The new Toyota Celica, redesigned for the first time since 1994, has dropped in price from $34,138 to $23,980. GT models come with a standard 140 horsepower 1.8 litre four cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission, while GT-S models have a 180 horsepower 1.8 litre four cylinder powerplant and a standard six-speed manual transmission, or optional ‘E-shift’ automatic transmission with manual shifting buttons on the steering wheel.
Bold styling and a much lower price
I don’t know which is more attractive about the new Celica: its bold new styling and sporty performance, or the fact that it’s more than $10,000 cheaper than the last-generation Celica.
The 2000 Celica GT starts at $23,980 compared to $34,138 for the previous Celica. That puts the new Celica in the right price range for its intended market: young, educated buyers under 35 years of age, mostly male, many of whom are buying a new car for the first time.
Despite the significant price drop, the new Celica is not a stripped-down, restyled version of the old model. It’s an all-new model with comparable standard equipment, improved performance, and better fuel consumption.
While it’s true that the new Celica GT’s standard 1.8 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine is smaller than the previous model’s 2.2 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine, the new 1.8 litre engine has more horsepower (140 vs 130) and better fuel economy (7.7 l/100 km vs 9.1 l/100 km). However, torque has dropped slightly from 145 lbs-ft @ 4400 rpm to 125 lbs-ft @ 4200 rpm.
Standard equipment on GT models remains comprehensive. A five-speed manual transmission, alloy wheels, AM/FM/CD stereo, air conditioning, front cloth sport seats, 50/50 split folding rear seatbacks, power windows and door locks, power mirrors, fully independent suspension, and 195/60R-15 inch Dunlop Super Sport radials are all standard.
Uplevel GT-S models, which start at $31,675, have a high-performance 180 horsepower 1.8 litre four cylinder powerplant with VVTL-I (Variable Valve Lift with Intelligence), a standard six-speed manual transmission, and an optional ‘E-shift’ automatic transmission with manual shifting buttons on the steering wheel.
GT-S models also include standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD (electronic brake distribution to prevent rear wheel lockup), 205/50R-16 inch Yokohama Advan radials and alloy wheels, rear spoiler, projector beam fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded stereo with eight stereo speakers instead of six, power sunroof with tilt/slide function, and cruise control.
The only options available on the GT-S are a Leather Package (leather seats, keyless entry, Design Sunroof), and a Sunroof Delete option. A fully-equipped GT-S model comes to $33,720.
Styled in California
The Celica was styled at Toyota’s CALTY design research centre in Newport Beach, California.
Its most dramatic styling elements, in my opinion, are its long, triangular headlamp covers and V-shaped hood contours, the unusual flared body creases along the upper sides of the car, and it high, blunt rear-end with an air vent in the lower rear bumper. In addition, the Celica has a functional hood scoop. The Celica’s styling reminds me of Ford’s ‘New Edge’ styling used on the Ford Focus and the Mercury Cougar, the latter an obvious competitor for the Celica.
Compared to the previous Celica, the new model is 93 mm (3.7 in.) shorter in overall length, but has shorter front and rear overhangs. Its wheelbase is 60 mm (2.4 in.) longer which improves the ride and provides a longer cabin with more interior room.
Sporty Interior Meets Safety Standards
The Celica’s interior design is both sporty and functional. Front, two-tone sport seats have generous side bolsters to grip the occupants during spirited driving, and the Celica has a good driving position relative to the stick shift, instruments, controls and windows. The twin rear bucket seats are adequate for short drives but wouldn’t be comfortable on long drives.
Large round analogue gauges are backlit in a bright red colour and are shielded from the Sun’s glare by a protruding hood. The center dash and console has a polished metal finish, and include a large covered storage bin in the upper dash area. The overall quality of interior materials is what you would expect of a Toyota, but I thought the plastic cover for the storage bin didn’t match the standards of the rest of the car. Between the front seats are two large cupholders and another covered storage compartment.
As a hatchback, the Celica has a roomy 12.9 cubic feet trunk which includes a built-in storage tray and hooks for grocery bags. By folding down the 50/50 split rear seatbacks, long objects, like skis or snowboards, can be accomodated.
For safety, the Celica’s interior features dual front airbags, impact absorbing materials on the roof and doors, three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters for front passengers, three-point seatbelts for rear passengers, and rear child seat anchors. Height-adjustable front head restraints are standard, but rear head restraints are not available. In the event the airbags are deployed, a sensor will disconnect the fuel pump to minimize the risk of fire.
Standard 1.8 litre Engine All You Really Need
With a curb weight of just 1100 kg (2425 lb) and 140 horsepower, the new GT is quicker in a straight line than the previous Celica, and feels more nimble because of its lighter weight, quicker steering, and better brakes. The Celica’s fully independent suspension (front MacPherson strut/rear double wishbone) and standard 60-series 15-inch radials provide excellent grip, however the ride over road irregularities was a bit stiff for my liking.
The Celica’s standard five-speed manual transmission has medium length, easy throws and clutch action is light. I also liked the six-speed manual transmission in the GT-S, but the sixth gear is essentially for cruising on the highway, and most of the time you’ll be using just five gears.
I didn’t try the four-speed automatic transmission in the GT, but I did try the ‘E-Shift’ automatic transmission in the GT-S. It’s a four-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode that allows the driver to change gears via two buttons on the front spokes of the steering wheel. One is for changing up and the other is for changing down. I found this system user-friendly, and shifting times were reasonably quick. In automatic mode, the ‘E-Shift’ transmission does a good job of matching shifts to the high-revving GT-S engine.
The GT’s standard 1.8 litre engine, which develops 140 horsepower @ 6400 rpm, features Toyota’s VVT-I (Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence), a system which continuously adjusts the intake valve timing to provide the optimal fuel/air mixture for combustion. This system benefits horsepower, torque, fuel economy and emissions. My only complaint with this engine is that it’s a bit noisy at high rpm’s.
The 1.8 litre engine in the GT-S, which develops 180 horsepower at 7600 rpm, has a larger bore, shorter stroke, increased valve diameter and a higher compression ratio than the GT engine. As well as VVT-I, the GT-S engine, co-developed with Yamaha, utilizes two camshaft lobes, one for low rpms and one for high rpms. At 6000 rpm, the rocker arms switch over to the high-speed cam lobes allowing a greater volume of air and fuel and easier discharge of exhaust gases. This gives it more power between 6000 and the redline of 8400 rpm. Its 180 horsepower is equivalent to an impressive 100 horsepower per litre of displacement.
The GT-S accelerates from a standing start to 100 km/h in just seven seconds, but the extra performance of the GT-S is found mostly in the upper rev ranges. Like the Acura Integra GS-R, you have to rev the engine right up to its 8400 rpm redline to get maximum performance – not something you need to do on the way to the grocery store each day. Personally, I found the performance of the standard GT engine to be sporty enough for the Celica, particularly as the GT has more torque at lower rpm’s (125 lbs-ft @ 4200 vs 130 lbs-ft @ 6800 rpm).
GT models have standard front disc/rear drum brakes which offer excellent braking performance, however anti-lock brakes are not available on the GT. Only the GT-S, with its standard four wheel disc brakes, comes with ABS.
The Price is Right
For a base price of $23,980, the GT model offers the best value in the Celica lineup. Standard equipment on the base car is generous, performance is excellent, and the GT looks almost exactly the same as the more expensive GT-S model.
Competitors for the Celica GT include the four cylinder Mercury Cougar, Acura Intregra SE, Nissan 240SX, Subaru Impreza RS Coupe, and Honda Prelude. GT-S rivals include the Acura Integra GS-R, and possibly V6 coupes like the Cougar V6 and BMW 323Ci.
Celica’s are built in Tahara, Japan and should be in dealers now.