Toyota GT86

Brilliant sports car is affordable too – a fast bargain

8.5
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 12 reviews
  • Superb to drive
  • Good standard equipment
  • A future classic?
  • Lack of low-down punch
  • Interior a bit cheap in places
  • Not the most practical car
 

£25,005 - £30,010 Price range

 

4 Seats

 

34 - 39 MPG

Review

Everyone – and we do mean everyone – was expecting Toyota’s GT86 to be a class-leading performance car. If the reviews are anything to go by, the Japanese car-making giant has pulled it off. All the experts agree it’s an utter delight to drive, doesn’t cost a bomb to buy or run and is reasonably practical for a car with such a focus on being good fun to drive.

Whilst there are some flaws here and there – some might think it’s a bit too expensive for what it is, and quite a few usability issues did crop up in the reports – the GT86 seems to be a very well sorted car, and is certainly one of the top affordable driver-centric cars on the market right now.

Toyota is working alongside BMW to build a pairing of cars using the same basic platform. The new BMW Z5 will be joined by a new Toyota Supra – read all about it in our dedicated price, specs and release date article. See how the recently facelifted GT86 looks by reading our complete guide, too.

Being a car that was set out to be the optimum driving tool, it shouldn’t be a huge shock to find out that the GT86’s cabin is very driver focused – all the dials and gauges are angled directly towards the driver and the layout of the centre console cocoons the driver into the low slung seats.

The build quality is also quite good, and most reviewers comment on how durable it all feels in there. Practicality is also decent, with a reasonable sized 237-litre boot and plenty of head room up front for all but the tallest of people.

There are a few issues, though – although the interior is well built, the materials used seem to be a bit ‘low rent’ when compared with what you’d find in more premium rivals, and the general consensus is that the design is a bit ‘dated’. The rear seats are also nigh on useless, with the restrictive head and leg room meaning that only small children would have enough space back there.

We’ll also leave you to make your own minds up about the fake, textured carbon fibre trim on the dashboard.

Toyota’s focus during the GT86’s development was to make it the best drivers’ car it could possibly be, and all the reports say that the engineers who worked on the car have done a very good job indeed. Body control is excellent, all the controls are precise and accurate, there’s plenty of feedback through the steering wheel – a must for a car that’s aimed at such a specific group of petrolheads in the car-buying sector. 

At more mundane speeds it’s still an appealing prospect when you’re behind the wheel. The ride is firm, but not so stiffly sprung that it’s unbearable, the all-round visibility is decent, despite the low slung driving position. Low speed refinement is adequate, if not exactly exemplary.

Critics report that the main issues with the GT86 come at higher speeds, where the road and wind noise insulation isn’t on par with quite a few of its rivals, and would potentially make long motorway journeys a bit tiresome. Other niggles include the engine’s lack of low-down torque, which makes overtaking manoeuvres a bit tricky to complete unless there’s a long run-up.

There’s only one engine – a Subaru-sourced 200hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Boxer’ unit with Toyota’s direct injection system. Thankfully it appears to be a pretty good one, especially when you let the motor stretch its legs a bit. Whilst low-down punch is a bit lacking, there’s plenty of poke beyond 4,000rpm or so.

When you’re absolutely thrashing it, it can also go at a fair lick of speed as well – the 0-60mph time of 7.6 seconds is nothing to write home about, but it certainly picks up the pace when you’re up and running, and Toyota claims a top speed of 140mph.

Fuel economy isn’t bad, with claims of 36mpg on the combined cycle, but the 160g/km of CO2 emissions in cars with manual transmissions will attract a £170 road tax bill.

Two transmissions are available on the GT86 – a manual and an automatic, both of which have six forward ratios in their gearboxes. The auto is a decent enough unit, but most critics reckon that, given the car’s billing as a ‘purist’s car’, it’s best to stick with the manual that comes as standard.

One thing that critics haven’t liked is the noise that the GT86 makes. We’re talking about a performance oriented car here, and things like these matter. But sadly, the GT86 fails to impress. Aurally, at least.

There are several reviews of the GT86 now, and they all appear to be highly positive towards Toyota’s all-new sports coupe. The critics seem to love the car’s focus on being a ‘drivers’ car’, with several praising the superb dynamics, the sublime balance of the chassis and the ‘breath of fresh air’ that such a car brings to the marketplace. However, not everything is perfect about the GT86.

The main example of the Toyota’s deficiencies is the engine – whilst it’s a smooth and linear one that loves to be worked hard and revved, several testers were a bit disappointed with the lack of low-down torque, with the general consensus being that the unit only ‘comes alive’ once you extend it beyond 4,000-5,000rpm. Refinement at high speeds was also a recurrent issue that the critics had with the car.

The rest of the package, though, appears to be exemplary, with all the reports suggesting that the Toyota is one of the best drivers’ cars on sale today, especially at this price point. Whilst there are undoubtedly faster and more practical hot hatches for this kind of money, very little seems to be able to match the GT86 for pure enjoyment behind the wheel.

Long story short, whilst it does have flaws when compared with other sports coupes and practical performance cars in this segment and price range, few can hold a candle to the Toyota GT86’s breadth of dynamic ability. If you’re a keen driver who’s looking for a second car or weekend/track day tool that won’t break your bank balance, the GT86 is seriously worth considering.

The press may be lauding the stock GT86 with unlimited levels of praise, but there are a few areas where it does lag behind some rivals, and that’s where the TRD (Toyota Race Developments) extras come in – the complete pack that came with mechanical and aesthetic upgrades that marginally but noticeably improved upon the already very capable standard car. However, unless Toyota rethinks its pricing strategy, fitting them all onto the GT86 might end up being a very costly exercise!

Taking the standard GT86 as a base, the same car with all the TRD-branded bells and whistles comes with, among other things, a new exhaust system, larger and grippier tyres, revised suspension, more sporting bodywork and (presumably) a bit more power. And, if the solitary critic who’s driven a TRD-spec GT86 is anything to go by, the upgrades noticeably improve the car – the tester claims you can feel the extra grip, the car feels more agile and, if there isn’t more power over the standard car, the noise from the new quad tailpipes makes it seem like it does!

There is a catch, though – with all the parts fitted, the Toyota rockets its way up into Porsche and BMW territory, which is where only die-hard GT86 fans would consider the extra money to be worth it. That said, you will be able to buy elements of the pack separately when it goes on sale in January 2013 and there’s still time for Toyota’s European division to have a re-think on the retail price for the new additional equipment before it’s ready for consumers to buy.

The Toyota GT86 is a car made to allow drivers to enjoy rear-wheel-drive motoring, and all the sliding pleasure that can entail. But since it gets a powerful engine and equally potent chassis, it’s almost a given that the GT86 will be driven hard. With that in mind, Toyota has added just enough kit to keep things safe.

There’s ABS, traction control, and a stability control system to stop things getting out of hand. But if your skills permit, you can switch the assists off, and rely on the mechanical grip the car offers, without any intervention from the electronics – something that’s probably best saved for trackdays.

If it all does go a bit pear-shaped then front, side and curtain airbags will hopefully keep you intact. There’s also an airbag for the driver’s knee.

The best bit is that you won’t have to leave your kids at home because there are Isofix child-seat mounts on the car too.

The base version of the GT86 comes with quite a bit of kit as standard (such as a touch-screen display, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, cruise control and stability control), so you could argue it does offer decent value for money. The GT86 also comes with a five year/100,000 mile warranty, so that does give you piece of mind if it does indeed go wrong during that time. 

There are, though, a few areas where the GT86 comes across as a bit pricey – adding some optional extras, such as the infotainment system and even metallic paint, does boost the price up noticeably, and it goes without saying that a few sports cars and similarly priced hot hatchbacks do offer more practicality, better levels of refinement and superior efficiency over what the Toyota can muster. You could look at a Golf GTI for a little bit more money, and that would up the performance and quality levels fairly substantially. 

Still, the GT86 is still a car you could live with (just) on a daily basis, and very few cars of this type that are on sale for this amount of money can beat the Toyota in terms of pure driver involvement.

Toyota GT86 facelift

Toyota has revealed a facelifted GT86 that sports new bumpers with LED headlights and brake lights and new 10-spoke alloy wheels. Stereo controls are now fitted to the steering wheel and you can choose to specify a leather and Alcantara-trimmed interior. Thankfully, the charismatic engine and gearbox combination remains unchanged. The updated GT86 should cost approximately the same as the current model (£22,700) when it goes on sale.

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of the GT86 but don’t like the way it looks, then there’s always the Subaru BRZ – underneath, bar a few minor suspension changes, it’s identical to the Toyota (though we should be saying the BRZ is identical to the GT86, because Subaru did all the technical work on the cars). There’s a slight difference between the two cars, and that’s the way they handle. The reviews suggest that the Subaru has more precise steering while the Toyota is more happy to slide the back end out in enthusiastic driving.

Very few cars in recent memory have been as highly anticipated as the new Toyota GT86 – with a long gestation period and endless teases at its proposed brilliance, everyone was expecting the new Japanese sports car to be a game changer. And although not all the experts agree with that last bit, their verdict on it being a great, affordable performance machine is nigh on unanimous.

Whilst it might not be as practical, as plush or as user-friendly as some of its rivals, hardly any can match the GT86 as a driving tool. It doesn’t radically change the game, but there’s no denying that there’s plenty to like about the Toyota from a “purist’s point of view”.

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