The Toyota GT86 reveals itself to be well suited to the broken roads of the UK, while retaining its poise and delicacy

What is it?

The Toyota GT86 is the firm's near-perfect recipe for an affordable, uncomplicated sports two-seater, a car in the Mazda MX-5 mould except for the roof. But in corporate terms, it’s much more important than a mere fun car. The GT86 is the flagship for a complete change in the way Toyota does things, a strong signal from its recently installed president, Akio Toyoda, that his company wants to build enjoyable, involving cars, rather than the reliable, dour machines for which it has lately become famous. It wants relive days when the MR2, Celica and Supra lifted the image of the whole range.

However, Toyota’s new rear-wheel-drive coupe could never have been built without the involvement of Subaru, who provide some of the know-how, the factory and the 2.0 litre flat-four that allows the GT86 its low nose (and therefore its compact dimensions and low centre of gravity). Subaru is launching its own near-identical model, called Subaru BRZ, made on the same production lines to improve economies of scale and allow the car to be sold at the comparatively affordable entry price of £24,995, or £1500 more if you want to substitute a six-speed automatic for the six-speed manual. Toyota wants to sell 2000 cars this year after the car hits showrooms at the beginning of July, and plans to do 5000 a year thereafter.

What's it like?

In a word, brilliant. From the first, the GT86 is simplicity itself to drive, coping with typical British suburban bumps quite well even though the suspension is obviously sporty in intent. The body feels rigid and well-made, the car rides flat, and the suspension is commendably quiet. When you get going on the open road, the damping provides terrific body control and the cornering grip is excellent.

There is a delicacy balance and an easy adjustability in its rear-drive chassis simply not available from front- or four-wheel drive. The GT86 can change direction with cat-like speed and grace. The steering is firmer than you’d find in a saloon of this size, but sharp and beautifully informative. The easy-changing gearbox suits the whole mix perfectly.

Around town, the flat-four engine doesn’t feel like something with an advertised power of 197bhp, though it’s flexible and you’ll always enjoy the flat-four Subaru throb. To get the best from it you must use revs: keep the needle between 5000 and the 7500rpm redline and the GT86 goes very well indeed. The 0-62mph sprint time is 7.6sec, brisk enough, and you can get to 140mph flat out. Best of all, the ’86 always feels a responsive, willing car on Britain’s challenging and variable open roads.

The Toyota is barely a hand-span longer than a typical supermini so its well-equipped interior has the snug, low-roof, tailored feel of a much more expensive GT. The trim materials don’t really live up to that — they lean more to mass-market durability than bespoke quality — but the GT86 cabin is still a very pleasant place to be with sporty dials and nicely arrayed switchgear.

Should I buy one?

What’s stopping you? Only the paucity of rear room, probably, if you have a family. If that’s not an issue, you’ll enjoy every mile you drive. Even more comforting is the fact that this is still an affordable Toyota so dealer support, residuals and reliability can be expected to be first class.

The usual uncertainties of sports-car ownership are missing, yet the GT86’s fun qualities are unaffected. Now, what’s your trade-in worth?

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Toyota GT86 2.0i manual

Price: £24,995; 0-62mph: 7.6sec; Top speed: 140mph; Economy: 36.2mpg (combined); CO2: 181g/km; Kerb weight: 1240kg; Engine: 4cyl horizontally opposed, 1998cc, petrol; Power: 197bhp at 7000rpm; Torque: 151lb ft at 6400-6600rpm; Gearbox: 6-speed manual

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
lancianut 21 June 2012

That price

check out the USA scion site the same car is £16500 with the auto box welcome to rip off Britain shame on you Toyota

JamesR Glovers 19 June 2012

The Toyota is barely a

The Toyota is barely a hand-span longer than a typical supermini so its well-equipped interior has the snug, low-roof, tailored feel of a much more expensive GT. The trim materials don’t really live up to that visit this for mor deatail on Toyota GT86 Visit

Vimeous 18 June 2012

Confirmation things are on track.

It's good to see nothing has been lost in the translation to UK roads.

Concerns raised by another publication appear centered on the Automatic gearbox so this confirmation the manual is "easy-changing" is a relief. OF course they were deliberately trying to be contrary in the face of largely positive reviews.

Those expecting BMW-esque tailout antics appear to have their expectations thwarted in favour of precision. But then again with a rear-track that wide and modest power it shouldn't have been expected. I suspect you'll need a decent slug of extra power to leave endless black lines round the local supermarket carpark.

As for price.

Yes I want it cheaper. However I have the original receipt for our 1998 Celica GT and it's 168bhp cost £26.5k fresh off the shelf.
In inflationary terms that makes the GT-86 seem quite reasonable.