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Toyota Corolla is universal


How can they not, when the Japanese hero is now the world's all-time favourite with a production total that has just topped 40 million cars. Based on those numbers, the Corolla is nearly twice as popular as the Volkswagen Beetle with 21.5 million sales and even further ahead of the T-Model Ford at 16.5 million, although it has had the advantage of selling at a time when far more people everywhere in the world own and drive cars.

My first experience of the Corolla was in the 1960s, soon after the original cars landed in Australia. By the standard of the times, and we're talking here about Falcons and Kingswoods and Valiants, it was tiny and tinny but also solid, sensible and smartly priced. I was only a rider and not a driver at the time, but it also had a fun factor that was missing from other cars of my acquaintance - and you have to remember that an Austin Freeway cringed in our suburban Sydney driveway.

The original Corolla helped ignite a small-car revolution and laid the firm foundation that now sees Toyota rampaging along as Australia's favourite carmaker, with annual sales that trump the combined efforts of Holden and Mazda in the other podium places.

In America, the Corolla - along with the Honda Civic - is credited with the relatively recent bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler. Looking back to the USA in the sixties, it became the 'second' car in many American households and won over women and youngsters driving for the first time. They went Japanese and never came back. Does that sound familiar?

Since the late 1970s I've driven every new Corolla model and had some fantastic fun on the side, including flat-out track laps in pursuit of an Australian racing championship and several forest fights in the Australian Rally Championship. And a Corolla has never let me down.

And that gets me thinking about the Honda 750 four. You see, the Honda stalwart from the seventies was tagged as the Universal Japanese Motorcycle because it could do anything, from high-speed pursuit duties with the Highway Patrol police to daily commutes to touring the world in the days before long-distance motorcyclists switched to BMWs.

In the same way, the Corolla should be known as the Universal Japanese Car. It's as sensible as an accountant, as dependable as a bullet train, and as predictable as a new tech toy from Apple.  It's also a bankable investment on the secondhand scene and will never offend or annoy. It doesn't have the attitude of an Alfa, or the performance of a Porsche, but a UJC is just fine and we have 40 million signatures to prove it.

This reporter is on Twitter: @PaulWardGover