I bought one of these (a new 2001 model) as one of many graduation present
s to myself. I fell in love with this car when I first saw the commercials for it in college
during 2000. It was merely infatuation with the body style, but after owning one, I'm definitely sold.
There's a pretty good node on the Toyota Celica GT-S model. There aren't too many technical differences between the GT and the GT-S. The -S model has a slightly higher compression ratio and modified bore and stroke measurements. This gives you about 40 more horsepower and 5 lb-ft of extra torque. Also, it has the added availability of an extra gear for the manual transmission version, Sport Shift in place of normal automatic transmission, and the all-important leather apholstery.
Otherwise, the engine, body, suspension, blah blah blah are exactly the same.
How much extra do you pay for this wondrous luxury? Only $4000! Yeah, that's what I thought, too. I bought the GT. Perhaps I lack "vision," or "cajunes," or "toes," but I like money, especially $4000 worth of mony.
Anyway, how do I like the car? I love it! I got the manual transmission model (how can you do any less?) and get 27-31 miles per gallon. The 31 mpg was gotten after a lot of highway driving between school and Chicago, and I usually go about 80 with the air conditioning on the whole way, so I'm sure somebody more conservative could do better.
The rear seating is always an issue with these little 2-door cars, but I find it to be quite adequate. The headroom is a bit of a problem for people over 6' 2", but when isn't it when you're a giant monster? The front seats have nice little indentations in the back for your knees, but if the person in front isn't inordinately tall, you don't even need them. The back seats are bucket-style, squishy and comfortable, and not at all stupid, like the back seats in a Mitsubishi 3000GT. Like a lot of other 2-doors, the back seats fold down, giving you a suprising amount of cargo space.
I've heard a lot of complaining about the Celica's acceleration, and although I haven't driven too many sports cars (okay, I haven't driven any) but I would have to agree that the acceleration could be better. You have to get pretty high in the rpm's to get any kind of power. Well, that's not completely true... it still beats a lot of the cars on the road, but that's merely from my own observation, not hard research. It could be that I'm constantly "competing" against a bunch of middle-aged white people driving 4-door family sedans during rush hour.
This car is also very low to the ground. People who're used to driving sedans or trucks or anything else with a normal height will probably feel like they have a hard time sitting down in the Celica. This unusually low seating arrangement results in an interesting phenomenon that I lovingly refer to as the "Celica Grunt." This is the noise that people, particularly people over 30, make when then sit down in my car. It's especially noticeable when the person is talking and sitting down at the same time:
"Do you mind if I sit down in your Celica aauuughhhh?"
Of course, I still make that noise too, especially after a long, tiresome
day. That seat is just a little too hard to get into without making some kind of nasty noise.
The area where the Celica really shines is handling. There's a nasty little S-curve near my parents' home. When I try to take it in their 1990 Toyota Camry, I'm afraid to take the curve over 30 mph. I can take it at 45 mph in my Celica without a second thought. The reason it's so stable is the stabilizer bar which reduces body roll dramatically. The bottom line is that the car handles like a go-kart. I drive the hell out of this thing every chance I get, and I'm lucky enough to have an office in a business park with a lot of twisty roads in good condition near a golf course. Not a lot of driveways, and lots of old people to scare. Heavenly. I love the whirr the tires make when I push them to their limits on a fast 60-degree turn.
Another really neat feature that you don't see in a lot of cars are the focused halogen headlights. All day you've got your daytime running lights, but at night, there's a sensor in the dashboard that automatically switches on the lights. The really cool thing is that, unlike regular headlights which spray glare all over the place, these headlights shine in a neat little box ahead of you. You can actually see a very well-defined line where the cutoff is if you look at objects ahead of you, and that line is generally below the line of sight for the driver ahead of you. That means that when you're right behind somebody, your lights don't shine in their eyes. They can still see you, because the relatively dim and unfocused DRL's are on, but they won't be blinded by you. There's a tradeoff to this, in that roadsigns that are high up (especially large, tall interstate signs) don't get near as much illumination and are sometimes difficult to read.
Traditionally, the Celica has been referred to as a "secretary's car." This is the kind of thing that worries me. People in-the-know hear "Celica" and think "girl car." Now, I know in my heart of hearts that my car is NOT a girl car, but it's my nature to be insecure, so I'm always on the lookout for Celica demographics. Every time I see a guy in a new Celica, I think "Yeah, my brother. Rock on!" Every time I see a middle-aged woman with flabby arms, I think "Oh God, did I make a horrible, horrible mistake?"
No, I most certainly did not. If you're looking for a sporty, fun, mean-looking little car that won't guzzle gas or give the guy in the back seat a cramp, and all for about $18,000, snare yourself a Celica GT. It's a hell of a fun ride.