Toyota Celica Few cars can claim to have made it through 35 consecutive years on the scene, but the Toyota Celica was such a survivor. Between its birth under Nixon and its death under Dubya, the Celica underwent several changes to powertrains, competitors and buyer demographics but never wavered from its mission as Toyota's entry-level sport coupe.
Arriving fresh on America's shores in groovy 1971, the earliest Celica was mostly memorable for having rear-wheel drive -- a tradition that lasted three generations. A major design shift came when the fourth-generation Celica adapted front-wheel-drive, Camry-based engineering in the mid-'80s. Toyota diversified the Celica even further in the '90s by releasing it in coupe, convertible and hatchback body styles.
Driving enthusiasts complained that these Celicas weren't very sporty, however, so Toyota tried a different approach for the new millennium by introducing a far racier machine. This most recent Toyota Celica restored some bang-for-the-buck to the Celica line, but the appeal of this high-strung, stiffly tuned sport coupe was limited. Ultimately, the company decided to take a different tack in this segment by replacing the Celica with the less athletic Scion tC, whose more relaxed nature, roomier cabin and high feature content are more in line with mainstream automotive tastes.
Someone interested in a used sport coupe or convertible will almost certainly want to take a look at the Toyota Celica. But know that the car's virtues vary with the time period. The most recent models were entertaining, offered good gas mileage and had decent space for cargo (if not people). Excellent reliability was another draw. On the downside, styling was always a bit experimental, and many versions weren't nearly as fast as they looked. In addition, high pricing, even on the used car market, makes the Celica a questionable value proposition alongside less expensive, oftentimes quicker, competitors.
Most Recent Toyota Celica
The Toyota Celica's last lifetime was easily its best. Sold for the 2000-'05 model years, this hatchback sport coupe, when compared to older Celicas, offered fresh engines, a lighter chassis, a new double-wishbone rear suspension for improved handling and a thousands-lower price. The new Celica debuted to tripled sales figures and much acclaim from speed-crazed car critics.
The standard Celica was the GT, whose 140-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine moved this sub-2,500-pounder easily. A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed automatic was optional. Still, most of the praise fell upon the GT-S. Its 1.8-liter engine, equipped with variable valve timing and lift (VVTL-i) technology, gave a 180-hp kick in the pants, albeit at a lofty 6,400 rpm. Other GT-S upgrades included disc brakes all around and a six-speed manual transmission, plus the power windows and locks, cruise control, alloy wheels and better stereo that were optional on the Celica GT.
Any Toyota Celica from this time period was fun to toss around thanks to highly responsive steering, a well-sorted suspension and strong brakes. Ride quality was tolerable given the car's impressive handling capabilities, but compared to rivals like the Acura RSX, Mitsubishi Eclipse and VW GTI, it was less compliant over bumps and expansion joints. In addition, as rewarding as the Celica GT-S could be when running at high rpm, it took a patient and motivated driver to get the most out of it. Its minimal low-end torque (126 pound-feet at 4,200 rpm) could be a hassle in traffic, while the six-speed manual's notchy shift action and closely spaced gates made it easy to grab the wrong gear.
There were other flaws in the Celica's interior, which was victim to an inhospitable backseat, poor rearward visibility and cheap-looking plastics on the dash. Ergonomics were mostly sound, at least, and the front bucket seats were well-shaped despite their limited adjustability.
Toyota changed the Celica little over the years. An all-cosmetic "Action Package" joined the options list in 2002, and 2003 brought some styling changes inside and out, plus a newly optional JBL stereo and HID xenon headlights.
In any year, the GT-S is the Celica of choice for buyers seeking a true sport coupe experience. However, buyers merely seeking an affordable, sporty-looking coupe will find the standard Celica GT a decent performer.
Past Toyota Celica Models
The sixth-generation Toyota Celica of 1994-'99 was a decidedly tamer animal. Compared to its successor, it was bigger, heavier and less nimble, and got its propulsion from two lazier engines borrowed from the Corolla and Camry. This Celica kicked off its first year with coupe and hatchback body styles available in ST and GT trim; a GT convertible with a power-operated top joined the party by year two. A five-speed manual and four-speed automatic were the transmission choices for all Celicas.
Toyota made a few changes over the years, starting with the addition of some styling touches and sound insulation in 1996. In 1997 the GT coupe variant went AWOL, though it returned to life in 1998, when all ST models vanished. In 1999 Toyota killed off all coupes, leaving only the GT hatchback and GT convertible for the sixth-gen Celica's last year.
Generally, we recommend that used car buyers skip the Celica ST, whose 110-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine makes for one dull daily driver. Attaining respectable acceleration entails a step up to the Celica GT and its 135-hp 2.2-liter four, which also had lots of torque for around-town punch, four-wheel disc brakes and more standard amenities such as power accessories and a tilt steering wheel. Among the GT models, consumers should feel free to choose whichever body style suits their tastes, though hatchbacks had exclusive access to an optional sport-tuned suspension that provided better handling.
In reviews at the time, we commented favorably about the car's functional and comfortable interior and typically high Toyota build quality. Still, no Celica of this generation was long on sport. In addition to just-adequate power, the engine felt rough, the shifter had long throws and the steering offered little road feel. Despite its tepid performance, resale value has typically been high for this generation of the Celica, making it pricey even as a used car candidate. Unless you want a convertible, the equally reliable Acura Integra offers better value.
It's a similar story for the fifth-generation Celica of 1990-'93. Largely similar to its successor, this generation used many of the same parts and came as an ST coupe, GT coupe, GT hatchback and all-wheel-drive All-Trac Turbo hatchback. A GT convertible was added for the second year. For this Celica, a five-speed manual was standard and a four-speed automatic was optional on all models except the All-Trac. Like later Celicas, standard equipment was sparse; this was the last Celica to have only a single airbag. Changes were concentrated in 1992, when all Celicas got a restyling and more standard equipment and many models got bigger wheels and/or better brakes.
The ST coupe was powered by a 1.6-liter engine with meager 103 hp. More emblematic of the Celica's sporting intentions were the GT and GT-S, as each had a 2.2-liter engine with 130-135 ponies. This Celica had obesity issues, with the GT-S model weighing nearly 3,000 pounds. As a result, the Celica failed to break 9 seconds in the 0-60-mph run, making it slower than nearly every sport coupe of its day, and slower than Celicas of the '80s as well. Yes, it still had high comfort, a stylish interior, strong reliability and all that other good Toyota stuff, but low power, hefty weight and a high price were three strikes that took it out of serious contention as a sport coupe/hatchback.
However, those looking for something unique might want to hunt for the rare Celica All-Trac Turbo. As the name implies, this Toyota Celica used a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine to send 200 hp to all four wheels, doing zero to 60 in about 7 seconds and putting up a good fight against the Mitsubishi Eclipse of the day. While it never would have outrun the final-generation Celica GT-S, the All-Trac proved entertaining by virtue of its turbo-induced rush and all-wheel-drive traction.

Toyota Cressida
Toyota ECHO The oddly proportioned and slightly cartoonish Toyota Echo economy car debuted just before the start of the new millennium. A successor to the Tercel and precursor to the Scion brand, the Echo was meant to bring younger U.S. buyers into the Toyota family via its low price and Toyota heritage.
However, this was one Toyota that uncharacteristically failed to garner much success. Although the Toyota Echo offered an impressively roomy cabin thanks to its narrow and tall greenhouse and an economical 1.5-liter four-cylinder that propelled it with decent pep, the car's faults made it one of our editors' least favorite subcompacts. An unusual centralized gauge cluster was deemed poor in design, and once underway, the Echo's small tires and upright stance contributed to a "tippy" feel at highway speeds and excessive body roll when navigating tight corners.
No doubt the Echo, being a Toyota, enjoys a reputation for higher than average reliability. And though we complained of poor value for the dollar -- mostly due to the Echo's low price resulting from Toyota charging extra for common conveniences -- the Echo's slow depreciation has offset that somewhat. Still, anyone on a budget and shopping for a used economy car has better choices that offer greater overall performance and value.
Most Recent Toyota Echo
The Toyota Echo was launched in 2000 and ran through 2005. Sedan and coupe body styles were offered. All Echos were powered by a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine capable of 108 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to a light curb weight, this was enough power to give the Echo decent acceleration. Fuel economy was also impressive, with real-world mileage typically in the mid-30s, quite possibly the best of any non-hybrid, gas-powered car from this time period.
At the time, Toyota kept the car's base price low by making most of its features optional. Standard equipment was very basic, including AM/FM four-speaker audio, a tilt steering wheel and 14-inch wheels. Optional was an all-weather package (including a heavy-duty battery and rear window defogger), antilock brakes, air-conditioning, side airbags, a CD player and keyless entry. Even power steering was an option, as were power windows and mirrors, a tachometer and a split-folding rear seat. In 2001, side airbags became available. The following year, Toyota began offering optional 15-inch wheels. The Echo also got a restyling in 2003. In the car's final years, Toyota made the Echo available by special order only, which caused sales to drop drastically.
Design-wise, the Toyota Echo's most impressive features were its spacious cabin and trunk. The tall greenhouse and narrow roof pillars offered unobstructed visibility and lots of headroom. Front seating was comfortable as long as the pronounced, upright feel didn't bother you, and rear seat legroom was just fine for two full-size adults. Interior materials on the Echo were about average for this class, though the cheap plastic pillar covers, hard steering wheel and foam headliner were subpar. Also, its center-mounted instruments took some getting used to.
Those seriously considering the purchase of a used Toyota Echo should seek out a well-equipped model. They shouldn't cost much more and should make the car much easier to live with.

Toyota MR2 The Toyota MR2 arrived in the mid-1980s with the intention of offering exotic car looks and driving excitement for a fraction of exotic car prices. While the driving excitement bit might have been a wee bit of a stretch, the midengine, rear-wheel-drive MR2 showed that Toyota could build entertaining sports cars as well as sensible-shoes sedans.
The first-generation Toyota MR2 was sold in the United States from 1985-'89 and featured a wedge-like body, low curb weight and handling massaged by Lotus. With a 112-horsepower, 1.6-liter inline-4 engine, the little MR2 could go from zero to 60 mph in a little more than 8 seconds. A supercharger was later added to increase power by 33 horses, which lowered 0-60 times by a second.
The basic premise of the MR2 continued into the second generation. Larger, heavier and vastly more powerful, the new MR2 boasted curvier '90s-era styling that did a fair impression of Ferrari's 348 and F355. A turbocharged engine was the big news, making 200 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. This put 0-60 times in the mid-6-second range – very quick for a car in its price range at the time.
Despite a loyal following, the two-seat coupe failed to set the market on fire and the MR2 eventually disappeared from the U.S. market in 1995. Its spiritual successor, the MR2 Spyder, was also a midengine, rear-wheel-drive two-seater, but was offered only as a convertible. It, too, disappeared after a five-year run.
Most Recent Toyota MR2
The second-generation Toyota MR2 was produced from 1991-'95 and was available in standard and Turbo trim levels. There were minor changes made throughout its lifespan, including subtle styling updates and the latest safety equipment. The base model came equipped with a 2.2-liter inline-4 engine making 130 hp. The MR2 Turbo's 2.0-liter inline-4 made 200 hp. The base car could be had with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. The Turbo came with the manual only.
Standard features included a driver-side airbag, 14-inch wheels, a tilt steering wheel and an AM/FM audio system. Alloy wheels and power windows and locks were options on the base model, but standard on the Turbo. Options on both trim levels included antilock brakes, a T-bar roof, air-conditioning, cruise control and leather upholstery. Those features became standard on the Turbo in 1993, with the exception of leather and ABS. The latter became standard on both trims the next year, along with a passenger airbag.
The MR2's midengine placement created a finely balanced chassis. Cornering was flat and handling in general impressive, although getting too friendly with the accelerator could easily snap the tail sideways – especially on the Turbo. Suspension and wheel-and-tire modifications in 1993 made the car easier to drive fast.
Although the 200-hp turbo made the MR2 very quick, the base motor was hardly a lump, providing Toyota-quality smoothness and decent acceleration. Downsides to this car were its choppy ride, excessive noise created by the engine located just aft of your kidneys and limited cargo room – all traditional MR2 trademarks. There was a small 5.5-cubic-foot trunk behind the engine and a tiny hold under the "hood."
Given that even the newest year of the second-generation Toyota MR2 is more than a decade old, the odds of finding a pristine example are low. MR2 Turbos are obviously more desirable but have also been a prime choice for performance enthusiasts. Most examples you'll find have been used and abused. As with any performance car of this vintage, a comprehensive background check and test-drive is essential before making a purchase.
Past Toyota MR2 models
The first Toyota MR2 was produced from 1985-'89 in base and, later on, supercharged models. Base MR2s had a 112-hp, 1.6-liter engine. The Supercharged model with its 145 hp arrived in the 1988 model year. A rare sight today, the original MR2 was highly praised by the motoring press for its nimble handling and precise shifter.

Toyota MR2 Spyder Let's break out the old automotive etymology textbook for a fun and fascinating exposé on the Toyota MR2 Spyder. The 1,345-word biography of Kiichiro Toyoda and his company's origins in making electric looms has been removed for reasons of brevity. The middle bit regarding the car's name is more conveniently straight to the point, referring to the fact that it's a Midengine, Rear-drive, 2-seat sports car.
The Spyder part of the name has nothing to do with arachnids, and is instead a common alternate word for a convertible sports car. Ferrari and Fiat have used the more conventionally spelled Spider name in the past and Toyota clearly wanted to tap into this high pedigree of sporting vehicles for its new-for-2000 roadster. As the old saying goes, the name says it all.
Except in French etymology, which reveals that "MR2" pronounced phonetically en francais sounds like the word for…excrement. Therefore, Toyota called this car simply "MR" in France. In the English-speaking world, it was nicknamed "Mister Two." Ah, isn't etymology fun?
Past MR2s were offered with T-top roofs, but the Spyder served as Toyota's first real attempt to take on the Mazda Miata's monopoly in the low-priced roadster segment. Featuring a 1.8-liter four-cylinder mounted directly behind the driver, and a low curb weight, the MR2 succeeded as a fun-to-drive drop top.
But in the all-important cute category, it missed the grade. It had the profile of a squared-off Boxster, the face of a frog and a tail that resembled a Pokemon (especially when painted yellow). Also, the interior looked extremely dated before it was even introduced and its trunk made the Miata's look like a B-52's bomb bay. Although it was initially a hot commodity, the Toyota MR2 Spyder was a low-volume niche vehicle like its predecessors until the ax fell on it in 2005.
Most Recent Toyota MR2 Spyder
The Toyota MR2 Spyder was introduced for 2000 in only one well-equipped trim level. Antilock brakes, 15-inch wheels, air-conditioning, a glass rear window, power windows and locks, and a CD stereo were standard equipment. The mid-mounted 1.8-liter inline-4 was rated at 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission available was a five-speed manual.
In 2002, Toyota introduced the five-speed Sequential Manual Transmission or SMT for the MR2, making it the cheapest car at the time (by a long shot) to offer a true automated clutch manual. We found this option easy to use and liked the way it matched revs on downshifts, even though it sapped some acceleration from the engine. Without a fully automatic mode, however, the SMT's value was questionable. Given this, along with potential durability concerns, we suggest that used MR2 Spyder buyers stick with the regular five-speed manual.
For 2003, the MR2 Spyder underwent its midlife freshening with minor changes to the front and rear fascias and instrument panel. The SMT was upgraded to six speeds, while the rear tires grew to 16 inches.
In reviews, we found the Toyota MR2 Spyder very enjoyable to drive. In a roadster comparison test in 2000, it finished higher than the Miata by being more fun and tossable at the track. Its midengine layout meant it could lose its composure at the limit, but generally it went through turns quite nicely. The steering was quick and responsive, although the electrically assisted rack didn't provide as much road feel as other cars in this class.
We also never got used to the styling or interior design, and found its storage capacity laughable. The front-mounted "trunk" was taken up by the spare tire and the storage compartment behind the seats was very small and difficult to access.
Past Toyota MR2 Spyder models
The Toyota MR2 Spyder technically lasted for just one generation: from 2000-'05. From 1985-'95, there were two generations of the MR2: a midengine, two-seat coupe. A T-top was available, but there was no full convertible.

Toyota Paseo
Toyota Pickup
Toyota Previa
Toyota Supra Though not currently in production, the Toyota Supra remains one of Toyota's most popular models with performance enthusiasts. Available through much of the 1980s and '90s, the Supra was the company's flagship sport coupe. Designed to be more of a grand-touring coupe than a hard-edged sports car, the Supra rewarded owners with its easy-to-drive nature and powerful engines. It also pioneered new technologies -- it was the first Toyota to get electronic fuel injection and the first Toyota in America to have both a turbocharged engine and antilock brakes.
Few people probably remember that the Toyota Supra actually started life as an enhanced-performance spin-off of the Celica. Known as the Celica Supra, this model was based on the old rear-wheel-drive Celica hatchback of the late '70s. Compared to its less-expensive sibling, the Supra featured an inline six-cylinder engine and more features. It first became its own distinct model in 1986 when the third-generation Supra debuted.
This third-gen Supra is when the nameplate really started to hit its stride, especially after the introduction of the Supra Turbo in 1987. But this was just a prelude to what would become Toyota's most convincing sports car to date: the fourth and final-generation Supra, which was one of the most exciting and affordable high-performance sports cars of the '90s.
Not only was the Supra Turbo a clever alternative to European exotics, it also became an aspirational car for a new breed of import enthusiasts who found the turbocharged inline-6 extremely easy to tweak for massive increases in horsepower. Toyota discontinued the Supra for the U.S. market after the 1998 model year due to declining demand, but the car still remains an intriguing choice as a used sports car. For many years, rumors of a fifth-generation Toyota Supra have swirled about. So far, however, Toyota has not announced any official plans for a replacement.
The fourth-generation Toyota Supra was part of the Japanese muscle car revolution of the '90s. Sold from 1993-'98, it was a major step up from the previous-generation Supra in both appearance and performance. It was still a rear-wheel-drive two-door hatchback. And it still had a long sloping nose, but Toyota added some serious sex appeal by giving the body more curvaceous lines.
The base trim level came with a 3.0-liter 24-valve inline-6 engine, hammering out 220 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. It was offered with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. More impressive was the Supra Turbo. Powered by a sequential twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter 24-valve inline-6, the Turbo produced 320 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. Zero-to-60 times were in the low 5-second range. For the first time, the Supra looked and drove like an exotic performance car. And it came loaded with a number of standard features that were impressive for the day, including traction control, a limited-slip differential, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and a six-speed manual transmission.
The fourth-generation Toyota Supra remained relatively unchanged throughout its lifespan. In 1994, the base model got a revised final-drive ratio for better off-the-line acceleration. The Turbo lost its six-speed manual for one year in 1996 due to emissions regulations (only the four-speed automatics were available), but regained it in 1997. That year also marked the Supra's 15th anniversary, and both trim levels received standard equipment upgrades, such as a rear spoiler and premium sound system. The Turbo also got polished alloy wheels and a removable sport roof.
In 1979, Toyota released the original Celica Supra, which was based on the Celica liftback. The Supra was longer and wider than the Celica, but the primary difference was the Supra's 2.6-liter inline-6 engine, which was the first Toyota engine with electronic fuel injection. In 1981, Toyota replaced the engine with a 2.8-liter single-overhead-cam inline-6. That year, Toyota also revised the final-drive ratio in the four-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual was standard) and offered an optional sport suspension.
The second-generation Celica Supra, released in 1982, featured a 2.8-liter dual-overhead-cam inline-6 that made 145 hp. For the first time, Toyota offered two trims: L-type and Performance. Mechanically, they were identical. The difference was in the bodywork. The Performance trim got fender flares, wider wheels and tires, and a sport interior. In 1984, Toyota made a few slight modifications to the engine, bumping power up to 160 hp, but the Celica Supra remained relatively unchanged until the next generation.
When Toyota changed the Celica to a front-wheel-drive car in 1986, it identified the Supra as its own model for the first time. Officially designated as a 1986.5 model, the third-generation Toyota Supra was equipped with a 200-hp 3.0-liter inline-6 engine. But at 3500 pounds, it was roughly 500 pounds heavier than the previous Celica Supra. Overall performance was not particularly thrilling. But less than a year later, Toyota added a 230-hp turbocharged model to the lineup, which was capable of running from zero to 60 mph in the mid-7-second range.

Toyota T100
Toyota Tercel

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