Toyota Should Bring Back the Celica as a Hybrid

Two-door hybrid sports cars need an entry that costs less than six figures.

The Toyota Motor Corp. logo is seen on a "GR" sports car series vehicle at its unveiling in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Toyota is introducing a high-performance series consisting of souped-up staples as it accelerates efforts to jazz up its image. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There are a few new pieces of Toyota news and gossip that have us very excited. In the past week, we’ve heard that Toyota is plans to focus on building hybrid performance cars, the brand has renewed the trademark for the storied “Celica” name, and it’s launching a new performance sub-brand called GR. What if these nuggets could all manifest in one model?

I hope that they do and that Toyota brings back the Celica as a sporty, affordable, hybrid coupe. Enthusiasts like myself might be more interested in a high-revving, old-fashioned, internal combustion engine like the ones from the Celica’s past, but if Toyota can bring a sports car to the masses with hybrid technology that yields both better performance and better fuel economy, why wouldn’t we want that?

Think about the current market of hybrid sports cars. We have technological wonders like the BMW i8 and Honda's own Acura NSX along with much higher-end machines like the hypercar holy trinity of the Porsche 918, the Ferrari LaFerrari, and the McLaren P1. These are all unbelievable cars with two things in common: They deliver incredible performance thanks to a hybrid powertrain, and they all cost more than $100,000.

Toyota has a history of taking a supercar layout and bringing it to the masses. The brand did it in the 1980s with the MR2, an affordable, mid-engine sports car. It could do it again with a new hybrid Celica, a cheap, sporty, hybrid coupe which is currently absent from the market.

Not only does Toyota know a thing or two about good, affordable performance cars, but it’s responsible for bringing hybrid cars to the mainstream with the Prius, everyone’s favorite car to hate. 

Yes, we know Toyota wasn't the first to the market with a commercially-available hybrid, but the Prius was certainly the first hybrid to gain any sort of market dominance in the green car segment and it’s still the most ubiquitous of all hybrids. As much as we may love to make fun of the Toyota Prius, those soulless bread boxes sell well enough for Prius to practically be its own sub-brand.

Speaking of sub-brand, let’s talk GR. Toyota GR will consist of sporty variants of existing models, one of which is the Prius Prime. Joining the Prius Prime in the small sporty hybrid party is the Toyota C-HR Hy-Power concept (not part of GR), which suggests better performance through a hybrid drivetrain.

But is a Prius and a C-HR going to get driving enthusiasts excited about sporty Toyota hybrids? Probably not. That’s why Toyota needs a new hybrid Celica. Heck, it could even be based on the Prius platform. Don’t laugh. Previous Celicas have been based on the pedestrian Corolla and CR-V.

Hybrid technology has come so far that it doesn’t have to be a crutch or a compromise anymore, but rather, a way to make a good performance car even better. The extra efficiency is just a bonus.

We need an affordable, exciting, hybrid sport coupe to let us know it’s okay to both enjoy driving and drive a hybrid without buying a car with a house-sized price tag. If anyone can make that magic happen, it’s Toyota...or maybe Ford.