Toyota GT86 review 2013
There’s no overstatement in suggesting that we’ve been waiting years for this car. By that we don’t just mean enduring the interminable period of delays and introductions as journalists before finally getting our hands on a UK-spec Toyota GT86 (although we have had to do just that). We mean ‘we’ in a broader sense, as in the wait that every car enthusiast with modest resources has had to tolerate before a manufacturer summoned up the necessary gumption to build an authentic, low-weight, low-cost, compact sports car.
Despite boasting a heritage that contains the Celica, the Supra and the MR2, Toyota has passed through a period of recent history that has been so mundane that the GT86’s potential place close to our hearts seems almost to be a novelty.
However, the manufacturer’s three stated criteria for the GT86 (which has been developed in conjunction with the Subaru BRZ) read like a purist’s manifesto: rear-wheel drive, no turbocharging, ordinary tyres. The objective, it gloriously affirms, was driver-focused fun. No further introduction is necessary.
The Toyota GT 86 has been charged with injecting a little excitement into the Japanese brand's dull and dependable image. Developed in partnership with Subaru, the rear-wheel drive coupe promises to mix driving fun with great value for money. The GT 86 is priced at around £25,000, and is aimed squarely at entry-level versions of the evergreen Audi TT. While the Toyota isn’t as attractive as the sleek Audi or muscular Nissan 370Z, it still has the ability to turn heads. And what the interior lacks in quality and cutting edge design, it more than makes up for with generous standard kit. But the GT 86 is car that demands to be driven rather than looked at. Sharp and engaging handling, a characterful 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and strong brakes help make the Toyota a number one choice for back road blasts - and the easy winner of our 2013 CarBuyer Best Coupe Award.
The Toyota GT86 falls into the same bracket as we grouped the Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 into last year. Both cars, though not fast, feel like they have a pleasing level of performance. They are slow enough to be able to enjoy on the road for more than just a second or two’s burst of throttle, but quick enough for necessary overtaking.
Therefore, don’t be put off by the fact that, on paper, it looks decidedly under-nourished compared with its price rivals and dispatches the 0-60mph sprint in ‘just’ 7.4sec.
At about £25,000, a hot hatch like a Vauxhall Astra VXR or Renault Mégane RS will not only give you at least 60 extra bhp, but they also come to you more easily than in the Toyota, whose engine asks you to work it to 7000rpm for its peak 197bhp, and even to 6400rpm for its 151lb ft peak of torque. Truth be told, a £17,135 Renault Clio RS is a closer performance rival.
But to dismiss the Toyota on that basis would be a mistake. Its performance isn’t about numbers; in the same way that a Renault Clio RS is more fun than an Astra VXR, or in the same fashion that the Morgan 3 Wheeler we tested just a few weeks ago wormed its way into our hearts despite its modest poke, it’s about feel, communication and enjoyment.
Make no mistake: the GT86’s performance is worth working for. And you do have to work it. Throttle response is crisp, the gearshift is positive and precise (if not entirely notch free) and the flat four makes a solid rasp once you wind it up, as you have to, to make swift progress. All sports cars were thus once. We didn’t mind then, and we don’t mind now.
Thanks to its 1235kg tested weight, the GT86 stops pretty well, too, and it resisted fade comfortably during heavy runs on track in warm weather.