Toyota’s sleeker Celica full of sporty intent

With Toyota launching its new GT86 coupe, Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer, looks back at the Celica the car seen as its predecessor.

Engines – Although available 'only' with Toyota's workmanlike 1.8-litre petrol unit, the Celica offered keen drivers spirited performance with its 140 horsepower output. Later in its life a T Sport model appeared complete with 190 horsepower, which did much to enhance the car's appeal.

Exterior – This generation Celica swapped the long bonnet and big rear wing of its predecessor for a shorter, wedge-like profile with the corners rounded off. The car's stubby tail and low roofline helped to imply a feeling of agility. The car's hatchback tailgate did much to boost its practical appeal, too.

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Interior – The Celica's cabin might be snug but that doesn't detract from the high-quality ambience. Lots of dark plastic abounds and the low-slung driving position fits well the car's sporting character.

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Driving – The Celica boasts the familiar and relatively safe front engine, front-wheel drive layout of the vast majority of its rivals past and present. As such, and just like a comparable hot hatchback, the Celica delivers a predictable driving experience with just enough agility to make life interesting. The car's engine could be more tuneful but, in T Sport 190 guise, performance is pleasingly brisk if you're prepared to work it hard.

Ownership – Like all Toyotas this Celica is a sturdy car that will easily cope with tens of thousands of miles a year. Build quality inside and out is good and so is refinement and reliability. Running costs should be manageable and, with its hatchback tailgate, day-to-day practicality is impressive.

What to look for – In general, Toyota models attract mature owners due to long-held reliability and trustworthy perceptions. This is partly true for the Celica, so expect to see well-maintained and cared-for examples with comprehensive service histories. The flipside is that the car also attracted boy-racers seeking a bulletproof toy – big exhausts, non-standard wheels, bodykits and performance modifications aren't uncommon. Only you can decide what's attractive but remember to factor in insurance and reliability issues when considering a modified car.

Model history – 1999, Toyota launches more compact version of its long-running Celica performance car. Power comes from four-cylinder 1.8-litre petrol motor. Good level of equipment offered as standard. 2000 saw addition of 190 horsepower variant and more standard kit

Reasons to buy – Clean looks, compact footprint, 140 horsepower variant easy to drive quickly, a practical car, build quality.

Reasons to beware – Realistically a two-seater, 190hp model needed a lot of effort to drive quickly,

Pick of the range – Celica 1.8 T Sport.

What to pay – 2004 04 �4,150; 2004 54 �4,300; 2005 05 �4,775; 2005 55 �4,925; 2006 06 �5,400. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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