Home » Why The New Toyota Corolla FX Sucks And The Original Kicked Ass

Why The New Toyota Corolla FX Sucks And The Original Kicked Ass

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Whether you work in cars, movies, or music, it’s all the same—what’s old is new again. Like so many automakers before, Toyota is drawing from its history to add some heat to its current lineup. To that end, it’s released the new Corolla FX, resurrecting the magic letters last seen on the FX16 of 1987. Whether it lives up to the name is for you to decide.

Although, I’ve decided, and it doesn’t.

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The new Corolla FX takes the SE trim and jazzes it up a bit. The FX gets an “enhanced” rear spoiler and satin black 18-inch wheels with black lug nuts. It also scores black mirror caps, black badges, and a black roof—the latter more noticeable if you spec the car in a contrasting color. The FX also gets lowering springs for a sportier ride height, and tweaks to the tune for the electric power steering. Inside, there’s orange stitching on the seats, and a bigger infotainment screen.

And… that’s it. No additional horsepower. No raspy exhaust. No wild graphic down the side announcing that you shelled out for the FX. Given the limited offerings of the trim package, though, it’s probably best not to brag about it. Regardless, let’s contrast this with the legendary Corolla FX16 of old. We’re gonna see where Toyota got it wrong.

Reject modernity.
Toyota Corolla Fx 1987 Pictures 1
Embrace tradition.

The Corolla FX16 was an honest-to-goodness hot hatch when it hit the market in 1987. It rocked Toyota’s beloved 4AGE engine, which it shared with the mid-engined MR2 and the rear-wheel-drive Corolla GTS. The engine rocked double-overhead cams, electronic fuel injection, and four valves per cylinder, which helped it deliver 108 horsepower. That was a healthy leap over the 71 hp of the 8-valve carbureted base model, and made the FX16 a pretty hot ship by 1987 standards. Car and Driver went so far as to call it a “pocket rocket” in their contemporary review, and celebrated the upgraded powertrain:


The heart and soul of the FX16 is its motor. The 1.6-liter, twin-cam, sixteen-valve, fuel-injected four-cylinder produces 108 horsepower at 6600 rpm. Interestingly, when this same engine is assigned to duty in the MR2 and the rear-drive GT-S, it produces 112 horses. Toyota attributes the modest power loss to a redesign of the four’s intake and exhaust manifolds, which had to be modified to fit in this Corolla’s engine compartment. Except for plumbing, however, the 4A-GE engine is unchanged. The redline remains at the blender-level 7500 rpm.

The FX16 also got nicer rubber, shod in Goodyear Eagle GTs from the factory. Toyota also saw fit to upgrade the suspension for better handling, including a strut brace to help stiffen up the body. The FX16 was solely available as a three-door hatch, and weighed in at just 2440 pounds.


Japan actually got a Corolla FX first in 1984, under the name FX-GT. Kicking off in 1984, it got a full 128 hp out of the 4AGE, and it even got a huge “TWIN CAM” sticker down the side that made it instantly recognizable in traffic. That rocked. Toyota gave the FX16 three things: more power, better handling, and good looks. Combined with its mean stance and sweet wheels, the thing looked like it was ready to take on all comers. It may not have been a winner at the stoplight drags, taking 9.8 seconds to reach 60 mph, but that wasn’t the point. It had a zippy, high-revving engine, great steering, and it looked the business.

Wallpapers Toyota Corolla 1983 2 (1)

Toyota Corolla Fx 1987 Wallpapers 3

Toyota Corolla 1983 Pictures 1 (1)
Japanese models looked the coolest. Why did they stop writing on cars?!

The new Corolla FX is none of those things. It’s a black, white, or grey Corolla that’s a bit lower with some black wheels. It looks just like any other Corolla out there, and I’ll wager it drives like it too. Yes, it’s faster than the old FX16, by virtue of the 169 hp from its 2.0-liter engine. But you can get that in any Corolla!

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Cool skate park, though.

Where’s the sticker pack? Where’s the dual-exit exhaust with a droney, rorty note when you get the revs up there? Where’s the charm? Honestly. Ten horsepower and a sweet set of graphics, and I’d be writing an entirely different article.

The problem is, Japanese automakers don’t want to put words on cars anymore. They grew up. Apparently we all did.

Other automakers have done this before, too. The Ford Ranger Splash was a rad, fun-loving truck with neat graphics and an outgoing attitude when it launched in the 1990s. Cut to 2021, and Ford brought it back, only this time, it wasn’t the same. It was basically a yellow Ford Ranger barely different from any other. Kind of a shame.


I’m not the only one thinking this way, either. FlavouredMilk reached out on The Autopian Discord channel to share dismay at Toyota’s effort. They went so far as to correct Toyota’s missteps, too, drawing us what the new FX should have looked like. “A few years back, I scribbled this down when I was telling a friend how the new Corolla was kinda hot, and that I’d love them to do a throwback,” says FlavouredMilk. “Sad to hear they did, and botched it.”

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FlavouredMilk’s artist impression of what a new FX should have looked like. They should have called it the FX20, IMO. That would have been RAD.
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Look at that thing! Coming out of the smoke!

I don’t want to be too harsh on Toyota. It’s doing a lot of cool things right now. It brought back the Supra (kind of), it built the GR Yaris and GR Corolla, and there’s some hot new product surely coming down the pipeline. But as far as the new Corolla FX goes? Swing and a miss, as far as I’m concerned.

Image credits: Toyota, FlavouredMilk

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Mall Explorer
Mall Explorer
10 days ago

Yeah a new FX-16 (for the number of valves, not displacement) would slot nicely between the base and the GR, but that’s not they went with. A lowered SE with riiiiimzzz is a Corolla S.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
14 days ago

Can yall please fix the top shot? It’s yea / nay, not yay. That misspelling makes me cry.

Mark Pikaart
Mark Pikaart
14 days ago

88 Carolla FX was my first car, such a cool little hatchback

Holly Birge
Holly Birge
15 days ago

I learned to drive a manual on my parents’ 1987 FX-16. Such a fun little car. The new FX is not – it’s just a boring Corolla.

15 days ago

Who is this for? Anyone old enough to remember the originals is not likely interested and anyone else wouldn’t know or care. Definitely agree about the stickers (at least make them optional delete). We have such boring colors, it’s time to at least bring back some fun decals. Look at Dodge with the Charger/Challengers or even Toyota with the 4Runner with the retro decal option. I would like to see some new graphics, too, not just nostalgia-bait asking, “Hey remember when cars were fun and interesting?” Yeah, I do, and you just underlined how boring cars are now. This package with the Prius 2.0 hybrid powertrain (FX20? HX20?) might be something worth resurrecting a sporting name and better looking than the regular hybrid trim, but just some very basic, phoned-in superficial changes?

Mr E
Mr E
15 days ago

This speaks to the inherent, systemic laziness of car companies slapping a ‘Sport’ badge on a vehicle, adding a few black accents and charging more for it.

It also reeks of disrespect for the buying public (yeah, no, I don’t need a reminder to check my back seat when I turn the car off).

15 days ago

At least the wheels aren’t entirely black. I never liked that, and I’m totally over it.

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