The Toyota Celica is on its way out — but then it’s coming back in a brand new guise. But don’t hold your breath, because it’s not likely to appear until 2008.

According to a report in this week’s Autocar, the Japanese car giant, which recently overtook GM as the world’s biggest carmaker, is developing a mid-engined, 4WD hybrid car with four seats to replace both the MR2 and Celica. Both cars are nearing the end of their lives and will be withdrawn by mid-2006.

It could be called a Celica — that’s yet to be determined — and it will draw inspiration from the CS+S concept shown in Tokyo in 2003 — see pic. However, it leaves Toyota without a high-performance motor for the time being.

A radical departure for a sports car, the machine could house a power train similar to that of the Toyota Yaris T-Sport, using a 105bhp petrol engine, as does the Prius hybrid. It’ll rev to 7,000rpm though, which, since the engine’s a VVT-i, suggests that the power will mostly be found at the top end of the rev range.

Behind the engine will be a continuously variable transmission with artificial steps to make it a more familiar experience. But there’ll also be a two electric motors, one for each pair of wheels, that’ll kick in during urban excursions, and when extra power is called for. For example, the Prius’s motors develop some 400lb-ft of torque, which is not to be sniffed at.

Other packaging firsts include a folding metal roof, the first in a mid-engined car. The delay is down to a shortage of hybrid drive-trains within Toyota, which is struggling to fulfil demand for them as it is.

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