2000 Toyota Celica Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
If Toyota's all-new Celica turns your head, then what's underneath its slick, edgy sheet metal should be more than enough to hold your attention. The 2000 Celica is lighter, more powerful, quicker and --believe it or not -- less expensive than the 1999 model. Not a bad way to start the new millennium.
The first Celica was launched in 1971 as Toyota's answer to the American pony car. It was sporty, nimble and youthful, but also reliable and economical. Celica hasn't changed much for the better part of a decade. It grew stale and seemed expensive.
For 2000, Celica has been completely redesigned. It goes on sale October 1.
This new Celica is the first car guided by genesis, a new, youth-oriented marketing wing of Toyota Motor Sales USA. With cars like Celica and the new ECHO subcompact, genesis will try to woo buyers under age 30 as that group begins flexing its consumer muscle.
The Celica GT-S leads the lineup with distinctive styling, nice handling and a high-strung 180-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine developed with assistance from Yamaha. The GT-S retails for $21,165.
Most buyers will opt for the more affordable 140-horsepower GT, which retails for $16,695.
Naturally, the two models vary in standard features: The GT gets a six-speaker stereo with both cassette and CD, power windows, power mirrors and air conditioning. The GT-S adds two speakers and more amplifier power, fog lamps, drilled aluminum sport pedals, power locks, a leather steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control and alloy wheels with wider tires. The GT-S evaluated here had nearly all the options, including a sunroof, leather seats, a rear spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels with lower profile speed-rated tires. In place of the GT's five-speed gearbox, the GT-S comes standard with a six-speed gearbox. Either model can be ordered with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic that adds $800 to the GT, $700 to the GT-S.
Toyota had three key objectives for the seventh-generation Celica: less weight, more power, and a lower price.
The 2000 Celica weighs nearly 100 pounds less than a comparably equipped '99. And even though the new engine is smaller (by 400 cc), it boasts a 5-horsepower edge over last year's engine. The GT-S is expected to beat the '99's 0-60 mph times by a substantial two-second margin, while improving fuel economy by 22 percent. Toyota said it held down the cost of building the Celica through increased production efficiencies and by sharing parts with other models.
The new Celica is based on Toyota's XYR concept car (for Xtreme, Youthful, Racy), which made the rounds at major auto shows two years ago. Its 102.3-inch wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer than the '99 Celica's, yet the new car is nearly four inches shorter, with a lot less overhang front and rear. Designers at the company's studio in southern California took inspiration from Toyota's CART auto-racing program. The channel down the Celica's hood is supposed to recall the needle nose on an Indy car. The long, vertical headlights are intended to remind us of the endplates on a formula race car's front wing.
Maybe, maybe not. What's clear is that Celica deliberately mixes round organic shapes with sheer and angular. The contrasts aren't necessarily clean or elegant, but they are dramatic and by no means ugly. Celica's striking headlights make it look expensive. It's a fairly large, bold step by Toyota's usual conservative, edgeless styling standards.
Under the hood, Celica offers a choice of two all-aluminum inline four-cylinder engines. While both displace 1.8 liters, each has its own block and bore and stroke measurements. With twin cams and four valves per cylinder, the base GT engine makes a respectable 140 horsepower and 125 foot-pounds of torque, both at 6400 rpm.
The GT-S inline-4 was developed jointly with Yamaha, which also does final engine assembly, and it employs a number of high-tech tweaks. It's the first Toyota-badged engine in North America with variable valve timing, lift and duration (called VVTL-i). For the buyer, that means higher revs, better engine breathing and more horsepower for the engine's size. The GT-S powerplant is one of a few non-turbocharged production engines that boast 100 horsepower per liter of displacement. With its high 11.5:1 compression, it produces 180 horsepower at 7600 rpm and 133 foot-pounds of torque at 6600 rpm.
The Celica GT comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. The GT-S gets a six-speed. The GT-S is also available with the E-Shift semi-automatic shift program from the hot Lexus GS 400 sports sedan. This optional four-speed automatic can be shifted manually via buttons on the steering wheel spokes.
As expected, the new Celica offers tight quarters--intimate for average-sized people, perhaps cramped for larger folks. Yet the rear seat has a surprising amount of space for a 2+2 with more headroom than before. The front seats allow height adjustment, but they lack variable lumbar support. A toe-operated lever on the front passenger seat allows it to slide forward for easier access to the rear.
Celica's dashboard starts with a simple, clean, cross-compartment design. The gauges have orange script on a black background. Switches are easy to find and operate, particularly stereo controls. The center console has a storage rack for eight CDs or 10 cassettes. The rear seat folds to expand cargo space. Our test car was a pre-production prototype, so it was difficult to judge the quality of the interior finish. Still, the optional leather seats had rich, high-grade upholstery.
Occupant safety was a priority for Celica. In addition to side-impact beams, it offers optional side airbags that deploy from the front seats. The seats have a new, one-piece back frame designed to limit whiplash injuries, and many interior trim pieces are deformable to soften head impacts. The 2000 Celica is the first Toyota that shuts off its fuel delivery system if the airbags deploy.
My first impression of the Celica GTS is that it loves to rev. There's adequate throttle response through about 6000 rpm, then Toyota's VVTL-i kicks in like an on-off switch and the Celica squirts forward with real urgency. The GTS should manage 0-60 mph runs in the upper seven-second range, but the true satisfaction comes with working the shifter and keeping the engine spinning full bore. The red area on the tach starts at 7800 rpm, but there's another 500-600 revs to the limiter and the engine keeps pulling strong, without flattening out, the whole way.
The only problem is that when this engine is turning in the sweet part of its power band it's loud. There's an abundance of intake and valve noise, made more noticeable because the engine feels so smooth.
The GT-S shifter works very well by front-drive standards--smooth, accurate, direct. The E-shift automatic is equally impressive. E-Shift's shift buttons work intuitively. Pressing one of the buttons on the front of the steering wheel upshifts, while pressing the buttons on the back downshifts. Better still, the electronics do very little thinking for the driver. E-Shift holds its gear, even with the engine bouncing off the rev limiter and shifts sequentially up or down at the driver's discretion. It works as well as similar systems on some of the most expensive cars in the world.
Celica's seats are comfortable and grippy, and the pedals, in both placement and operation, work well. The perfectly placed dead pedal is appreciated by enthusiast drivers because it allows them to brace themselves with their left leg during energetic drives.
One of the best things about the Celica GT-S is that it corners nicely, and relatively flat, without a harsh, small-coupe ride. The upgrade 16-inch tires are sticky. Steering is quick and accurate, and the feel through the wheel gives a good idea how much grip is left in the front tires. The Celica GT-S tightens its path through a curve when its driver lifts from the gas, and it takes the harshest, most abrupt maneuvers to unsettle its rear end. Overall, it gets high marks for chassis tuning.
Celica also gets high marks for build quality. Even in the prototypes we drove, there were no creaks or rattles in the unibody or trim panels. In all, the 2000 Celica makes a well-balanced, sporting coupe. With the exception of the peaky GT-S engine, no particular component stands out, yet it all blends together very nicely.
The same thought applies to the base GT, which we've sampled as well. Its tires aren't as grippy as the upgrades, and its 1.8 four is not as smooth. Yet there's just as much torque through three quarters of the engine's rev range, and unless you're constantly pushing the tach needle into the red zone, you might never notice the difference.
There was a time when the mid-priced coupe market was one of the hottest in the auto industry--when automakers, including Toyota, offered 200-plus horsepower turbocharged engines, all-wheel drive and other high-tech performance gadgets. Yet coupe sales have declined steadily over the last 10 years as buyers shift from cars toward pickups and sport utility vehicles. Some manufacturers have given up on sporty coupes. Credit Toyota for investing in an all-new Celica.
There's a solid sporty coupe beneath the Celica's new-wave skin.
Assuming production cars are a little quieter, the 2000 Celica is Toyota steady, Toyota smooth and Toyota finished. It's also surprisingly adventurous in appearance. Potential buyers taken by the styling will get more than enough car to go with the looks.
Celica GT-S ($21,165).
Options As Tested
outer sliding sunroof ($880), 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/50VR16 tires ($60), ABS ($550), leather trim package ($620), rear spoiler ($435).
Celica GT-S ($21,165).
We're sorry, we do not have the specific review that you requested. Please check back as we are continuously updating our review selections.
*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
FIND A GREAT USED CAR
Great Auto Loan Rates
Low Rates on New and Used AutosPowered By Apply In One Easy Step »