I bought this car in 2008 based on its style, engine, and reports on its reliability.
I'm glad to say that those reports are quite accurate!
The only issue I've had with the car is when my brake light started flicking on when I was going around tight corners. After I arrived at my destination, I checked my levels and noticed I had very low brake fluid, so I topped it up on the way home, and the level sensor picked up on it. 3 weeks later and it's gone again - I figured it was just a minor leak, but it turned out that my brake caliper was shot on the rear driver side, and because it had leaked brake fluid all over my disc and pad, I needed a replacement caliper and rear discs and pads. Toyota would have charged £300 just for the caliper, but I fitted a 3rd party replacement and the total bill came to £282 inc labour - not bad at all, though it stung the pocket a little.
Now with the only major negative out of the way, I can focus on the car itself!
The car is a very marmite car to look at - you will either love it or hate it. It suits guys and gals - it's not particularly swayed in either side, and in my opinion suits both sexes equally. It has sleek lines in most of the right places, and the bonnet scoop is my particular favourite styling point - it really does look fantastic.
My car is fitted with the 8 spoke T-Sport branded alloys (NOTE: if you are looking to buy second hand, then check for corrosion, as earlier years had issues with alloy wheel corrosion). Mine are still in very good condition and the design is good, although the centre-caps are faded now and don't look as vibrant as they once did.
The other styling point I like about the car are the pillar less doors - very pleasing to the eye.
Negatives include the front and rear light clusters - the rear lights stick out and don't sit flush to the boot (this is deliberate, think Fiat Stilo), and the front light casing is raised above the bonnet and look slightly bug-eyed, and the front fog lights are poorly styled indeed (they look like an after thought with no surround around the light, just the underbody of the car) - though these are opinions.
Overall I find the style very pleasing - it looks like it’s going forward at speed even when it’s sitting still.
The leather sports seats (two tone in my car) are excellent and comfortable; even the leather seats in the rear are comfortable and trimmed in two tone black and grey leather. This looks very pleasing to the eye, as does the leather door cards. The steering wheel is also comfortable to grip and looks quite sporty, but can be prone to scratching if you wear rings.
The plastics are the cabin's main downside - they are quite cheap, and although they don't scratch easily, they are prone to scuffing.
The interior has more room than I expected, with a storage bin in the centre console (even if it looks and feels cheap), and is also a second storage bin behind the handbrake of sufficient size to store CD's or a drink.
Due to the space in the front, passengers in the back will suffer from lack of room. I'm 5'7", and although the rear seats ARE comfortable, the headroom is lacking and it is a squeeze to get in and out, so this car shouldn’t be taken seriously if you are thinking about driving four people around on a regular basis.
The seating position is absolutely brilliant, although the car does suffer from some blind spots. Most notably the rake of the A-pillar can be a pain, making right-hand corners a bit hit and miss especially when it's raining.
The wiper leaves a good five or six centimetres of unwiped glass, which has me performing a fairly good impression of a chicken as I twitch my head between side window and windscreen to get a better view out, and the rear view can be obstructed slightly by the spoiler; however overall there are no major concerns.
The CD player in my car is average. My model didn't come with a multi-changer, as apparently they stopped doing these as standard in Celica after 2004; either that or mine is totally invisible.
Although the car is fitted with 6 speakers (2 full range back, 2 bass/mid range front, 2 tweeters), I found the positioning of those speakers to be very irritating, as your driving position gets in the way of the sound field from the driver's side tweeter. It can go pleasingly loud with little distortion, but really crank it up and the head unit and speakers show their lack of power, especially with bassy songs. Music lovers (or should that be enthusiasts) will probably want to swap out the speakers and the head unit (which is a double DIN size). It's certainly good enough for most people and will drown out the car's engine and road noise no problem, but others with an ear for music will be left unsatisfied.
The handling is superb, with the chassis feeling as though it's pivoting just below the coccyx with plenty of grip, adjustability and a flat cornering stance. This car has ABS, EBD (think ABS but for each individual wheel rather than all four at once), and traction control, which all help keep the car where you point it, although I have experienced some understeer when cornering at speed. But if you lift off a little, it quickly returns to where you want it to go, and the traction control is not too intrusive and doesn't cut in too early, making this car fun to throw around corners.
The steering is nice and responsive, allowing a good feel for the road in wet and dry conditions, though again when cornering at speed the steering can feel a little skittish, and another little gripe is that the steering is a little heavy at low speed meaning you have to put a little more effort than usual into parking. You will also feel the steering wander a little when on uneven road surfaces, such as where grooves have been run into the road, however this is hardly worrying, and should give you an idea of how much feedback you get from the road when holding the wheel.
Let's get one thing clear - the car LOOKS faster than it is, so if you buy the car and expect monster performance based on how quick it looks, you WILL be left disappointed - to start off with - The Celica T-sport is fitted with an award winning engine that isn‘t that bad on economy - Fuel consumption stats are (Urban) 24.6 mpg, (ExtraUrban) 42.8 mpg (Combined) 33.6 mpg - not bad at all.
The 189bhp 1.8-litre VVTL-i engine, fitted to the Celica 190 and Celica T-Sport models was voted the winner in 2004 by over 40 journalists in the motor industry, five of whom were from the UK. To achieve this award, Toyota outclassed engines from BMW, Ford and Volkswagen (it shares technology from Lotus Elise engine, which was made by Toyota and was based upon the VVTL-i engine).
The VVTL-i engine is based on Toyota’s widely fitted VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing- intelligent) unit, but also increases intake and exhaust valve lift when the engine speed is above 6,200rpm (the engine in this car revs up to approx 8,200 (yes, 8,200!) before ‘soft’ red-lining). This is achieved by the use of a cam changeover system, essentially providing the engine with two power bands, and that is where you find the wow-factor in this car! Although the overall acceleration seems slow, once you hit that 6,200rpm, the car really kicks forward and you won't even notice you are grinning like an idiot, doing 0-62 in 7.2 seconds (and that‘s with no turbo)!
Power delivery is smooth and refined, and the position of the gearstick is where my left hand naturally falls. The shift is short, though a bit gritty in feel. It's also loosely sprung, which makes quick changes from second to third and also fourth to fifth a little tricky if you are going for fast changes, so you have to ease the lever back into neutral and slot it gently into gear. The change is better if it isn't rushed, and when you get the hang of it, it feels very smooth and very satisfying.
Because the car has a Japanese engine that rev's so highly, although it's power delivery is smooth right up until the surge of power at 6,200rpm, it does seem to take a while to get there - and unless you hang on to the gears and rev the engine to its full potential, the car will probably feel sluggish for people used to sportier cars or cars with lots of torque - the torque on this car is one of its main downsides in my opinion, and it can be outclassed easily by most diesel hot-hatches, and can leave you frustrated at times. But just as diesels and most petrol engines are running out of steam and requiring a gear change to get back on the power band, this Toyota engine is just hitting its sweet spot and surging forward, and changing gear very close to the redline will allow you to stay in the high power band which is extremely satisfying, and sounds fantastic (even driving at low speeds the sound the engine and exhaust make are very pleasing). Until you learn to use the power available, the way it was DESIGNED to be driven (using high revs), you will never get the best out of the Celica.
For that reason I can only recommend the Celica 190, the Celica GT, or the Celica T-Sport, because the engine in the 140bhp VVT-i models are lacking the ‘wow’ you want from a sporty car, as well as lacking the higher rev range that makes this particular car so fun to drive.
Go for the 189bhp VVTL-i, and you won't be disappointed, because overall, it's a GREAT car!
-Leyton (A.K.A: Gib)
I DO NOT WORK IN THE MOTOR TRADE INDUSTRY, NOR AM I AFFILIATED WITH ANY CAR MANUFACTURER. THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS IN THIS REVIEW ARE MY SOLELY MY OWN.
Please don't rip-off my review and pass it off as your own!