Similarly, a good percentage of town work really requires third to be sure that there is some urge on hand. Compared with the unblown car, torque has risen by a larger percentage than power, coming in now at 184 lb ft at 3600 rpm, but the benefit is broadly lost because of the aforementioned gearing and lag. Switching gears requires little effort, but is not especially fast and has a notchy feel.
Velour fabric gives a plush feel to the high-sided seats, which tilt back to provide at least some of the thigh support I want, but they could do with being longer. Those useful Japanese devices, an internal boot and fuel filler release, are included, in the floor by the driver’s right hand. Under the large hatch is a wide but shallow cargo area which would be flat if a fall-sized spare had not been substituted in deference to UK custom, sticking up from where a space-saver was intended to lie. The spare fuel can, fitted into a neat bracket screwed to the boot floor, also makes things awkward.
Good big door mirrors give an excellent rear view, with adjustment buttons on the centre console, and the steering column is adjustable too, though with exactly the some fault as car after car which we test: lowered to a comfortable height, important sections of the dials are obscured, as are the foglamp switch and the full-beam warning light. Apologies to anyone on the M4 who was dazzled by a red Toyota.
Another regular moan is the provision of a piddling digital clock which is well out of eyeshot and like all such units invisible on a bright day, and the radio is yet again right down by the gear lever where it is hard to read the dial. Would any manufacturer like to explain to me why this has become the normal position?
Indicator controls follow the Oriental standard in being on the right with twist-grip action for the lights; front and rear wipers are opposite. 2 + 2 is an all-embracing title; in this case the rear bucket seats look rather plush and will take an adult — but only to the end of the road. They do fold down, though, to make way for those bulky items which expand to fit the space available. (By the same token, now that I run a bootless two-seater, I no longer seem to need to carry anything large.)
Compared with Toyota’s smallest sportscar, the delightful MR2, the engine of the Celica CT lost some of the four-valve sweetness when it jumped in size from 1600cc to 2-litre. But with the calming effect of the turbocharger it again boasts a pleasant smoothness all the way to maximum, so easy that the speed limit can melt away without realising; a determined eye needs to be kept on the dial. Luckily the car is not an obvious grabber of eyes, with only delicate changes to the front spoiler and sills, new alloy wheels and tiny badges to mark it out from the 2WD version.
If you are considering buying, you may feel that this is a disappointing return in terms of street presence for the extra £4000, but a mood of restraint appears to be washing over the performance car market, highlighted by the self-appointed moralists who have successfully had scores of advertisements removed from our gaze on the grounds that fast cars are wicked.
Now their attention is turning to the motoring press: a recent BBC Radio 4 programme castigated some magazines for implicitly connecting sex and speed, and a leading article in RoSPA’s paper condemned the specialist press for concentrating on performance. The silly thing is that accident statistics have gone steadily down since the Thirties, despite a huge growth in traffic; a modern car, and especially one like the Celica GT-Four with 4WD and ABS, is a far safer machine than we have ever had before, regardless of performance. GC