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?