Toyota Celica 2022 review

The Celica is a Toyota sports car sold by the Japanese firm between 1970 and 2006

£5,298
Average price
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2
Out of 5

Pros

  • Smart styling
  • Fun to drive
  • Good reliability reputation by sports car standards

Cons

  • Not very practical
  • Cheap-feeling interior
  • Not rear-wheel-drive
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Toyota might be better known for its sensible hybrid models these days, but over the years this brand has made some fantastic sports cars, and one of its longest-running is a model called the Celica

First launched in the 1970s, it was conceived as a Japanese take on a muscle car, and designed to offer sportiness combined with everyday usability. By 1977 the millionth Celica had been produced – a testament to this model’s appeal and affordability at the time – and at a similar time a second-generation version launched. In 1981 a squarer-looking Celica went on sale, bringing greater style and some impressive technology for the time – it even boasted satellite navigation on some models! 

For the fourth-generation Celica, Toyota made the switch to front-wheel-drive, with a radical new design that was sleeker and more compact than its predecessor. A fifth-generation appeared in 1989 with a smoother design, and was both lighter and quieter than its predecessor. A sixth version was introduced in 1993, seeing the launch of a more affordable entry-level version.

Latest model

The last generation of Celica emerged in 1999, boasting a significantly more modern design, and was lighter with an engine co-developed with Yamaha. Unlike previous generations, this model was only ever offered in a single Coupe guise – rather than a convertible, etc. 

In 2003 a mid-life facelift was launched, with the brand prioritising improved safety and driving fun for the model, as well as very subtle styling tweaks. The Celica bowed out in 2006, with the model’s production run ending with a GT version, which brought lowered suspension and a racey body kit to set it apart from previous models.

Following the Celica’s demise, there was a gap in Toyota’s range for an entry-level sports car for a number of years, before it was filled in 2011 with the launch of the GT86. More recently, the GR86 shows Toyota’s commitment to affordable performance models. 

Value for money

At its launch in 1999, the Celica’s starting price was £19,255, which in today’s money is the equivalent of just over £30,000 – broadly the same as what you’d pay for Toyota’s new GR86 sports car today. Its relative affordability made it a quick hit, while it included plenty of standard equipment, including 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, remote locking and a Sony CD player. 

As the Celica hasn’t been on sale for some time, your only option is with older versions now. It's also a very affordable way to get behind the wheel of a new sports car. In fact, scruffy – if usable – versions start from as little as £1,000, though cleaner high-mileage models start from around £2,500. Expect to pay £3,500 for lower-mileage examples, with the best-of-the-best setting you back up to £10,000. 

Looks and image

Though it might be more than two decades since the last generation of Celica debuted, this is a model that continues to look impressively fresh and modern, and nowhere near as old as it actually is. Its striking lines and low-slung look are akin to a more powerful and exotic model. If you want slightly more muscular styling, the late GT version is the one to go for, with its more aggressive bodykit and big spoiler making it stand out, though not everyone will like its more over-the-top look. 

Inside, the Celica’s interior has sadly aged as well as many cars of this era, and by that we mean it now looks quite dated. There’s a lot of grey and black plastic that is indicative of the times, though models get comfortable sports seats and a great three-spoke leather steering wheel. 

Though perhaps not quite as much fun to drive as some rear-wheel-drive rivals, there’s a lot to like about the way the Celica drives. Whether you choose the 140bhp or sportier 197bhp model, there’s more than enough power on offer, and it feels enthusiastic without having to do silly speeds. At the same time, it still offers a comfortable ride, while it would be very easy to live with on a daily basis – as many Celica owners did when it was new.

Space and practicality

Toyota calls the Celica a ‘2+2’ and that’s the easiest way to sum up its interior. If there are just two of you, the Celica offers an ample amount of space, though the rear is not really suitable for adults. It’s not easy to access the back seats, while both legroom and headroom is compromised. The rear is only really suitable for children therefore. 

The boot is, again, quite compromised, but you do get folding rear seats to increase the everyday usability. You’re unlikely to be buying a Celica purely for practical purposes, though. 

Engines

All Celicas of this generation use 1.8-litre petrol VVT-i petrol engine, which comes in two forms. The entry-level option produces 140bhp and uses a six-speed manual gearbox. With this, it can take the Celica to 60mph in 8.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 127mph. 

In late 2000 Toyota introduced a new more powerful version putting out 189bhp. With its extra grunt, it reduced the 0-60mph time down to just 7.2 seconds, while increasing the top speed to 140mph. 

Running costs

As for insurance, groups range from 27 to 30, meaning the Celica shouldn’t cost too much to insure, provided you’ve got plenty of years of driving under your belt. 

Things to look out for

Toyota has a great reputation for reliability, and even its sports cars seem to have proven dependable – for example, there are plenty of Celica's on the market for sale with well over 100,000 miles on the clock. That’s a rarity in the sports car world. 

There are things to look out for, though, such as uneven tyre wear, which could be caused by an uneven suspension setup. Look out for worn front tyres, too, as it could be a sign a car hasn’t been very well looked after. Be cautious of modified examples too, while a full service history is particularly important with a sports car like this. 

Rivals

If you’re looking at the Celica, key rivals to look out for include the Honda Integra – as well as the firm’s Civic Coupe – while a Subaru Impreza could also be considered. The Mazda RX-8 is another possible alternative, while outside of Japan, you could take a look at the Hyundai Coupe

Depreciation

Given the Celica hasn’t been on sale for a number of years, many will have depreciated to practically rock bottom. This Toyota is poised to be a future classic, too, so providing you buy a well looked after car, and keep it that way, it should soon start to increase slightly in value. 

Trims explained

There are three main trims available on the Celica, with equipment highlights and prices as follows.

Celica –

All Celica models come with a decent level of equipment, including air conditioning, a single disc Sony CD player with RDS radio cassette and six speakers. You also get electric windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, remote locking and an alarm and an immobiliser.

From £1,000

T-Sport –

Introduced in 2001, the T-Sport gets larger 17-inch alloy wheels and a sportier bodykit from new lower side skirts and a spoiler. It also comes with chrome and red styling elements, along with a six-disc CD autochanger, digital climate control and full leather upholstery.

From £2,500

GT –

Introduced late in the Celica’s model run, the GT can be identified by its bespoke styling, including dedicated 17-inch alloy wheels, a full bodykit and large rear spoiler. It also comes with lowered suspension, electric heated door mirrors and Alcantara suede-effect upholstery.

From £4,500

Summary

  1. Sleek sports coupe sold between 1970 and 2006
  2. Last generation offered modern styling
  3. Great used buy…
  4. Good fun to drive
  5. Plenty of standard equipment
  6. Not very roomy
  7. Interior is a bit bleak
  8. GT models are the most desirable
  9. A credible future investment
  10. A fun and affordable sports car for not a lot of money

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