BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Although Toyota's Celica has carved a niche for itself as a sweet handling, swoopily styled sports coupe, fewer buyers associate the brand with convertibles. The Celica generation produced from 1994 to 1999, known as the ST205 series, produced a Cabriolet model that went almost unnoticed by the British public. That's good news for used buyers, because if they can track one down, they'll be rewarded with a very underrated vehicle at ultra competitive prices.
Models Covered:Sixth generation (ST205)March 1994 to September 1999:2-door Cabriolet 2.0 petrol
With the Celica ST205 series, many ardent Toyota watchers felt the company had lost the plot a little. The cars had become bigger, heavier and had taken their eye off the sporting focus. All of these criticisms certainly ring true if you're the hard charging sort looking for a GT4 to fling around a few corners, but if you're in the market for a Celica Cabriolet the news is all good. After all, most convertible owners aren't interesting in ten-tenths handling, preferring to concentrate instead on refinement, style and space. In all three of these areas the ST205 was a better car than its predecessor, so whilst the Celica range as a whole didn't hit the spot, the Celica Cabriolet suddenly became a car worth having. Trouble was, not many people twigged. Sales of the Celica Cabriolet remained rooted to the floor and even today the car is a relatively rare sight. This wasn't helped by a price tag comfortably the wrong side of £30,000. A minor change was made in 1995 when the car received as high level brake light. Replaced in 1999 by an all-new model, if you can find a decent Celica Cabriolet you'll not be disappointed.
What You Get
The Celica Cabriolet is a delightfully benign boulevardier with a surprising turn of pace when prodded into life. Agreeably practical for a convertible and with generous equipment levels, it also offers peerless reliability and ease of driving. If you want a sporty handler or a car that has interior styling to match today's best you may be disappointed but on most other counts the Celica Cabriolet does the business.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The legendary Toyota build quality means there's mostly nothing in particular to watch out for. The engines and gearboxes are strong and long lived, while even the high-performance versions will provide years of hassle-free motoring if regularly maintained. Alloy wheels should be free of corrosion, while the electrically operated hood should function without a hitch and be free or rips or discolouration. A fair proportion of used Celica Cabriolets on the UK market are 'grey' imports from Japan. As long as they have their SVA documentation in place and you are buying from a reputable source, these cars often offer a cut-price alternative. Remember that rustproofing will not be as comprehensive as UK cars and some minor trim items may be more difficult to get hold of. The flipside is that these cars are usually better specified and will have fewer miles on the clock. You pays your money and takes your choice.
(approx. based on a 1996 2.0 Cabriolet) A clutch kit will set you back about £100, while a complete exhaust system will be about £850, though this includes £450 for the catalyst. A replacement starter motor will be around £135, a radiator about £250 and an alternator close to £190. As for shocks, fronts are about £55 and rears a pricey £150, with brake pads around £50 a set. A major service should be about £160 and minor one just under £90.
On the Road
Roadholding levels are surprisingly high for such a relaxed open top and the chassis is admirably rigid. Whereas in many rivals the rear view mirror will jiggle and shake as the car traverses road imperfections, the Celica Cabriolet's body is well controlled. Refinement is good with the hood in place although normal conversation becomes tricky much above 50mph with it lowered. With 173bhp on tap the Celica has a fair turn of pace and the engine is a sweet 2.0-litre unit that will rev to its red line with no trace of harshness. All in, the Celica Cabriolet feels a class act.
It almost seems cruel to hand over as little as £6,000 for a well looked after Celica Cabriolet for which the original owner spent over £30,000 but sometimes these things have to be done What you'll end up with is an unspectacular but very competent convertible that won't cost a fortune to run and which can still turn heads.