A few years after the first Fast and the Furious movie came out, streets were flooded with 'rice cakes' in Dhaka. People were installing obnoxious body kits and wings, unnecessary neons, swapping out the muffler for a louder exhaust. Most missed the point of why people tuned their cars in the first place: for more power and better handling, which in turn made cars more fun to drive.
The movie also inspired many to jump start a real tuner scene in the country. We saw more and more imports of performance vehicles, and demand for these cars were at an all-time high. The EG and EK Civics, and Integras made great tuners for their low-price points – they still do – but the most sought-after vehicles at the time were the Celica and the RX-8.
Between the Celica and the RX-8, the latter is definitely the faster car. But the RX-8 was highly unreliable, and its rotary engine was an absolute nightmare to maintain. This is where the Celica came in. The throttle response of these cars are great! Celicas tend to be more fuel efficient, you can easily find replacement parts, and the cars can be tuned for more power.
Fast-forward to the present, most of the RX-8s have lost their original motors, and can be bought for price as low as eight lakhs. The Celicas on the other hand, particularly the seventh-gen GT and GTS, have actually appreciated in value.
The car that was loaned to us for this review belongs to Raymen Mohammad Siddique, a lifelong enthusiast who studied automobile engineering in university and is the proprietor of RR Imports (he imports performance car parts for a living). Raymen owns a seventh-gen 2005 Celica GTS, powered by a 2ZZ 1.8L VVTL-i engine and a six-speed manual transmission. The variable valve timing hits at 4,000 RPM and the car makes 180 BHP at 6800 RPM. However, the seventh-gen Celica only comes with a FWD powertrain.
Raymen had installed a stage four clutch, bigger brakes, swapped out the exhaust with a complete cat-back system and replaced the stock shocks with coilovers and installed ultra-racing strut bars for better handling. Other performance upgrades include aftermarket pulleys, valves and fuel pumps. The only visual mod he made were the halo aftermarket headlights.
As he explained, "I am less inclined towards power, I enjoy a smooth fun driving experience."
The first thing that catches your attention is how sleek the car looks, even after all of these extensions, this is still a head turner. A random passer-by also asked if he could take a selfie of him next to the GTS.
The Celica is unapologetic in its design. It sits low to the ground, looks aggressive and is only accommodating to the driver and front passenger. It includes two back seats, but has little to no legroom back there. With the addition of the aftermarket exhaust, the car is also quite loud and spits out fire when revving up the engine!
Stepping into the driver's seat, the visibility was great! The seats were comfortable, and the air-conditioning was cold. But what made this experience so special were not the features but the shifter and the throttle. The GTS includes a smooth six-speed manual shifter, and the throttle responds to the slightest touch.
The engine just loves to rev! And in combination with the stiff suspension and faster clutch, it was an incredibly fun car to drive!
The Celica GTS gets about six to seven km per litre in the city, as long as you're not constantly revving up the engine. The mileage, however, drops down to five to six km if you're driving it hard. Raymen had also taken this car to Cox's Bazar recently where he got about eight to nine km per litre on the trip.
Raymen said despite the car's age, it is still quite reliable. The only maintenance he needs to do is just the regular oil changes. He does not drive this Celica daily because of the stage four clutch; the clutch paddle is quite hard and it can get very taxing for the driver in Dhaka's unforgiving traffic congestions, but if not for this particular upgrade, the stock hydraulic clutch in the Celica GTS is quite soft and a lot more forgiving to the driver.
Driving the Celica GTS was an engaging experience. The speed is not going to blow you away, and it is not meant to. But the handling was what stood out for me the most. I launched the car at 4,000 RPM and pushed up to 100km/h. The throttle took a little while to get used to, but the car felt cantered at all times. There was barely any body-roll when making turns, and at no point I felt like I was in danger when speeding thanks to the FWD configuration of the powertrain – FWD cars tend to be a lot easier to drive than RWD cars.
The 2005 Celica GTS is not meant to be someone's first car. The throttle response demands an experienced driver. It is also not meant to be a great commuter, the car does not accept too many passengers, or will let you haul around a tonne of cargo. But for what it is, a fun coupe with decent power and an engaging driving experience, it is one of the very best tuners available in the market right now.
The GTS can easily be used as a practical daily driver because of its fuel economy. Since it's made by Toyota, spare parts are readily available in the market. The main issue, however, is the yearly tax for the vehicle. Because of the 1.8L engine, you have to pay around Tk. 55,000 annually.
The manual variants of the vehicle are somewhat rare in the market. These cars used to be available for around ten to 12 lakhs in 2019. However, the price has gone up since then. It won't cost you as much as the latest Toyota GT86 or Mazda Miata, but these cars sell for around 16 to 20 lakhs depending on the condition. The seventh-gen Celica GT and GTS are only available in the pre-owned car market.
- Engine: 2ZZ VVTL-i
- Displacement: 1,800 cc
- Transmission: Six-speed manual/five speed auto
- Powertrain: Front wheel drive
- Engaging driving experience
- Decent speed and acceleration
- Great handling
- Sleek design
- Economic fuel consumption
- Availability of spare parts
- Not much room for back seat passengers
- High annual tax