Toyota Celica 2.0 GT

Toyota’s top-selling coupe has taken another step forward with the introduction of the fourth generation Celica. Notable about the all-new car is that it has gone front-wheel-drive, and it won’t be long before a 4WD variant appears. The 16-valve fuel-injected twin-cam engine is not, as had been rumoured, a bored-out version of the lovely MR2 unit; instead, it uses the block of the Camry, though the alloy head is very similar to that of the little mid-engined car. Output is a healthy 147 bhp coupled with 133 lb ft at a rather high 4,800 rpm, but the unit is not as sweet as the MR2, sounding rather thrashy at the high revs which are necessary to get the best out of it. Toyota claim 8.5 sec for the 0-60 mph sprint, going on to 131 mph.

Four Macpherson struts tie down the body, giving a good ride with their nitrogen-filled dampers, and the standard speed-sensitive power steering is a decent compromise between feedback and insulation from shocks. Traction is excellent, to the point where it really is difficult to distinguish any front drive effects, and the Celica will corner very quickly indeed without fuss. But most overtly significant, both for Toyota and the Japanese car industry in general, is the body styling. I think this is one of the most attractive cars to appear out of the new crop of soft shapes, and it is very low drag too. It is a hatch with split rear seats of a reasonable size, although front headroom is inadequate under the standard equipment sunroof — I ended up with grease from the mechanism stuck to my hair. Very unpleasant.

Only one version comes to the UK (other engines and a notchback are available elsewhere) and I shall not list the standard equipment — if you can think of it, its included in the price £12,000. However, I do feel, perhaps cynically, that there is one missing option — that of saving money through a more basic specification. The UK market has shown itself prepared to bear the higher prices of more luxurious specification, and many importers, showing admirable business sense, do not offer base models. It is difficult to complain, since the customer knows he is getting more equipment for his extra cash, and those manufacturers up against import quotas do not want to be hamstrung with complex model ranges. But surely there must be a proportion of buyers who, given a fixed budget, would prefer to devote a bigger proportion to engineering and performance?

However, if your budget does run to £12,000, the Toyota is good value: it boasts a sophisticated power unit, pretty lines, and I much enjoyed driving it — G.C.