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2002 Toyota Celica REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

Con: Mediocre interior materials, difficult-to-master six-speed shifter, doesn't offer much in terms of features.

Pro: Radical styling, rev-happy GT-S engine, outstanding steering/braking/handling.

Edmunds Say: A distinctive and entertaining sport coupe biased toward performance rather than convenience.

What’s New: There are no changes to the 2002 Toyota Celica.

Review: Introduced in 2000, the latest Toyota Celica is a sharp, if somewhat high-strung, performer. Styled in California by Calty Design Research, the Celica's cab-forward shape features a high-fashion look with racecar design elements. Sharp-edged panels, dramatic plunging curves, a tall tail and a radically lowered front fascia create stark contrasts.

There are two versions on sale: a base-level Celica GT and a more-powerful GT-S. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder dual overhead camshaft engine powers the Celica GT-S. Hitting an impressive mark of 100 horsepower per liter of displacement, the engine generates 180 ponies at 7,600 rpm and 133 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm. The GT-S powerplant, co-developed with Yamaha, utilizes Toyota's new VVT-i engine technology. Similar in concept to Honda's VTEC, the system can adjust both valve timing and lift. The GT model's adequate 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine produces 140 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque at 6,400 rpm.

Celica GT and GT-S are both available with different variations of automatic and manual transmissions. GT comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox. Optional on both trims is a four-speed automatic transmission, equipped with E-shift steering wheel-mounted buttons in the GT-S. These allow for "manual" shifting of the automatic transmission. The manual transmission in the GT-S features six forward gears, but the shifter gates are closely spaced and it's easy to select the wrong gear.

Suspension and braking systems provide outstanding handling and performance. The front suspension utilizes MacPherson struts with offset springs and a solid antiroll bar, while the rear suspension employs a double-wishbone design with a camber-control function and a solid antiroll bar. ABS is optional on both models. The Celica GT rides on 15x6.5-inch steel wheels with 195/60R15 tires, while the high-grade GT-S features 15x6.5-inch alloy wheels on 205/55R15 tires. Both models offer optional aluminum alloy wheels, sized 16 inches for the GT-S.

Celica's interior is stylish, functional and comfortable for two adults and a healthy amount of their gear. A simple, downswept dash layout, big analog gauges, sporty bucket seats, faux-drilled metal pedals and fashionable metallic silver accents add to Celica's cockpit ambience, but material quality is less than impressive. Both GT and GT-S offer a center console big enough to hold eight CD cases, as well as two oversized cups. The rear seatbacks also can be folded forward, providing additional cargo space. Driver and front-passenger airbags are standard, and side airbags are optional. GT-S models can be equipped with leather.

Until recently, Celicas were generally considered slow, overweight and expensive. Detractors claimed they were "secretary's cars." Not anymore. The 2002 Celica, especially in GT-S trim, is one of the most exciting sport coupes sold. While it might be too loud and polarizing for some, we have no problem recommending it to those who want a fairly affordable and entertaining vehicle.

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