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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Toyota Celica Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Toyota Celica Overview

A Bold New Face for a Racy Favorite

The Celica has a long history in this country. It has been a favorite among those who enjoy small, efficient yet highly maneuverable sporty cars. From its beginning, the Celica has always been big on value, with an outstanding record of reliability and endurance that has quickly become the envy of the industry. For 2003, the Celica GT and its high-performance stable mate, the GT-S&, gets a new front end with a larger air intake and optional HID (High-Intensity Discharge) headlights.

As far as sporty coupes go, the Celica is almost text book in its design. The cockpit has room for two up front and a rear seat capable of holding two small children or one very cramped adult. The rear quarters are better served when the back seat is folded flat and the huge rear hatch is utilized to load in whatever you need for your weekend get away. The Celica's cab-forward design results in a huge, steeply raked windshield that seems to travel out to the far edge of the hood; this of course is an illusion brought about by the car's sloping front end. New for 2003 is an optional Active Package that adds a custom front and rear bumper, side rocker panels and a large, adjustable rear wing.

An efficient 1.8-liter engine powers the Celica GT and not only pumps out 140 horsepower, it also qualifies as a ULEV (Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle) and earns an EPA highway fuel rating of 33 miles per gallon. The GT comes standard with a slick-shifting 5-speed manual transmission but you can opt for a four-speed automatic if shifting is not your thing. The Celica's automatic features Toyota's patented Uphill Logic shift control that prevents the transmission from making early upshifts and hunting between gears while driving over hills. Though the automatic performs like a champ, the 5-speed manual does a much better job of getting the most from the Celica's engine, which needs to rev high to make the most of the engine's power.

The more aggressive GT-S model receives the highly-advanced VVTL-1 engine that has the same 1.8-liter displacement but squeezes out a phenomenal 180 horsepower. The GT-S is a blast to drive, though like its little brother, its power does not come on until high in the rev band. When pushed hard to perform, you may find the noise level coming from under the hood to be a bit on the loud side, but hey, that's what really good audio systems are for. The standard GT-S transmission is a close-ratio, 6-speed manual that has a marvelously short throw (the distance the shifter has to travel to move from one gear to the next) and feels just right as it rests in the palm of your hand. The GT-S offers a nice option for those who need an automatic, but still want the thrill of selecting their own gears; an optional automatic featuring a manual shift mode that can be operated via a set of up/down switches located on the steering wheel. This design mimics the shift paddles found on Formula 1 cars and makes it easy to shift gears without having to remove your hands from the wheel.

The Celica's true nature comes out once you get it onto a lonely strip of twisting asphalt. You'll find the power-steering is precise, with almost instantaneous turn-in and very little in the way of over-assist. The Celica GT's excellent brakes and well-balanced chassis inspire even the most timid drivers to give in to their wild side. For those already in touch with their wild side, the GT-S will probably be more to your liking. With its optional 16-inch wheels and aggressive disc brakes, the GT-S model is the hooligan of the Celica family. You can run the engine up to 6000 rpm, get off a kick shift and then push the needle right back up to the redline; no matter how hard you push it, the GT-S never seems to run out of steam. Toss the Celica into a turn, perform a quick upshift and hit the gas and the Celica will rocket you out of the curve, ready to take on the next bend in the road.

The Celica gets a revised cockpit, with a new center stack design and a brighter, more legible LCD information screen. The rest of the interior remains unchanged, which is fine by us because the Celica's tight cockpit, snug front bucket seats and cockpit-style instrument cluster are just about perfect. On the GT-S, little touches like the drilled aluminum pedals and leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob solidify the feeling of driving a high-performance race machine. The front buckets provide excellent side bolstering to keep you in place during spirited drives, especially on the GT-S. Tall drivers may find that headroom is not the Celica's strong suit, though the height-adjustable driver's seat can help compensate somewhat. You will find that you do sit very low in the Celica, with your legs outstretched in front of you, but other than making entry and exit a bit more laborious, the seating position shouldn't be a problem. Curiously, neither the GT or GT-S models offer any form of manual lumbar support, a feature found in almost all of the Celica's competition.

Standard equipment on the GT model includes 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, 3-in-1 audio, auto headlamps, tilt wheel, tachometer, power mirrors and front and rear stabilizer bars. The GT-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, power windows, power door locks and cruise control.

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