Steve Cropley
14 June 2012

What is it?

The Toyota GT86 is the firm's near-perfect recipe for an affordable, uncomplicated sports two-seater, a car in the Mazda MX-5 mould except for the roof. But in corporate terms, it’s much more important than a mere fun car. The GT86 is the flagship for a complete change in the way Toyota does things, a strong signal from its recently installed president, Akio Toyoda, that his company wants to build enjoyable, involving cars, rather than the reliable, dour machines for which it has lately become famous. It wants relive days when the MR2, Celica and Supra lifted the image of the whole range.

However, Toyota’s new rear-wheel-drive coupe could never have been built without the involvement of Subaru, who provide some of the know-how, the factory and the 2.0 litre flat-four that allows the GT86 its low nose (and therefore its compact dimensions and low centre of gravity). Subaru is launching its own near-identical model, called BRZ, made on the same production lines to improve economies of scale and allow the car to be sold at the comparatively affordable entry price of £24,995, or £1500 more if you want to substitute a six-speed automatic for the six-speed manual. Toyota wants to sell 2000 cars this year after the car hits showrooms at the beginning of July, and plans to do 5000 a year thereafter.

What is it like?

In a word, brilliant. From the first, the GT86 is simplicity itself to drive, coping with typical British suburban bumps quite well even though the suspension is obviously sporty in intent. The body feels rigid and well-made, the car rides flat, and the suspension is commendably quiet. When you get going on the open road, the damping provides terrific body control and the cornering grip is excellent.

There is a delicacy balance and an easy adjustability in its rear-drive chassis simply not available from front- or four-wheel drive. The GT86 can change direction with cat-like speed and grace. The steering is firmer than you’d find in a saloon of this size, but sharp and beautifully informative. The easy-changing gearbox suits the whole mix perfectly.

Around town, the flat-four engine doesn’t feel like something with an advertised power of 197bhp, though it’s flexible and you’ll always enjoy the flat-four Subaru throb. To get the best from it you must use revs: keep the needle between 5000 and the 7500rpm redline and the GT86 goes very well indeed. The 0-62mph sprint time is 7.6sec, brisk enough, and you can get to 140mph flat out. Best of all, the ’86 always feels a responsive, willing car on Britain’s challenging and variable open roads.

The Toyota is barely a hand-span longer than a typical supermini so its well-equipped interior has the snug, low-roof, tailored feel of a much more expensive GT. The trim materials don’t really live up to that — they lean more to mass-market durability than bespoke quality — but the GT86 cabin is still a very pleasant place to be with sporty dials and nicely arrayed switchgear.

Should I buy one?

What’s stopping you? Only the paucity of rear room, probably, if you have a family. If that’s not an issue, you’ll enjoy every mile you drive. Even more comforting is the fact that this is still an affordable Toyota so dealer support, residuals and reliability can be expected to be first class.

The usual uncertainties of sports-car ownership are missing, yet the GT86’s fun qualities are unaffected. Now, what’s your trade-in worth?

Toyota GT86 2.0l manual

Price: £24,995; 0-62mph: 7.6sec; Top speed: 140mph; Economy: 36.2mpg (combined); CO2: 181g/km; Kerb weight: 1240kg; Engine: 4cyl horizontally opposed, 1998cc, petrol; Power: 197bhp at 7000rpm; Torque: 151lb ft at 6400-6600rpm; Gearbox: 6-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
31

What's stopping me?!

1 year 44 weeks ago

I'll tell you, where's the real GT86?

Peter Cavellini.

£25K

1 year 44 weeks ago

when the spy shots first appeared a year back we were told £20K. Then the leaked pictures cropped up and it was £22K. Now it's finally on sale the sticker price has reached £25K, and as with all Japanese racers before it the interior's a bit dreary, you have to thrash the tatters off it just to make it move, and it's no faster than a 320d anyway. Just significantly thirstier.

They reckon on selling 2,000 a year... well, there probably are that many numpties out there, so I don't doubt it. I won't be one of them though.

But I don't want to drive a

1 year 44 weeks ago

But I don't want to drive a friggin' BMW!

WooDz wrote:But I don't

1 year 44 weeks ago

WooDz wrote:

But I don't want to drive a friggin' BMW!

no, neither do I.

The point is of course that having paid £25K for your sleek and low slung new sportscar, you have no more grunt beneath your lead foot than that provided by the sixth most common car on the road - a small diesel that has become the de facto choice of middle managers and, as an estate with a dog guard in the back, middle management retirees, either of which will most likely have you at the lights if you're not paying attention.

I hear protests that performance isn't important, but that's clearly nonsense on this kind of car. Would the Focus ST sell with just 197bhp? No. 197bhp is what an old Nissan 200SX had in the early '90s - and that was faster too, and as a bonus could be chipped to within an inch of its life (and yours).

iF i HAD 25K...

1 year 44 weeks ago

I'd definitely consider one. The only thing that puts me off is some reports I've read about its unrefined and uninspiring engine. The relative lack of power doesn't bother me personally as years ago I had loads of fun with my 41bhp Mini.

Very Nice ... BUT ...

1 year 44 weeks ago

The exterior shots show a RHD model yet the interior/dashboard are of the LHD model ... Why?

I'm sick and tired of seeing LHD models in car brochures and advertising ... We drive RHD vehicles in this country - so show our country (and your car buyers) some respect ...

 

If you're one of those people...

1 year 44 weeks ago

...who are bothered about or influenced by what other people might think then this car won't be for you.

A 197 bhp £25k sports coupe might be a tough sell amongst 'friends' who might think it's a bit flaccid. For me, this is a little like the MX-5 where outright grip/pace/time against a stopwatch are meaningless when driving pleasure is the only benchmark.

I'm glad they've made it. Can we have actual GB photos next time and not reversed press shots with a phoshopped number plate?


Wonder

1 year 44 weeks ago

Wonder how much better this is than my much loved 968CS ?

Wonder

1 year 44 weeks ago

Wonder how much better this is than my much loved 968CS ?

ThwartedEfforts wrote:when

1 year 44 weeks ago

ThwartedEfforts wrote:

when the spy shots first appeared a year back we were told £20K. Then the leaked pictures cropped up and it was £22K. Now it's finally on sale the sticker price has reached £25K, and as with all Japanese racers before it the interior's a bit dreary, you have to thrash the tatters off it just to make it move, and it's no faster than a 320d anyway. Just significantly thirstier.

This is either the statement of a victim who's been brainwashed by some car brands into thinking that numbers are everything or a statement of a person who has a grudge against Japanese manufacturers. Either way, it's not a pretty picture.

The comparison with the 320d is particularly bizarre, considering the BMW costs £30,810 (20% more than the Toyota), the Toyota is a purpose-designed lightweight (225kg lighter) sports coupe, while the 320d in coupe form is a compromise as its base form is as a saloon. Of course, factors such as this and handling are not recognised by "ThwartedEfforts" and even if they were recognised it's quite clear under the logic put forward they would be completely outweighed by.........the numbers.

On the car itself - I've got to agree with the author: low price, enough performance, apparently a good handler, and a good looker. Well done to Toyota and Subaru, it's a winner.

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Our Verdict

This light, uncomplicated coupé promises so much. Can the Toyota GT86 deliver?

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