Toyota Celica GT-S(2001)

Celica GT-S

The Celica is about as old and familiar a name as there is in theautomotive world. It's been around for years. The current version,redesigned in 2000, is the seventh update since its inception back in 1971.Through all those editions, the Celica has always been one thing: a small,nicely made, sporty car that, in a pinch, can hold four people. Iguess the older we get, the more we would emphasize the word "small."

Driving Experience

With more and more cars adopting a tall profile, you really noticenow when you get into a car that sits you close to the ground.Folding yourself into the Celica is not on your chiropractor's"recommended" list. The car is quick and nimble, almost touchy.The accelerator pedal on the GT-S (the sportiest Celica model) isextremely sensitive, making the car dart and jump. The combinationof an overpowered engine and a six-speed manual transmission makes itdifficult to accelerate smoothly, especially at low speeds. This isthe kind of thing you might get used to, but it's also the kind ofthing that would bother passengers a lot more than drivers, and youmight find friends refusing to ride with you before long.

The GT-S we drove has a cars.com target price of $21,507. It came with a six-speed manual transmission which encourages the driver to keep the engine revs high. That's fine if you feel like playing Speed Racer, but it can get tiresome if you're just going to the dry cleaners. A four-speed automatic is available, and it probably does a lot tosmooth out the effect of the accelerator pedal.

Otherwise, the Celica is enjoyable to drive. The shifter and theclutch both work nicely, and the car sticks to the pavement and handles well, if very firmly.

The GT-S has one very serious drawback, however: too much enginefor too little car. The GT-S comes with a four-cylinder, 1.8-liter, 180-horsepower engine, and, with a weight of only 2,500 pounds, it exceeds ourproposed 0.06 horsepower-to-weight limit by a good 20 percent. It'sdifficult to drive this car responsibly, in our humble opinion. It makesyou drive like a maniac. For that reason, and the others statedabove, we recommend the more reasonable GT model. The Celica GTcomes with a 140-horsepower engine, which should be more than enoughto power this lightweight car.

Interior

When, at great risk to our inseams, we first lowered ourselves into thebucket seats, we took an immediate dislike to the GT-S. It felt as thoughyou were sitting in a hole--not a good feeling unless you're a mole or awoodchuck. Fortunately we discovered a little crank by which you canraise and lower the seat cushion. After that find, our perspective improvedmarkedly. The driving position is certainly acceptable, but you payfor the racy styling of the car by sitting close to the ground andlooking up at the world.

The Celica may look small on the outside, but once you're behind the wheelyou realize that it's really, really small on the inside. There's enoughroom up front for two people who like each other, while the two seats inback are fine for, say, a pet ferret and two days' worth of dirty laundry--or any adult whose comfort and well being are of no importance to you. Infact, Zuzu, the beloved dog of our Producer, Dougie Berman, chose to sit onthe front edge of the seat cushion. Seated normally, even a dog would nothave enough headroom in the back.

The Celica is a hatchback, which does add to its utility. The rear seatscan be folded, giving it about as much trunk space as an OldsmobileIntrigue sedan.

The GT-S comes with four-wheel disc brakes, cruise control, power doorlocks and windows, fog lights, a rear wiper, and an AM-FM stereo that playscassettes and CDs. Antilock brakes and side-impact air bags are optional.

Visibility is pretty good. Unlike most cars with high deck lids, theCelica, with a lot of side glass and a large rear window, makes itreasonably easy to see out the back.

Ergonomics

Tommy complained about the layout of the speedometer. The GT-S hasa speedometer that goes up to 160 miles per hour (that, in itself, generated somefrothing at the mouth from Tommy). But the speed markings take uponly three-quarters of the dial. I'll let the Sultan of Slow take it from here: "So with zeromiles per hour at the six o'clock position, and 160 mph at three o'clock,you've exceeded the speed limit when the needle is about one-thirdof the way around the dial. God forbid you should be driving past aschool and trying to figure out if you're over the 35 mph speed limit. You'd needa magnifying glass!"

This one flaw is a shame--because everything else inside the car isso good. The dials are clear and easy to read, and the controls for the heater and radio aresimple and easy-to-use dials. We did find that the dashboard vents were alittle tricky to get used to, but even we got the hang of them eventually.One unusual feature of the GT-S? It warns you when you've shifted intoreverse with a beep, beep, beep that's just like the big trucks, onlyinside the car. This is a thoughtful touch, given that first gear is rightnext to reverse on the shifter. After all, you'd have a lot of explainingto do if you accidentally launched yourself into that state police cruiserbehind you when the light turned green.
Styling

The Celica has that loud, "Hey! Look at me!" styling undoubtedly intendedfor the young boys and girls who will make up most of the clientele.But the two-door-coupe segment of the market is always driven byfashion, so what do you expect? This is a car of the Pokemon era.

Overall comments

If you're shopping for a sporty hatchback, you should also consider theFord Focus ZX3 (taller, cheaper, good handling); the Volkswagen Golf(sporty, German engineering, practical); the new Beetle (fun, safe,different); the Acura Integra (Japanese reliability, sportier than aCivic); and the Mercury Cougar (most similar to the Celica). But, aswe said above, if you're looking at this type of car, styling andfashion will probably determine what you get as much as anything.So do whatever you want. What do we care? Actually, one notableadvantage of the Celica over these other cars (with the exception ofthe Acura) is Toyota reliability and resale value. If you're goingto buy a car that may look silly to you a few years from now, atleast you'll be getting one that doesn't break down.

Toyota's advertising the GT-S as the "Bullet Train," which is too bad,in our humble opinion. Why appeal to the baser instincts oftestosterone-poisoned males, when you've got a sports car that's otherwisepretty damn good? Unless you're hell-bent on breakingevery land speed record known to man, we'd say to opt for the base Celica GT. It'sgot 40 fewer horsepower and it's $4,500 cheaper--and that'sbefore you begin to add up the speeding tickets and bail-bondsman feesyou'd be racking up in the GT-S.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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