There's some £7000 separating the Toyota GT86 and Peugeot RCZ R
These are some of the finest performance coupé that sensible money can buy
The Toyota packs a 2.0-litre engine with 197bhp
Under the bonnet of the Peugeot is a 1.6-litre engine with 266bhp
The Toyota's interior may be a little drab, but it offers a superior driving position
The GT86's 2.0-litre engine produces 151lb ft of torque
The GT86 offers 243 litres of luggage space in the boot
The Toyota is happy to oversteer, but only if you work it
The GT86 is one of the truly great sports cars, and that's why it wins here
Used top-spec examples of the GT86 can be had for around £25k
The GT86 feels like a more precise tool on the road
The Peugeot takes the cabin crown with a better quality finish
The Peugeot's 1.6-litre turbocharged is tractable and smooth
The RCZ R is undoubtedly the best Peugeot for a generation
There's 309 litres of space on offer in the Peugeot RCZ R's boot
The Peugeot is good fun on the road but there's a lack of finesse to its handling
The Toyota is one of the few models to score a full five stars on our road test
The RCZ R comes in second to the Toyota here but it's still a solid contender
The Toyota can reach 62mph in 7.6 seconds, the Peugeot in 6.1 seconds
The GT86 weighs in at 1275kg compared to the RCZ R's 1355kg
The GT86 should have an advantage over the RCZ R, being rear-wheel drive
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.
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.
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.
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