Downside: The Celica GT-S has a deceptively complicated, sensitive six-speed manual gearbox. Interior materials and design need upgrades.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Once you master the gearbox, the car runs beautifully. Outstanding ride, acceleration and handling.
Head-turning quotient: Part tart, part tuner. It seems primarily oriented to the young and the restless. But the Celica GT-S will bring a smile to the face of anyone who is willing to take time to understand the car and learn its wonderfully surprising secrets.
Body style/layout: It's a two-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback available as the base GT and very sporty GT-S.
Capacities: The car has seating for four -- theoretically. The two rear seats are useless for adults over five feet tall. Total luggage capacity is 16.9 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 14.5 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: I averaged 28 miles per gallon in city and highway driving, getting up to 33 mpg on the highway.
Engine/transmission: The Celica GT-S is equipped with a 1.8-liter, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine that develops 180 horsepower at 7,600 revolutions per minute and 130 foot-pounds of torque at 6,800 rpm. The engine is linked to a standard six-speed manual transmission.
Safety: Optional side air bags available.
Price: Base price is $24,110. Dealer's invoice price on base model is $21,699. Price as tested is $26,535, including $1,910 in options and a $515 destination charge. Dealer's price with options is $23,733.
Purse-strings note: This is one heck of a hot runner for the money. It's a buy.
Poet's note: Read the e e cummings poem "she being brand new," perhaps the best poem ever written about, well, ostensibly, driving a manual-transmission car. No capitalization or traditional punctuation marks, please.