish-free paintwork and good quality carpet and interior covering materials. This was another Corolla hallmark, and something that ensured high trade in values for fortunate owners. On the road the Corolla’s silence and smoothness made it a much better highway cruiser than it should have been, while the handling and roadholding was good enough to promote confidence on the twisty stuff.
The Corolla Liftback
A new three-door "Liftback" hatchback was added to the Corolla line for 1976
, featuring a split fold-down rear seat to assist in load carrying capacity - a development we today take as a given. Toyota held high expectations for the Liftback model, anticipating that it would account for some 30% of all Corolla sales. Also introduced in 1976
(and sharing its front-end styling with the Liftback) was the new Corolla Sport Coupe, that was available in both standard and sporty SR5 versions. While the 1st and 2nd generation Corolla models are rarely seen on Australian roads these days, the same cannot be said of the 3rd generation - such was the build quality and rugged reliability.
As an all-round vehicle for the small family, the four door Corolla scored a number of significant points. It offered degrees of comfort that easily surpassed the standard family car of the Holden Kingswood, Falcon 500 and Valiant Ranger ilk, it was very well equipped and almost halved the petrol consumption of the popular sixes. With Its proven mechanical components - and straightforward, but nicely refined engineering, history records the Corolla as both durable and reliable.