We pit Toyota's fast and fun GT86 against the 266bhp Peugeot RCZ R to decide which you should spend your money on

With seven clear grand between them, this pair of coupé are not, perhaps, the easiest bedfellows.

But while they’re separated by the difference between £24,995 (Toyota GT86) and £31,995 (Peugeot RCZ-R), what binds them here is that they’re the sharpest-driving sensible coupé that sensible money can buy.

Both cars we already know well. Both, as it happens, are part of Autocar’s long-term fleet. The Peugeot sports an impressive 266bhp from its relatively diminutive 1.6-litre engine, thanks to a headily blown turbocharger that also lifts torque as high as 225lb ft, developed as low as 1900rpm.

If that sounds like rather a lot to put through the front wheels, be content in the knowledge that there is a limited-slip differential to help things along.

Read the full Toyota GT86 review

The Toyota does less with more. It has a full 2.0 litres, but because it is unblown it makes ‘only’ 197bhp, and then at a heady 7000rpm. You want peak torque? You’ll get it, but only if you rev it to 6400rpm, and then there is merely 151lb ft of it.

But, then, the GT86 is a car that weighs a claimed 1275kg; the Peugeot weighs 1355kg. Still, performance advantage goes to the Peugeot, which can reach 62mph in 6.1sec to the Toyota’s 7.6, despite the fact that the Toyota should also have a distinct traction advantage, being as it is rear-driven, also with a limited-slip differential. Enough stats, though.

You and I know well enough that figures and numbers do not equate to driving pleasure. 

Cabin ambience is also immeasurable by numbers and the Peugeot has an advantage in both the quality of its materials and their appearance and design – that seven grand has to come from somewhere. But the Toyota has, to our bums, a superior driving position; it's low slung, straight and relaxed. 

It also has the edge – just about – in rear accommodation. The Peugeot’s gently bumped roof panel and rear window makes the best of what it has, but what it has are the limitations of that swooping roofline.

Neither car has much rear legroom but on the school run or on the way back from the pub your kids or mates (delete as applicable) will be less uncomfortable in the Toyota.

You’ll be having a better time, too, if you’re the driver. Sorry to spoil the verdict if you were expecting a killer ending, but that’s the way it is. The Peugeot is a four-star road test car, but the Toyota one of the few that scores the full five, and it’s all about the ride and handling.

Read the full Peugeot RCZ R review

The Peugeot is good in this respect, be in no doubt. It’s the best Peugeot for a generation. It rides surprisingly well on its 19in alloys, and steers with more conviction than we’ve known a car wearing a lion on its nose to steer since, perhaps, the 106 GTi.

There’s some genuine road feel filtering back too, corrupted about as much as you’d expect by the workings of the limited-slip differential as it attempts to deploy that power through the front wheels.

In the dry, the power and torque mostly make it through, though it’s possible to overwhelm the front on a circuit - or on the road in greasy conditions – and convert accelerative force into pushy understeer. This is a car that’s throttle-adjustable in the other direction too, mind you.

Lift off or trail or trail the throttle or brakes into a bend and the RCZ-R can become extremely tail happy, sometimes riotously so. At times like that the throttle becomes your best friend and it is best to be thankful there is plenty of power to drag the car back straight, and that you chose the right place to find out. You did, didn’t you? 

The Toyota feels a slightly more incisive tool. Partly because it’s lighter, shorter and narrower; partly because its weight is better balanced and there’s less of it. But also because its steering is so slick and accurate, and is uncorrupted by having both tasks of providing drive as well as steering.

So while the Peugeot bullies itself down a given road, the Toyota slinks along. It feeds back discreet messages to the rim, mostly that all is well at the front wheels, and all is well at the rear too – unless you’re prepared to be deliberately provocative, not just with the throttle, but with the body’s movements too.

The GT86, for its fame as a car that is happy to oversteer, takes effort to do it – in the dry, at any rate. But shift the body’s mass, and keep the front planted before getting on the power, and the GT86 proves itself one of the world’s sweetest handling cars beyond the limit.

It’s easy to see why people might want more power than the Toyota offers, mind. It would make its handling more accessible, with less effort. But you’d have to be careful – if more power brings more weight, then that weight will want more stopping. If that adds more weight again, then it’ll want bigger tyres and there’s a chance its purity would be lost.

Purity, precision and purpose puts the Toyota ahead of not just the Peugeot here, but every other coupe sensible money can buy. There’s no shame for the RCZ-R in being second to the GT86. The Peugeot is a fine car, but in the Toyota GT86, it finds itself up against one of the greats.

Toyota GT86

Price £24,995 0-62mph 7.7sec Top speed 137mph Economy 40.9mpg (combined) CO2 160g/km Kerb weight 1220kg Engine 4 cyls, horizontally opposed, 1998cc, petrol Installation Longitudinal, front, rear-wheel drive Power 197bhp at 7000rpm Torque 151lb ft at 6600rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual

Peugeot RCZ R

Price £31,995 0-62mph 6.1sec Top speed 155mph Economy 44.8mpg CO2 145g/km Kerb weight 1355kg Engine 4cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged petrol Installation Front, transverse, front-wheel drive Power 266bhp at 6000rpm Torque 243lb ft at 1900-5500rpm Gearbox 6-speed manual

Our Verdict

Toyota GT86

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

Join the debate

Comments
10

12 July 2014
No car in the whole wide world dispenses so much driving pleasure for 25 grand as the Toyota GT86.
Its delectable, transparent steering is unbeatable.

12 July 2014
no doubt the Toyota has some extra finesse in its responses. I'd take the RCZ though. Much quicker in the real world, and a more pleasant cabin to spend time in. As usual the Japanese do the mechanicals well but the interior is from a generation or 2 ago.

12 July 2014
it doesn't have the refinement to be an everyday car or a long distance tourer. As a second car it is appealing but then for my £25 grand I'd be tempted by a Caterham 7 or classic car if it was just for maximum fun.

13 July 2014
I had an RCZ for a while, never seemed to get to love it. Nice to sit in, but.....................why was the clutch pedal SO high ! Had to move left leg a lot to press it down........ruined the driving position for me.
It's a bit of a pick-up really....huge boot !

13 July 2014
Typical engine design for Honda/Toyota. Every engineer tries to design an engine with a flat torque curve with max. torque available at min of 2000RPM or even better at even lower RPM.

I think this has something to do, with this car being designed for the American market:

* ability to spin rear wheels is a must for a sportscar in America
* Americans need only power at high RPM since most are using a stupid Automatic with few gears (in contrary to intelligent automatic (e.g. DSG) with many gears)
* car must be uncontrollable when using full throttle in America:
* delayed action due to automatic
* wheels must scream when changing gears (vs. double-clutching with DSG)

Americans would not know what to do with max torque available at low RPM!
Since American cars need half a meter of suspension way (because of bad roads)
front wheel drive would not work for a sportscar.

13 July 2014
or how can I insert newlines?

13 July 2014
ExcessPhase wrote:

Typical engine design for Honda/Toyota. Every engineer tries to design an engine with a flat torque curve with max. torque available at min of 2000RPM or even better at even lower RPM.

Errr, its a Subaru engine..

14 July 2014
Imagine what you could get for that?

15 July 2014
the concept car FT86 this Toyota coupe was based on, and realize that the GT86 could be so much more pleasing to the eye. This is such a generic-looking car that I would not bother to take it for a test drive. If I had designed the concept, I would have committed harakiri a long time ago. Peugeot should contemplate bringing a RCZ 2 in the form of a hatchback coupe, very much like Audi once considered for its TT (shooting brake).

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