Currently reading: Matt Prior's tester's notes - class warfare alive and well on the roads
Matt finds that his choice of wheels has a dramatic effect on how other road users react to him
Matt Prior
3 mins read
1 May 2015

This week, the odometer on the Toyota GT86 I’ve been looking after since last July clicked past 27,500 miles. Which means I’ve been driving it a lot.

And it has been easy, not only because of the qualities of the car, which are legion, but also because of the reactions of other road users to it.

What you drive, as you’ll suspect, is intimately related to the way you’re treated by other road users. I’ve known about this for a long time, but until the Toyota came along, I tended to swap between cars as often as I swap socks, and any niggling suspicion here or there that I wasn’t being let out of a junction because I was driving, say, a BMW X6 M would soon be gone, because the car would be, too, and the moment would be past.

Now, though, it’s easier to see the differences. I’ll be in the Toyota for a week and everything will be rosy. Yes, the GT86 is a sports car, but an unassuming one, so nobody gets annoyed with it and a few people are impressed by it.

If you’d like to be let into a busy flow of traffic, the chances are that if you drive a GT86, you will be. If you pull into a faster flow of traffic, nobody really minds because it’s assumed that you’ll hitch your skirt up and get on with it. I’ve come to be very familiar, and extremely content, with the way the Toyota is viewed.

Then two things happened. First, I spent a few days in a Suzuki Celerio. The Celerio is a car I like very much, but a small city car is something that the rest of motordom views as if it found it on the bottom of its shoe. If I was overtaking a slower lane of traffic, I was tailgated. If I was waiting at the lights, somebody would pull alongside, not behind, so that I didn’t hinder them when the lights turned green.

It was the single most frustrating thing about driving the car. And then I spent a while in a Range Rover Sport SVR. In white. With very large wheels. Now, certainly, I wasn’t tailgated, but never was Igiven an ounce of courtesy or an inch of room where it could possibly be avoided. The inference was clear: “You, mate, are not the boss of me.” It’s no wonder so many are fitted with privacy glass when the hostility is so open. I’d want to become a recluse, too. In the end, I drove it with unfailing politeness, waving everybody I could out of junctions, just to see their reactions. I can see, then, why people who can afford supercars do not necessarily drive them very often.

Sometimes, you just want to go about your business, unnoticed, in a car that says as little as possible about you.

Me? I’ll go back to the Toyota. I like it there.

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:


Find an Autocar review

Read our review

Car review
Toyota GT86

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

Back to top

Join the debate


1 May 2015
There are good reasons why you want to be ahead of an SUV, rather than stuck behind one. They will block your view of the road ahead (especially if fitted with privacy glass) and they are ugly. The exact opposite is true of a sports car. Let's be honest, Range Rover Sports and Audi Q7s are some of the worst driven cars on the road, too, so it makes sense to stay well clear of them. I won't aggressively cut one up but I won't go out of my way to let them in ahead either.

1 May 2015
Interesting that about the GT86. I've seen a similar effect when switching between my daily driver - a Mondeo estate and my missus' car - a Prius.

The difference is night and day. I rarely get tailgated in the Mondeo and when I'm in lane 3 of the motorway I can get on with it with no bother, people tending to get politely out of the way if I'm getting a move on - without me even being aggressive like say, some Audi drivers are. I get let out from junctions very quickly, usually with a friendly smile is good.

I then drive the Prius and the reaction is shocking. The tailgating is nearly continuous, and occasionally so aggressive it's genuinely frightening. People overtake at every chance they get and really don't like if I'm the one overtaking someone or trying to use the second lane at junctions to get ahead, people sometimes trying to block me from the inside from merging in, using their cars like weapons...

Obviously I drive exactly the same in both cars, so I'm fairly sure it's not me!

1 May 2015
A lot of the expensive SUVs X6Ms, Range Rovers, Q7s et al are driven by people who also own sports cars. I don't think people become worse drivers just because they change from one car to another. Contrary to Matt's experience, I find that Supercars are often let into traffic (these days because people get their phones out to get videos from behind as much as anything). Either way, I certainly don't drive differently based on whether I'm in an SUV or something else - I think perhaps those who don't like SUVs for whatever reason are predisposed to look for bad driving in them.

1 May 2015
There's difference in road user's behaviour towards me depending on whether I'm driving my RR Evoque or Rover 75. In the beginning people seemed interested by the Evoque and would let me out of junctions, peer intriguingly inside when they're next to me and actually ask me questions in traffic. Now they're far more common I find people are much less forgiving - some will go out of their way to stop me entering onto a busy road of slow moving traffic. In the Rover 75 I'm always let out, time after time, and everyone - without exception in all the years I've owned it - makes way for it. It's a classy but still friendly looking car, and this seems to go down well. The Evoque is markedly more assertive looking which might rub some up the wrong way!

1 May 2015
I doubt the car makes any difference. I have driven all manner of cars and vans and been treated the same way each time. I have noticed a difference depending on how aggressively I am driving however.

On certain days when I really have to get moving, people let my bland, bog standard Golf into queues and hold back. On a Sunday morning drive, where I am super relaxed, the opposite happens. Just like body language I think people can sense deceleration rates, revving engines etc and make assumptions about accident risk and behave accordingly. I know when I let people in, those are the decisions I am making, NOT acting out of prejudice for different brands of cars.

I've also noticed BMW's and Fords encourage more aggressive driving in me and Toyotas and Volvos encourage a more relaxed gait.

Could it be that the GT85 is goading the driver to drive more aggressively, and the the RR encouraging the driver to relax and drive in a more relaxed manner that's really making the difference?

Someone should write into Mythbusters and ask them to check it out!

1 May 2015
When I had the Celica, it was much like your experience. People thought I would take off into the distance, let me carry on.

The 10 year old Saab, however, is a mixed bag. Some people see me as going to dodder about and tailgate aggressively.

Others see it as trying to show off (in a car that costs less than a set of tyres on a Q7?) and don't let you in lanes etc.

While others see it as an inoffensive Vectra-in-a-frock and let you out and carry on.


1 May 2015
I never had people cutting me off or trying get by me when I was doing in excess of the speed limit before I bought my Toyota Venza two years ago. I had a 2000 Passat V6 and 2000 Dodge Dakota R/T (proudly advertising its 5.9 litre V8) and never had to deal with road rage. My now-ex-wife's BMW 325 upped the idiocy of the surrounding drivers but the Venza has taken the cake. I can't figure it out. It's a Toyota, not a hybrid and can't be mistaken for anything much more expensive but at least three days a week on my commute I wind up dealing with an idiot who acts like I am about to take their victory at the Daytona 500 from them!

2 May 2015
Actually, remember seeing an orange GT86 at Hyde Park Corner the other week. They way it was driven, although not wreckless, it was pretty clear the driver wasn't paying full attention to surrounding traffic and was more focused on staying in some sort of emotionally connected driving zone. I decided to give him a wide berth. I give all drivers like this, whatever car they are in, a wide berth in town and am extra cautious of them, especially as a pedestrian.

2 May 2015
Cars say a lot about us and drivers react accordingly. I kown I'm generalising but on the whole BMWs are the most aggressively driven cars, I hate an Audi behind me on red lights or in slow traffic. They and Skoda taxis always tailgate where you can't get away from their nuisance. Most of the Volkswagens however are rather calmly driven never hurried observing the law especially the older GTIs and GTDS even when they're being driven over the limit. Majority of Toyotas fall in the same group.

5 May 2015
I've found other drivers want to get past me even when I'm going some on the m'way. When possible, I'll have the cruise on and I usually end up passing the same cars 2/3 times as they speed up to pass me only to slow down later and end up being re-passed. It doesn't seem to happen so often when driving my wife's CX-5.


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review