2000 Toyota Celica (303)

Overview: 

This Toyota Celica 3-door liftback is styled at Toyota’s Calty Design Studio in Newport Beach, CA. From the visual point of view, you and I may or may not agree, but I rather like the styling. I did bump my head on the headliner when I first got in, but yes, the seat needed adjusting so I put it way down, but I’m only 5 foot 9. You can just imagine what my much taller friend Merkle said when he got in. I respect his opinion because he’s an engineer and teaches engineering and design stuff. I won’t repeat some of his comments but I submit the following for your consideration. Merkel says, “The design is from Mars and I expected more from the folks who put out great cars like Lexus and Camry; the interior quality is poor and the materials are cheap. The orange gauges and the gas gauge in particular were annoying.” You’ll know what he means when you take a look-see.

Ok, so this car is more a 2+2 hatchback where you don’t plan on passengers – “dogs and kids are ok” says Merkel. The engineer in him explains why he loves the engine and drive train. The VVTL-i (Variable Valve Timing Lift with intelligence) technology is way ahead of American carmakers and overall the “mechanical side of the car is genius” in his words.

Well, Merkel, I kind of agree with what you say but I wasn’t as bothered by this little lady either way. Celica is not a big car and wasn’t designed to be big. But on the other hand I need a lot more room for the money and the quality although I didn’t see it as bad as you said, it should be better. I suspect even good car companies can get sloppy. Some folks say it was introduced as a “Japanese Mustang.” That’s a real stretch.

Handling & Performance: 

Zipping around is fun in this sports car. But this engine redlines at almost 8,000 rpm. I don’t know about you, but I’m uncomfortable pushing an engine all the time. I’m not a race driver and driving on the streets at 5-6&7,000 rpm is tiresome, not to speak of the damage you’ll do to the engine if you drive it that way all the time.

Styling: 

You’ll have to be the judge at the end of the day, but I rather like looking at it. Not my cup of tea, but it’s distinctive.

Fit and Finish: 

Not bad, but the goal to produce a light car requires a lot of cheap lightweight components.

Conveniences:

The standard stuff noted below was adequate and enough for me, however, the model I drove also included anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, power sunroof, side air bags, rear spoiler and leather seats.

Cost: 

The added conveniences noted above brought the retail price to $24,490. In my view, a little much for the car. So ‘wheel and deal’ and get the price down to where both you and the seller are happy – mostly you.

Recommendation:  

Drive the competition and you’ll know which one best suits your need. You’ll enjoy the ride more if you know you got the best your money could buy. Target market is the young buyer who is looking for unique styling and racy performance.

The competition:

Acura Integra $19,300-24,350, Chevrolet Camaro $17,040-28,715, Dodge Avenger $19,045-21,290, Ford Mustang $16,710-31,605, Honda Prelude $23,500-26,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $17,697-20,287, Pontiac Firebird $18,690-31,050, Volkswagen GTI $17,675-22,620.

Good News:

Toyota historical quality, fun to drive, good gas mileage unless you wind the ‘P’ out of it all the time, decent trunk space and racy styling.

Bad News:

Not up to Toyota quality standards, small back seat, high rev engine is tiresome and car is a little pricey.

Standard Equipment: 

1.8 liter 4-cylinder VVTL-I engine, 6-speed manual trans, power 4-wheel disc brakes, dual air bags, power mirrors, daytime running lights, fog lamps, rear wiper, air conditioning, cloth seats, 6-way adjustable driver seat, console, power steering with tilt wheel, power windows and locks, cruise control, stereo with cassette and CD.

Gas Stats:

23 City and 32 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $21,165.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

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