For 35 years, Toyota fans who favored a low-slung sport coupe have been able to drive home a Celica. This is about to end, as Toyota will drop the Celica after the 2005 model year.
Toyota's rakish, low-slung sport coupe targets a young audience. Unlike the company's MR2 Spyder, the Celica has a small backseat. A modest face-lift for 2003 included an updated front fascia and newly available high-intensity-discharge headlights. Little has changed for 2005.
Last redesigned for 2000, the front-wheel-drive Celica hatchback comes in GT and racier GT-S trim levels.
Created at Toyota's California design studio, the Celica's shape was inspired by racecars. In addition to a low nose and short overhangs, the body features a steeply raked windshield, a tall tail and sharp creases along the sides.
Fog lights are standard on the GT-S. A power sunroof and rear spoiler are optional on both models. The GT-S is equipped with all-disc brakes, but the GT has a front-disc and rear-drum setup. Both models ride on 15-inch tires, but GT-S rubber is a little wider and wrapped around alloy wheels. The GT-S can be equipped with optional 16-inch tires. High-intensity-discharge headlights are optional.
An available Action package adds "aggressive" bumpers, rocker panels, color-keyed headlight trim, clear taillamp lenses, a larger hood scoop and a rear spoiler.
The automaker says racing also inspired the interior. The Celica seats four occupants, but rear passengers should expect a tight squeeze. The backseat is best suited for children or cargo, and the split seatbacks fold to increase storage space.
Standard equipment includes a tilt steering wheel, a six-speaker CD stereo, power mirrors, air conditioning and intermittent wipers. The GT-S adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, drilled aluminum pedals, JBL premium audio, and power windows and locks. Leather-trimmed seats are optional.
Toyota's 1.8-liter four-cylinder develops 140 horsepower in the GT. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder in the GT-S has different bore and stroke dimensions and a higher compression ratio; it churns out 180 hp at 7,600 rpm.
The GT has a standard five-speed-manual gearbox, and the manual transmission in the GT-S has six speeds. A four-speed-automatic transmission is optional in both models, but the one in the GT-S offers a manual-shift provision via steering-wheel buttons.
Daytime running lights are standard. Side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are optional.
The sleek, low Celica looks sharp with its angular design. Unfortunately, the car has too many irritating characteristics to warrant a true thumbs-up.
Taut, precise handling is the Celica's main attribute. The coupe responds well to steering inputs, produces minimal body lean through curves and remains neatly stable on the highway. While rounding a quick curve, the rear wheels felt like they could lose their grip if pushed a bit harder. While ride comfort is fine on the highway, it can become harsh in urban commutes.
With its high-revving engine, the Celica is fast from a standing start. Sadly, acceleration is accompanied by some brash, raspy sounds from the four-cylinder, and automatic-transmission downshifts aren't the most refined.