BRUSSELS - A shorter and visually more exciting Celica will replace the stodgy, current-generation car this autumn after its debut in September at the Frankfurt auto show.
Toyota has high hopes for the radically redesigned Celica. The car lost its appeal in the late 1980s and enthusiasts complained about its handling, lack of power and unremarkable styling. 'The old car was ugly and slow,' said a product spokesman at Toyota's European headquarters here.
Toyota Motor Europe is repositioning the new Celica as a more exclusive sports car than its predecessor. But it will continue to compete with coupes from European volume makers, including the Fiat Coupe and Peugeot 406 coupe.
To enhance the Celica's appeal, Toyota has concentrated on styling, handling and performance. Rid of its middle-aged body, the new Celica has shorter front and rear overhangs but a longer wheelbase than its predecessor. It was redesigned by Toyota's design studio in California and echoes the new corporate sports car look of low and lean bodies on a longer track.
Unlike other new Toyota models that have been given European flare and design cues, the Celica sold here will be identical to the US model.
To improve performance, the sports coupe will also get a new multivalve 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, engine with variable valve timing. The 140hp powerplant is mated to a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. The new Celica is also lighter than its predecessor and has a better power-to-weight ratio.
Europe won't get the more powerful 180hp engine and automatic transmission destined only for the USA.
Toyota has also substantially reduced the Celica's noise and vibration to create a quieter riding car, the spokesman said. It has added features such as dual front and side airbags, antilock brakes with electronic braking force distribution and a new double wishbone rear suspension.
In the UK, the Celica's biggest European market, features such as air conditioning, electric windows, leather trim and an electric sunroof will be standard.
Although the new Celica is more refined and luxurious, Toyota won't substantially increase prices. Before national taxes, the current 1.8-liter Celica sells for euro 17,300 ($18,500).
Toyota would not give a European sales forecast for the new car. It sold 2,773 Celicas in the first six months of 1999.