Celicas to some degree have always been a little more show than go, but give me a stylish coupe over a more mundane four door any day.
Like many Japanese cars of their time, it looks like the designers drew the whole thing with a straight rule, as there's not a single curvy line on here, and to be honest that's the way I like it.
I've always been a fan of this particular model, even the sometimes maligned sedan/saloon with it's slightly 'squinty' rear lights. Sleek lines continue up front with the facelifted pop up headlamps which still put a wry smile on my face every time they slide back down, which I believe is a marginal improvement to the earlier 'flip forward' headlamps (and probably help aerodynamics) with the new arrangement leaving a smart uncluttered black fascia running the entire front of the car. Some other designer touches are the fake brake vents in the rear quarters, which I could live without, and the rather dated matte black rear bumpers.
Inside is how it should be, with the usual flat coloured plastic in abundance. My car came in a rather pedestrian brown (instead of the norm grey) with matching 'granddad' check trim in the seats, which look awfully dated.
The driving position is good, for a variety of people with adjustable tilt steering wheel, and well placed pedals along with a foot rest beside the brake.
Instruments are equally laid out well, with simple tach and speedo as well as amp meter and a rather lively petrol tank dial; the needle seems to move way too much than it needed to, in fact this may have been a fault as it rarely shows full on a filling of the tank, and can flitter between half way and quarter full when there is evidently more gas in the tank.
Also the slightly amusing 'fishing reel' controls for the rear wash wipe and the god awfully cheap looking oil change recorder look like a bit of an afterthought, but do the job once you get accustomed to them.
Visibility is top notch with a large glass area and thin body pillars. In the hot Australian climate, I did find the glass almost a little too open and unprotected from the sun, and was at least thankful this car did not have a sunroof.
Having said that, the interior has seemed to have faired well, with no visible cracks or damage caused by the sun, apart from a bit of fade to the trim.
Seats are a relatively comfortable if a little lightweight on the padding, and as with previous Celicas seem mounted very low, something I needed to be reminded of after plonking down on the seats heavily after expecting them to be a fair bit higher than they were. The angled headrests seemed a bit intrusive for taller drivers.
Doors feel solid enough, but I found the glass that butts up to the pillarless body a little loose and rattly, though this may have been more down to their age than the design itself.
On the road, everything is untaxing, like previous Celicas the steering is light (I believe all models in this range had power steering) as are the pedals, and you can understand why these cars are so popular with women drivers.
The body roll and ride seem firm enough, but never stiff, with the only the front end seeming a little bobby when unsettled by rough roads or substantial potholes or imperfections, though whether all Celicas were like this off the factory floor, or my car was showing its age. The rear was also but to a lesser extent the same, but was remedied by fitting nolathane bushes at the rear, something (and the only thing after initial purchase) that was required to pass Roadworthiness in Australia.
Around town the XT proved capable if a little livelier than expected off of the lights for an Auto, while out on the open highway the 2.4 felt equally at home, steady at high speed and at ease eating up the miles.
Road noise is evident but not irritatingly so, as was wind up against the A-pillars from anything over 80km/h.
The Auto itself was perhaps the poorest working part of the car, with a general slackness common in older cars, and took its own time to change up gears when required. There was also a noticeable clonk from the diff when decelerating or braking in traffic, and could imagine the car being a real smooth performer once these parts are looked, fixed or replaced.
Bodywise this car has its fair share of bad spots going by the number of rust buckets I see lingering around town, with perhaps the rear hatch copping the worst of it, even though the car never seems tinny or lightweight like some other Japanese cars of it's time. Around the windscreen seems another weak spot, and my car has already some minimal perforations that will require closer inspection. However wheel arches seem strangely absent of corrosion, and would have thought to be the first area to be a victim.
Above all, coming away with this mid eighties Celica, seems to have been a successful one, as yet it has not let me down, and for a car so cheap, only the rear bushes needed replacing, and ultimately the Nolathane replacements have improved the car and it's stability, and my experience has made me consider doing the same at the front.
Despite a slack Auto and clunking diff, the performance is still there, and probably due to the injection system more than anything else over older carburettor models.
I still like the look of it, especially as these older cars are less plentiful outside of a wreckers yard. And choosing a liftback over the sedan/saloon has proved to be a wise one, it has literally been astounding how big and bulky items I have managed to cram into the back of this thing; all I need to do know is let my other half have the opportunity to learn to drive in it!