Toyota Curren – The Forgotten Celica

In the mid to late 1990s, Toyota was winning the sports coupe game with the Celica.

From basic economy models (for those who wanted to look like they owned a fast car) through to the fire-breathing, WRX and Evo-matching GT-Four, there was a Celica for everybody.

And what if you wanted a Toyota Celica in a different body shape? 

Once again, Toyota had you covered! 

In this edition of Forgotten Heroes I’ll give you the run down on one of the more obscure 1990s Toyota models; a JDM-only Celica with a different front end, the Toyota Curren.

What Is The Toyota Curren?

Basically, the Toyota Curren is a T200 (sixth generation) Celica wrapped up in a different body, primarily an altered front end/”nose” with different light clusters. 

Here’s a Celica from the era:

And then the Curren for comparison:

Unlike the Celica, the Curren was an exclusively JDM car and any example you see on the road outside of Japan today is an ex-Japanese import. I distinctly remember an old school friend having a Toyota Curren as her first car; they were are relatively common (by obscure JDM import standards) sight on the roads here in New Zealand at one point, but I haven’t seen one for donkey’s years now.

As with the 6th generation Celica which provides its underpinnings, the Curren was available with various specification levels, particularly relating to the engine on offer – these are largely equivalent to trim levels available on the Celica.

Broadly speaking, there were the following spec levels available at launch:

  • FS – The ‘base spec’ model with the 140hp 3S-FE engine 
  • XS – A more premium version of the FS, available with four wheel steering
  • ZS – The most desirable version, coming with the higher output (180hp) 3S-GE engine and depending on selected options available with an LSD on manual-equipped models, as well as superior suspension tuned for handling

What’s important to note with the Curren is that there are different chassis codes which relate to engine options and the presence (or lack thereof) of four wheel steering. You can then add additional trim levels/factory options on top.

Across the entire lifespan of the Curren, there are three different chassis codes:

  • ST206 – Powered either the 3S-GE or 3S-FE (depending on trim level e.g. ZS vs XS) with no 4WS
  • ST207 – Powered by the 3S-FE with 4WS – only available in XS trim
  • ST208 – Not available at launch, this was introduced as a base model Curren using the 1.8L 4S-FE engine producing ~125hp.

As with all JDM cars of the era, there were multiple basic specification levels to the car (these are indicated by chassis code, e.g. ST207 is a Curren with the lower output 3S-FE engine but with four wheel steering) and then buyers could have picked from a range of different options with building their Curren. 

So, for example, you could have purchased an “ST207” Curren in ZS Selection, which would have netted you the higher output 3S-GE engine and a limited slip differential if you’d opted for a manual gearbox. 

It’s relatively low-res, and my Japanese doesn’t go much further than ordering food and apologising for disgracing myself at the karaoke machine, but extracts from this Curren brochure show that buyers had the option of numerous “sub-variants” (e.g. ZS ‘Sports Selection’ or XS ‘Touring Selection’) and you could even specify genuine Recaro seats on some models:

If you’re after a performance-oriented Curren, then you’ll want to seek out a ZS model with the higher output 3S-GE engine, and five speed manual gearbox with LSD.

These higher-spec cars also featured in some instances Toyota’s ‘Super Strut’ suspension in the more powerful spec, which allows for impressive handling provided the system is working well.

One thing to be wary of is that Super Strut suspension components can be hard to come by these days, so if inspecting a Curren (or Celica of the same age, or any other model with this system e.g. the Levin BZ-R) then make sure the suspension is in good condition or ensure you can get your hands on spares.

Because of the confusing specification levels and various options available, I’d also advise you if you’re looking at buying one of these cars to verify any spec/equipment that a vendor might say is fitted. For example, check the engine is actually a 3S-GE and not a 3S-FE, and vice versa. 

Why Did Toyota Release The Curren?

At this point, you’re probably asking the question “why?”

Just what exactly is the point of taking the Celica platform and sticking a different nose on it?

As luck would have it, Toyota gives an official clue.

In researching for this article, I came across a press release for the Curren (the same source as the spec table above).

The press release specifically mentions that the Curren was developed to appeal to younger drivers wanting to portray a more modern and sophisticated image.

Toyota Curren naming
Don’t be an old coot and drive a Celica – get yourself a Curren instead!

For what it’s worth, I’ve always found the Celica to be quite a ‘youthful’ car but perhaps its reputation was different in Japan – feel free to chime in with a comment at the bottom of this article if you have any insight to share on this. I must admit that I think the front end of the Curren is more attractive than the Celica, as I’ve always found the “face” in the 6th gen Celica headlights to be rather ugly:

You’ll NEVER unsee it now.

The name – Curren – derives from the English word ‘Current’ and according to Toyota was a direct play on making the car seem in fashion and trendy.

Toyota Curren TRD Sports – A True JDM Unicorn

If the normal Curren isn’t exotic enough for you, then keep an eye out for the Toyota Curren TRD Sports.

The Current TRD Sports was basically a top spec ‘ZS’ Curren (higher output 3SGE engine, LSD on manual models, Super Strut suspension) but with a whole host of interior and exterior TRD mods, such as:

  • TRD muffler
  • Different front bumper and body kit
  • Larger rear wing
  • Different steering wheel and gear shifter

I’ve never seen one of these myself, but here’s an example that was sold in late 2021 by Guys With Rides:

Recapping The Toyota Curren

Realistically, the Toyota Curren is one of those cars it’s easy to forget ever existed.

Fewer than 50,000 were ever built, and the youngest examples are now 25 years old. Many were the more pedestrian spec cars with lower output engines, and hardly the stuff of ‘Garage Dreams’.

At the most fundamental level, it was just a Toyota Celica with a different nose and name. That’s really all there is to it. 

However, if you’re a fan of unusual JDM cars like I am, then the Curren is worthy of consideration. In fact, the Toyota Curren is the sort of car you might even find rather exciting. 

It’s an interesting “curios” – a car that many people wouldn’t even be aware exists, and which is becoming increasingly rare as time takes its toll on the remaining fleet.

I am a sucker for normal cars like this. While everybody loses their minds about the Honda NSX or the R34 GTR, in many respects it’s something like a nice, clean Toyota Curren with the 3SGE and Super Strut suspension that interests me more.

If you can find one, you’ll enjoy a great driving experience, as well as be smug in the knowledge that you are driving a truly rare JDM ‘modern classic’ that flies very low under the radar. 

Another advantage of keeping your eye out for a car like the Toyota Curren is that you should be able to score one for a more reasonable price. With people investing in JDM cars in recent years, this has driven prices of the “top tier” cars with best public recognition through the roof.

However, most people have probably never heard of a Curren, and there’s every chance that a potential seller doesn’t even realise they are holding the keys to a slice of JDM history so you might be able to score a bargain (whereas you won’t get a bargain on a Mitsubishi Evo these days, for example). 

What do you think about the Toyota Curren? How do you rate its looks versus the equivalent Celica? Feel free to leave a comment below – it would be great to hear from you.

Make sure you browse my other ‘Forgotten Heroes’ articles, and feel free to suggest any examples of your own that I can go away and learn more about.

Toyota Curren FAQs

In a “first” for the Forgotten Heroes section, I’ve collated some of the more common questions I’ve seen asked about the Curren and provided concise answers for each below:

Is The Toyota Curren RWD?

No, much like the 6th generation Celica upon which it is based, the Curren is front wheel drive only. Some models were available with four wheel steering but were still FWD.

Is The Curren The Same As The Celica?

The Curren and Celica are definitely two distinct models, but the Curren was built on the 6th generation Celica platform (sharing many mechanical components and interior/exterior trim components). The main differences are that the Curren was a JDM/Japanese market only vehicle, and it has different specification levels and a different front end with more “conventional” headlights.

What Engine Does The Toyota Curren Have?

Depending on the chassis code/spec level, your Toyota Curren could have one of three engines:


  • Inline four-cylinder engine
  • DOHC (Dual Overhead Camshaft) design with 16 valves
  • Displacement: 2.0L (1,998cc)
  • Higher performance than the 3S-FE and 4S-FE engines, producing around 180hp


  • Inline four-cylinder engine
  • DOHC design with 16 valves
  • Does not feature Toyota’s VVT-i system
  • Displacement: 2.0L (1,998cc)
  • Lower performance than the 3S-GE engine with a greater focus on economy (140hp) 


  • Inline four-cylinder engine
  • DOHC design with 16 valves
  • Displacement: 1.8L (1,762cc) or 2.0L (1,998cc) depending on the model and year.
  • Lower performance than the 3S-GE and 3S-FE (125hp) and only found in the post-1995 base spec “ST208” Curren 


  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

6 thoughts on “Toyota Curren – The Forgotten Celica”

  1. Owner of one and its my forever daily, niche car’n great on gas so why not. Fun asf throwing em into corners cause how little they weigh, true touge style car. See them roaming Hamilton streets every so often but they’re hardly taken care of

    • Thanks for commenting! The Toyota Curren is a great, underrated car for sure. Shame as you say that so many of them are in rubbish condition though.

  2. I am so happy I have stumbled across this article,
    My dad actually races a Curren. Up until last year when he brought it I had no idea they existed. They are such neat cars! I definitely see the appeal of the 3S-GE engine as they don’t come with the huge price tag other Japanese cars can have 🙂

    • Hi Jorjah,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I’m glad you found it. The Curren is definitely a bit of a “hidden gem” if you can find a good one with the right specification (namely the 3S-GE with manual, basically the ‘fast Celica’ spec).

      I hope he has many years of fun motoring with the racing Curren.

  3. i just brought my self a Curren, didnt know how rare these were, glad i got mine for cheap, well as cheep as 220,000kms can get you anyway


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