"I wanted a GT86,” said somebody I know in fewer than 140 characters the other day, “but they’re just too expensive”.
I almost know what he meant. Toyota’s little rear-wheel-drive coupé – see also: the Subaru BRZ – was given a mild makeover last year. The tweaks raised its price by £2795, and another rise since then makes a GT86 cost at least £26,855 today. A base BRZ is a bit cheaper, but not by a lot. You can get one from £26,495. Or, as we otherwise know it, about six grand more than a Ford Fiesta ST.
Mechanically, the two coupés are the same and have hardly changed from before: some minor damping revisions, apparently, but they still have 197bhp engines. Which is barely worth getting out of bed for, right?
The thinking goes, then, that you can buy a hot hatchback with a lot more power, and a lot more space and comfort and equipment, for less than the price of a GT86/BRZ.
So, yes, for similar money, instead of this little coupé that comes with child-sized back seats and a power output that would barely push a supermini along at a respectable pace, you could have a serious mega-hatch.
With this in mind, I tested a GT86 the other day. Could you, I wondered, have a mega-hatch instead?
You could. But you shouldn’t. One reason you shouldn’t is because the GT86/BRZ remains a relatively undiscovered gem. It weighs about as much as my thumb and isn’t a great deal wider. Its weight is beautifully distributed between front and rear, where, at both ends, it is shod with modest 215/45 R17 tyres.
So it doesn’t matter that it isn’t that powerful, because it has very little weight to push around and very little rubber, so it doesn’t feel overly numb and grippy. Oh, don’t worry, it stops and corners just as confidently as you’d want it do, but it does it with great balance, flair, agility and adjustability. There is feel. Poise. It feels like a bona fide thoroughbred sports car, not an over-engined, overengineered hatchback. Because it is.
That’s important. Because creating bespoke sports cars is expensive. Relatively speaking, it is fairly simple to create a hot hatch: take a hatchback, stick a more powerful engine in it, uprate the springs, dampers and brakes and thrash it around the Nürburgring until you’re happy that it’s really uncomfortable.
Creating a bespoke sports car is much harder. It probably wants a bespoke engine and transmission, definitely a bespoke chassis, which means an all-new interior and crash structure, and at every point along the way, there will be somebody with a calculator deciding whether the whole venture is worth pursuing; because there’s no hatchback to base it on to make the sums work.
But despite all of that, some people want to make a small sports car so much that they will forget petty rivalries, and work together to make one viable. Doing that takes so much work, so much commitment and, yes, so much money that there is almost a moral goodness in choosing a GT86 or BRZ. Perhaps, for a 197bhp car, it’s expensive, but as a beacon for enthusiasts, it is priceless.