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SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

New Car/Review

1997 TOYOTA CELICA GT

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,178
     Price As Tested                                    $ 23,865
     Engine Type                             2.2 Liter I4 w/EFI*
     Engine Size                                 132 cid/2164 cc
     Horsepower                                   135 @ 5400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               145 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.9"/68.9"/174.2"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2595 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      205/55R15
     Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/disc          
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/28/25          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.7 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16.2 seconds @ 84 mph
     Top-speed                                           120 mph
     * Electronic-fuel injection

(The Toyota Celica has been a mainstay at Toyota for over 25 years. Bob Hagin remembers that at the time, it was the mid-sized car in the company's lineup. His son Matt remembers his brother's '74 model.)

MATT - The Toyota Celica has an amazing reputation for reliability, Dad. They're like a Timex watch: they take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. It was sure true in the case of the '74 version that Terry had for a couple of years. He got if for a song because it was so rusted out that rain water would come in through holes in the roof, floor and the windshield surround. He had to wrap his tools in plastic when he carried them in the trunk but the rest of the car was bullet-proof. When he sold it to another electrician, it would still go 85 miles per hour. It's interesting to me those first Celicas carried a 108-horse 1.8 liter engine, and so does the base model '97 version.

BOB - Actually it's only 105, but the 2.2 liter four-banger in the new GT version is the obvious choice if the buyer is going for performance rather than all-out mileage. They're both 16 valve, twin- cammers but the bigger unit has an extra 30 horsepower. In addition, the GT comes with disc brakes in the rear as will as in the front. To make sure that the engine lasts forever, Toyota even put an oil cooler in the GT along with a bigger battery, starter and clutch. Our test car came with a five-speed transmission and went OK, but l'd like to see Toyota add a V6 or bring back the turbo the Celica carried a few years ago.

MATT - But you have to remember the market population that Toyota has targeted with the Celica. It's for the average commuter who has a wagon or van for the family but wants a sporty commuter to drive to work. The fuel mileage is pretty good and even though the styling is a couple of years old, it still stands out in traffic - especially with those "evil-eye" headlamps. Celica drivers want people to know that he or she is a lot more groovy than the neighbor who drives a four-door sedan to work. It has lots of creature comforts and will see the buyer through many years of climbing the corporate ladder.

BOB - Well, it's surely not a weekend racer but your right about it being a pleasant driver, the handling is good also. The cloth seats have the usual high degree of Toyota comfort and I'm glad that our car didn't include the optional leather seats. Your brother Tom would appreciate the 60/40 fold-down rear seat backs which provide enough room for skis and ski gear as well as a couple of sets of golf clubs. The options list is pretty long and though the alloy wheels are expensive at $435, I think they're worth the money. The spoiler, however, is overpriced at $415 and so is the moon roof at $760. I could live without the cruise control for $290 unless I planned to do lots of highway driving but the air conditioning is a must, even at $1000.

MATT -I was surprised that our test car came with all that stuff, but without anti-skid brakes. I'm beginning to feel that ABS ought to be required on all new cars. On the standard equipment list, I like the fact that the headlights on the Celica turn themselves off automatically when you open the driver's door. Mom's car has that feature and its comforting to know that she won't have to call me at night to come jump-start a flat battery. And I know that you claim to have a tin ear, Dad, but even you can appreciate the premium six-speaker stereo system that our car came with. The Celica hardtops are made in Japan but Toyota also offers a convertible that is shipped to California in stripped-down form for finishing.

BOB - The GT we had carried an optional Power Package which included power-operated windows, side mirrors and door locks as well as a handling kit. I'm glad our car was equipped with that option, if just for the mirrors. I can handle rolling up windows by hand, but having to reach out in the rain to adjust the door mirrors is a pain.

MATT - Celica is an old name and it's now in into its fifth generation. I wonder if it will be around for another quarter century?

BOB - And if it is, I wonder if the one we had last week will be rusted out but running like that '74 model your brother had?

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