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Toyota Celica

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Toyota Celica

We bought a 1996 Toyota Celica for my daughter when her old Ford Laser died. Technically it is still mine until she pays for it so I think it's OK to include it here in my list of car reviews.


The Celica is a two door, front wheel drive liftback with a 4 cylinder in-line 2 liter engine. There are a variety of engines and it can be difficult to get the exact specs for Japanese cars but I think this one is the 3S-FE from 1995 to 1998 with the following specs: compression 9.8:1, capacity 1,998 cc, power 130 PS (96 kW; 128 bhp) at 6,000 rpm, and torque 178 Nm (131 lbft) at 4,400 rpm.

Celica Engine

Here's a photo of the 2 liter 3S-FE engine which powers the Celica. It's a fairly decent performing engine without being outrageously powerful.


Probably the strongest thing about the Celica is its styling. It's actually a nice looking little car from every angle: the front headlights and air intake is nice, the curve over the back wheels, and the hatch makes the rear styling nice, and the general streamlined look is good. The interior is as good as most similar cars.

Celica Top


Celicas are popular and even older ones like this have maintained their price fairly well. We got this one at a good price on TradeMe so I was fairly happy with the deal. Toyotas of this vintage were well known for their reliability and there are plenty around with a lot higher mileage on them than ours so we hope it should be good for a few years.


If I didn't usually drive a twin turbo four wheel drive Subaru I would probably be quite happy with the Celica but almost inevitably the experience is a disappointment. The Subaru has over twice the power so it just leaves the Celica in the dust. Obviously the awesome Celica GT4 would be a better comparison.

The Celica is front wheel drive so handling is also quite sloppy and "floaty" compared with the sharp, precise steering in the Subaru. Plus you can take off as fast as you like in the Subaru and you won't get wheel spin - it just goes. The front wheel drive Celica will spin the front wheels quite easily.

That sounds quite negative but I still enjoy driving the Celica. It's light and easy to drive. The gearbox feels positive and can change quickly, the engine has decent power if you keep the revs up, and the handling is OK as long as you remember it suffers from the same problems as most front wheel drive cars (understeer and wheel spin). Overall it's a great little car as long as you are realistic in what you expect.


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