MODEL: Toyota Celica
VEHICLE TYPE: Three-door liftback
MILEAGE: 23 city, 32 highway
It’s amazing how the Toyota Celica has changed during the past 25 years. I owned a 1975 model, which wasn’t nearly as exciting at the 2000 GT-S model.
Yet even back then, the Celica had an air of excitement about it. That was the basis of its design when Toyota had it on the drawing board in 1967. When the Celica was unveiled in 1971, a gasp was heard by those who viewed it; in no time, this little sporty subcompact soon captured the hearts of many sports enthusiasts, myself included.
Through the years, each new model of the Celica has brought about numerous changes. Now in its seventh generation, the car is smaller, livelier and more attractive than ever.
Created by the people at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif., this new car has sharp edges, a plunging front end and a high rear end with an air dam on the rear deck. This design produces the mirage of making the Celica look like it is leaping forward even when it is standing still.
Compared to earlier models, the new car is shorter in length, yet the wheelbase is longer. As a result, neither the front nor the rear has much overhang. Compared to the 1975 model well, there just isn’t any comparison.
The old Celica was much easier to get in and out of. Or maybe it’s my age I was much more agile back in 1975; entering and exiting the GT-S today is a bit of a struggle. Although the Celica has always been a sporty car, the current GT-S is the sportiest I have seen.
The basic difference between the GT-S and the GT is the engine. My tester, the GT-S, has an all-new 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, all-aluminum engine that can produce 180 horsepower. That horsepower isn’t great, but when it has to move only 2,500 pounds of metal, the power becomes downright exciting.
Staring out in first gear, a quick shift to second and I’m be doing 60 mph very quickly. This car was equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, which allows the fun of running the tachometer to its safe limit. But the six-speed gate was the cause of some consternation. The gate is so tight, I found myself shifting into unintended gears. I suppose with practice, I would eventually get it right.
But this gearbox has another drawback. Reverse is in the upper left hand corner, next to first gear. It’s too easy to mistakenly shift into reverse and back the car instead of going forward.
To remedy this problem, Toyota installed an audible beep-beep sound when in reverse gear similar to the sound heard on large trucks when backing up. But I could barely hear the Celica’s beep-beep, especially if I was listening to a CD which was just about all the time. Celica’s system produces great sound.
If I were buying this car, I’d opt for the automatic transmission that has a sport-shift feature. With the use of buttons embedded on the steering wheel, all the fun of a manual transmission is at your fingertips. That transmission also uses Uphill Logic to reduce the annoying shifting when going up steep grades.
Other new features are better suspension and brakes. Since brakes are important for the complete enjoyment of a sporty car, Toyota wisely included 11-inch ventilated front disc and 10.5-inch solid rear brakes. The Toyota people say they used high-strength steel and center-floor cross members to help reduce the risk to a driver in the event of a collision.
During my brief week in this beauty, I couldn’t help but think of all the changes in the Celica over the past 25 years. It’s amazing how far the Celica has come.