The Toyota GT86 falls into the same bracket as we grouped the Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 into. Both cars, though not fast, feel like they have a pleasing level of performance. They are slow enough to be able to enjoy on the road for more than just a second or two’s burst of throttle, but quick enough for necessary overtaking.
Therefore, don’t be put off by the fact that, on paper, it looks decidedly under-nourished compared with its price rivals and dispatches the 0-60mph sprint in ‘just’ 7.4sec.
A similarly priced hot hatch like a Vauxhall Astra VXR or Renault Mégane RS will not only give you at least 60 extra bhp, but they also come to you more easily than in the Toyota, whose engine asks you to work it to 7000rpm for its peak 197bhp, and even to 6400rpm for its 151lb ft peak of torque.
Truth be told, a less costly Renault Clio RS is a closer performance rival. But to dismiss the Toyota on that basis would be a mistake.
Its performance isn’t about numbers; in the same way that a Renault Clio RS is more fun than an Astra VXR, or in the same fashion that the Morgan 3 Wheeler we tested wormed its way into our hearts despite its modest poke. It’s about feel, communication and enjoyment.
Make no mistake: the GT86’s performance is worth working for. And you do have to work it. Throttle response is crisp, the gearshift is positive and precise (if not entirely notch free) and the flat four makes a solid rasp once you wind it up, as you have to, to make swift progress.
All sports cars were thus once. We didn’t mind then, and we don’t mind now. Thanks to its 1235kg tested weight, the GT86 stops pretty well, too, and it resisted fade comfortably during heavy runs on track in warm weather.
Buyers interested in the automatic version would be well advised to test one first, however. It changes smoothly and relatively quickly but it's not as crisp or as fast as a dual-clutch gearbox.