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The Last Toyota Celica Is A Killer Used Car Bargain

More than a few people are bummed that when the Scion FR-S got a Toyota badge, it didn’t get the name Celica name to go with it. The Celica nameplate has always meant fun on the cheap, and now a decade into the used market, that’s more true than ever.

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I think the last Celica is a bit of an underrated vehicle. The seventh-generation and final Celica was around from 1999 to 2006, and when I was a younger man really into cars and from a Toyota-prone family, I was a fan of its striking looks.

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In GT-S guise it only put out 180 horsepower and was front-wheel drive, but in the post-Supra era it and the MR2 Spyder were the only interesting car in the Toyota lineup for a good while. Listen: we took what we could get back then, before the WRX and the 350Z and others were things.

The biggest problem with the Celica was that it was kind of expensive when new, or at least on par with those last two cars but nowhere near their equal in performance. But as CarThrottle points out in this video, that’s not a problem today. Like the Acura RSX, or the Civic Si hatchback, it could be considered a worthy contender for any young buyer looking for an affordable, sporty car that they (probably) won’t kill themselves in.

A used Celica today means an adequate amount of power, a solid manual gearbox, respectable handling, looks that hold up and probably bulletproof Toyota reliability. It’s cheap and will get the job done. I’m shocked this thing isn’t more of an autocross fixture today.

A quick Cars.com search reveals you can find a ton of these things for well under $10,000, which I find to be a pretty solid value for everything you’re getting. It may not be the best sport coupe out there, or even the best Celica, but with age and depreciation it’s better than it ever was.

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.

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DISCUSSION

I can attest to it being a practical “first coupe”—I owned one as my first car. I’ve moved three times with it, having thrown small furniture in that hatch. The plastic is so prone to scratching that it’s bound to happen anyway, so once you get over that annoyance, you will be shocked at how much stuff you can fit in that car.

Other things I’ve done/learned on/from it (granted, you can learn these on most cars, but I loved the car so it was my first step into car world):

  • How to drive a manual (and more importantly, drive safe)
  • Fit 5 people in it (including me) to go grocery shopping.
  • Learned what “lift” feels like.
  • Appreciate hatchbacks over sedans.
  • Learn the history of the Celica (which is wonderful, by the way, even if the 7th gen isn’t what some consider “pure blood”...).
  • How to change a wheel/tire.
  • How car payments work and how to save up money to pay for car parts.
  • What understeer feels like.
  • What JDM is and what the holy trinity of the Supra, 300ZX, and the RX-7 were. Plus the Integra, Silvia, Skylines, etc.
  • How to upgrade my sound system.
  • How to clean and maintain (faux) leather.
  • How to wash, clay, and wax a car.
  • How to install a sway bar.
  • What it feels like to be hit over the head by a hatch (the strut broke).
  • How to “feel” a car’s size (the Celica has atrocious blind spots).
  • Become a member of a car enthusiast forum and sharing that passion with strangers.

I can go on and on, but the short of it is: if I didn’t own/drive/love my Celica so much, I probably would have never been into cars and never even picked up a power tool to do anything. So thank you, Celica.