2001 Toyota Celica VVTi 190 1.8 from UK and Ireland


Good to drive fast, lack of low torque makes town driving a pain, and spoilt by lots of bad faults


The A/C has broken (the compressor seized) - due to lack of oil in the refrigerant (manufacturing issue when new). The car is out of warranty now - so will cost over £1000 to fix.

There is a very, very slight big end knock (I mean that by you can only hear it if you put your ear right next to the sump with the plastic undertray removed. This is a 27,000 mile car, correctly maintained with recommended lubricants and genuine parts, and is not thrashed. As it is mainly used for daily commuting at rush hour.

2 sets of alloys corroded (1st was replaced under warranty). The current set are corroding like the originals.

Farting (sorry, best word to describe it) noise when pulling away - suspect internally loose catalyst element or leaky olive joint gasket (dealer said they all do that - and is "normal").

Excessive corrosion of the inner brake disc surfaces on the front (although the car is used daily). New discs and pads now fitted and cleaned guides and slides etc. It is now doing it again (this car uses single pot sliding calipers.. but it's happening on piston side, so it's impossible to be the calipers or piston sticking).

Uncooperative gearbox - possible baulking problem on 3rd gear, causing difficulty in engaging gear (gets worse the faster you drive) and also a possible linkage problem. If you go from reverse to 1st, you get reverse again, try again, and it still goes into reverse (dealer says they are all like that and it is "normal", sir).

Gearbox is now making a grating noise in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear on overrun.

Low speed engine knock (detonation), if you're a bit heavy letting up the clutch without enough revs (possible cause of big end problems??). This type of high revving engine does not like being laboured.

Trim rattles galore - the interior quality is nowhere near as solid as older models.

Intermittent dimming of the headlights whilst driving at 30ish mph. The CD player also skips at the same time, so possible electrical/charging system fault.

The alarm had a mind of its own (fixed now) - Sensor is over-sensitive to vibration. Metal objects in the centre console screw up the sensor.

Paint is very thin, and soft, so chips and scratches very easily.

General Comments:

This is our 4th Celica, we have owned Celicas for the past 16 years, all these cars have been impeccably reliable, except this one, which is a very poor car by any standard. This will be our last Celica.

This is a very fast car. But the engine is very peaky and has a narrow power band, which only is available near the redline. It doesn't not have much low RPM power. The "VVTLi" does not kick in until well over 6000rpm. Forcing you to thrash it to get the best performance. Great for fast road driving - but a pain round town and for cruising, as you need to constantly keep changing gear to avoid labouring the engine.

The handling is extremely good, it feels much lighter than the older models, and gives good feedback through the steering. But it does suffer badly with torque steer, and the factory Yokohama tyres are not very good for wet grip or traction. It also can be twitchy under hard braking from high speed.

The gearbox has very short and close ratio gearing. Great for boy racers and suits the engine nicely, although it is easy to drop out of the power band, resulting in "block" changes to get the engine back on the boil. The gearbox is spoilt by being uncooperative and stiff to change gear.

Due to the the low gearing, motorway cruising is noisy, as the engine revs very highly at motorway speeds.

The interior is nicely laid out, but is cheap plastic, and is poorer quality than older models. Rear vinyl seats don't match the front leather seats (petty cost cutting). And the front seats have no memory, so when folded for rear access, they reset to a uncomfortable bolt upright position. It also has a few rattles. Boot as per all Celicas is large, and has the usual restricted height, but is very practical. Although it seems to be slightly smaller than older models.

Dealers were unwilling to help with the multitude of problems with the car, and preferred to fob us off on warranty work.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 3rd February, 2006

12th Apr 2006, 16:28

My 01 Celica 190 had P-Zeros rather than Yokos on it from the factory, and it handled brilliantly (despite the list of other stuff that went wrong). What was interesting though, was that I had them replaced with supposedly identical tyres from my local supplier when they wore out, and the handling was never the same afterwards. Wet grip considerably diminished, and more understeer at the limit.

My car was stolen a couple of years ago and hasn't been seen since, but I still remember it fondly for its manic engine and fun factor. It still remains the most unreliable car I have ever owned though, and that includes an Alfa Romeo 33 I owned for four years! I doubt the thieves would have been particularly chuffed with their acquisition as the (second) gearbox was just about to grenade itself, and it had a misfire that drove you nuts! Beautiful looking thing though, in a very Ferrari-esque red with the full Dynamic Pack. Real fun to drive when it worked too.

27th Aug 2009, 11:10

I have a 190 and it used to suffer from the radio and lights scenario. Every time I flashed the lights the radio went off for a short moment. Was under warranty so the dealer fitted an newer ECU. Toyota know about the fault, mines fine now though.

19th Nov 2009, 15:34

Big end knock is very common - a japanese engine importer I know can remove and refit a Celica (01-) engine in his sleep cos' he has replaced so many. There is a design fault leading to excess oil consumption, with no show on the gauge until fatal damage has occurred, engine will knock like mad or lock up, pull the dipstick, no oil - can happen at any point, without warning. Not the Celica of old this one. The early d4d diesels are not much better. Race to the bottom Toyota?

27th Jan 2015, 08:56

Having owned an older Celica T182 myself, which was quite thirsty for oil as well, I have heard of this issue which develops on the newer 1.8 engines, if they have not been properly run in. I still consider it common sense to check the oil manually every now and then, and not rely solely on warning lights.

2001 Toyota Celica VVT-i 1.8 from Malta




Absolutely nothing that was the car's fault. However after an oil and filter change (filter was not original Toyota part) oil leaked out in large amounts. Lesson - only use genuine Toyota parts!

General Comments:

The Celica has excellent ride and handling.

Performance for the 140bhp model is decent, but torque is lacking.

Economy is quite good with over 30mpg in everyday use.

The coupe shape is both striking and surprisingly practical with good interior and boot space.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 25th August, 2005