Learning stick isn't very hard. I bought my GTS before I even knew how to, and the salesman taught me for about half hour. I was good to go after that, and drove home about 20 miles without stalling once.
Sure it's a bit harder where you live, but you can always go out late at night when there's nobody on the road and practice on hills. They're not as bad as you think. As long as you give the car enough gas, it's not gonna stall, and you won't go rolling backwards down the hill.
If still think you need an auto, though, you're better off saving money and getting the GT. It's faster than the auto GTS since it has a better powerband (GTS is optimized for 6spd only), and is also more boost friendly if you ever decide to get the TRD
SC or an aftermarket turbo. Hell, with the money you save by getting the GT, you should be able to afford the TRD
SC, which will help a ton with off the line power, which is probably the worst aspect of NA auto Celicas. The TRD
SC is also covered by warranty if Toyota installs it, so if anything goes wrong, it'll be fixed for free.
It should probably bump up the 1/4 mile times close to manual GT times, too.
EDIT: BTW, the salesman that taught me stick was originally insisting that I get an auto. I test drove an auto GT before I bought my GTS 6 speed, and it felt about as powerful as my old auto 89 Camry (150hp V6).
The manual GTS' experience is a world apart from the auto GT, and I'm very happy I chose the manual car instead. Besides, modding (Intake
, header, exhaust, etc.) actually improves performance on manuals, but on autos, sometimes modding can acutally make the car slower. I've heard more than a few stories from people who added a CAI
to their auto GTS and actually added a couple tenths to their 1/4 mile times.