The subject of today’s text represents the very epitome of the overlooked combined with invisible. Perhaps that could be a bit unfair.
About 32 years ago the E100 iteration of the Corolla sprang into the world, the seventh generation of Toyota’s workhorse, butter-and-bread mainstay. It carried over a lot of the more angular predecessor, but in a more rounded and contemporary form. This allowed customers to keep the engineering that had been developed and refined in the E90 of 1987 but enjoy a more contemporary look.
The rounded style, with the distinctive lamp/grille relation first appeared on the 1989 P80 Starlet. The 1990 V30 also had a similar appearance, especially the lamp, front bumper (slats in the lower valence). For 1990 the XR10 generation of the Previa (designed in 1987 by Tokui Fokuichi and David Doyle) exemplified this combination of large, gently curved main surfaces and the horst-and-graben lamp/grille concept. It had a lot of mileage: a very similar theme appeared in 1991 on the wide-body WV10 Camry.
So, Toyota presented this theme over a three-year period and applied it to wildly differing body-styles with tremendous rigour and consistency – quite some feat for vehicles serving such diverse markets.
Toyota offered a saloon and a five-door hatch. To these eyes, they come across as a little less successful than the estate. The aerodynamic appearance did not have a corresponding aerodynamic effect. Toyota reported a cD of 0.36 for the wagon.
At the back we can detect a refined arrangement for the tail-gate-to-body: a neat line runs parallel to the DLO and to the rear screen. The way the DLO’s base flares is delightfully balanced by a subtle widening on the in-board side of the shutline. That way the glass graphics and body graphics are related in a sublimely orderly way.
Take a look at the slide show to see the way the tailgate shutline flows down and around the rear lamp cluster. At the front, notice the way the line of the indicator is continued by the line of lamp above the bumper-body split (I presume the black bumper is a replacement). As is so typical with Toyota of the time, it’s quite understated work – and for some critics it tasted too tepid.
One way of looking at this car is to see some of the character from the Lexus brand being transferred across to Toyota. Wikipedia reports “The chunky, solid design reflected the desire of development chief Dr. Akihiko Saito to make a ‘mini-Lexus’, to build on the recent successes of Toyota’s new flagship range“. I’m not entirely convinced by this but perhaps it is true in the sense that some findings from the Lexus project filtered across to Toyota, though nothing so overt as actual styling cues.
At the end of the discussion, we discover a tidy bit of work masked by what might be excessive reticence.