This is a smart and practical car as well as a serious driving machine. Be prepared to be surprised in many ways, most of which will be enjoyable.
I bought mine new and fully loaded (except VIP alarm) including a dealer installed TRD package, (it has the smaller rear spoiler, not the goofy large one) and have very little complaints about the car itself, the dealer on the other hand is a different story.
It's a shame that Northtown (Buffalo, NY) lacks a competent and caring staff. I have had better service at a McDonalds drive through, they are a detriment to Toyota and have turned my first time buyer experience into a nightmare. I'm dreading the day I have to return to the dealer to have the car serviced, luckily my father is one (of an army) of Northtown's attornies because anyone else would need a good lawyer to deal with them.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the car is the engine, the GT-S with VVTL-I is from another planet, it's true that lacks a little low end torque, but it gets scary fast very quickly. The engine runs from silky smooth to screaming fast in a short time and sounds awesome from 0 to 9000 rpms thanks to the TRD exhaust (adds 14 hp as well). I have yet to really open it up because the car is so fast off the line and nimble to boot, I've had it up to 100 MPH (with little effort) on the highway and the handling was rock solid and very responsive. The only thing that will remind you that this car is a 4 cylinder is the excellent gas mileage and low insurance rates.
This is a true sports car and like most sports cars there are trade offs in the area of performance versus comfort. First of all it's a track car with plenty of road feel and a little road noise. The streets of Buffalo, NY are not the best, which make the ride here harsh at times, but on good roads this car is excellent (TRD springs) and the handling is very precise with a little oversteer in hard corners. Occasionally there are weird anomalies under hard acceleration and cornering which I equate to just plain old getting used to the car.
One thing which will not take any getting used to is the braking, the ABS 4 wheel discs are stunning and perhaps the best non traction control braking system on the market.
Inside the car it's spartan and uncluttered, most everything is where it should be, however there seem to be a few inconstancies and trade offs, but they are easily forgivable. Most notable is the plastic space age dash (a slight mismatch to leather seats, easily fixed with carbon fiber or after-market kits) and the drink holder placement, but then again I couldn't imagine where else they could have put them (I can say the same for any Lexus as well), besides you should be driving not eating your lunch.
The driver's position is comfortable and logical, but may take some getting used to, don't expect your back seat passengers to be too happy.
The six speed transmission takes a bit of getting used to as well, I have had the car for about a month and have only started to get the right feel for the shifter/clutch/gas equation. This is no surprise because I had to drive my parents Porsche 911 for years until I really got used to it.
The trunk is surprisingly big and very practical with the cargo tray, bag hooks, and tie down hooks just right and the 50/50 rear seats pushing functionality into the magical realm. The only thing really missing is a hatch release.
The 8 speaker JBL infused CD/Tape/FM sounds excellent, the speakers are matched nicely with the amperage, bass response is just enough for a little punch in the gut even at low volume levels, mid's and high are just as good. I wish they would have made the LCD amber instead of green (from a Lexus?) so it would have matched the driver gauges. Real car audiophiles will want to add better rear speakers and a little 8' sub amp/crossover combo for the back, but as a stock units go it's remarkably adequate and functionally operative.
Looking at the body of the car is a true pleasure. The design is remarkable, complex sight lines and the geo-mechanical form make this car absolutely beautiful and unique. It's hard to believe that this is a car from Japan, but then again the exterior was designed in California. My only complaint is that the box like fenders make the 205/50/15 tires appear slim.
Lastly, get a very good alarm for this car, it will get noticed real fast, it's a head turner, especially with the TRD ground effects, worry about it when it's parked because somebody is going to be always looking at it, touching it, and most likely planning to steal it. Toyota's have a remarkably high resale value as a whole car and even more so when chopped and sold for parts.
Combined with Toyota's penchant for perfection and reliably and the Celica's un-worldly design and performance specs, there is no other car like it. You can argue Acura and Honda all you want, but there is no comparison when their designs are so dated. Mention Eclipse or Mustang and look at how many of them there are on the road, but actually in the shop most of the time. If you're considering other belly button cars like a Camaro, Firebird, or Trans-Am, there is no hope for you. One might also consider a GTI, but over the years they have become fat, old and slow. The new Celica's have the looks (and exhaust note) of a Lambo or Ferrari, the brute strength and agility of a Porsche and refined mechanical perfection of a Lexus. Find yourself a good, honest, and friendly dealer and be prepared for a truly remarkable car buying experience.