Toyota GT 86 review
The Toyota GT 86 is our Performance Car of the Year 2013 - it's great fun and well priced, too
The Toyota GT 86 is a tempting prospect for sports car fans - it offers the low price and reliability of a Toyota with on-the-road thrills and a racy 2.0-litre boxer engine. The engine produces just 197bhp, which might not sound like much for a sports car, but thanks to the low weight of the car and the excellent handling the Toyota GT 86 is massively fun to drive. You might also consider an Audi TT or a Nissan 370Z, but the low price of the Toyota means it looks like great value for money, too. It's available with either a manual or automatic gearbox (go for the manual), but there's another choice you could make - the Subaru BRZ is an identical car, so you can choose which dealer you prefer to buy from and which badge is on the bonnet. The Subaru will have more exclusivity, but Toyota is more likely to have a dealership nearby for servicing. Both scored very well in the 2013 Driver Power dealer survey, however, so expect the buying process to be very smooth. There's also a TRD version of the car, which adds some tuning parts and has a more aggressive look, but it's very pricey.
Our choice: GT 86 2.0 2dr Manual
The Toyota GT 86 is a purposeful-looking sports car, with an aggressive stance, a long bonnet and a short tail - it's a very traditional look for a sporty coupe. The Subaru BRZ is virtually indistinguishable from the Toyota, and both get a large front grille and a rear splitter with two exhaust pipes. The Audi TT has a much more premium feel, especially on the inside, but the way the GT 86 looks reflects the character of the car- it's fun. The interior of the GT 86 is full of cheap-looking plastics, but the layout and finish of the trim really makes it feel like a racing car for the road. The Toyota GT 86 TRD version gets a distinctive bodykit, with a new front spoiler, side skirts and new 18-inch alloy wheels.
There's not much that comes close to the driving enjoyment offered from the Toyota GT 86 at such a low price. The rear-wheel drive chassis is perfectly balanced, and the low weight of the car means it excels in the corners. There's loads of feedback from the steering, and the brakes are strong without biting - giving the driver loads of confidence when driving quickly. Although the interior can get a bit noisy at speed, the Toyota even manages to be decent on the motorway, as the ride isn't too harsh. The 2.0-litre flat-four boxer engine gets 197bhp and to keep the power flowing the gearbox needs to be worked quite hard - but keen drivers won't mind too much. The Nissan 370Z offers much more torque, and some may prefer it to the sometimes lacking engine in the GT 86. However, if you’re prepared to push for performance, then the GT 86 can offer an extremely rewarding drive.
Toyota has a great reputation for building reliable cars, and the GT 86 shouldn't be any different - it comes with the manufacturer's full five-year warranty. The interior plastics do feel a bit cheap, but on the whole the car is well made and should stand the test of time just as well as any other Toyota. Toyota finished ninth in the list of the top manufacturers in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and third in the dealer network poll, so there should be few problems with the ownership experience. As for safety, the car gets seven airbags, stability control and a limited-slip differential (for better grip in corners) as standard.
The Toyota GT 86 is a 2+2 coupe, which means it has rear seats, but they are only really able to seat small children and with a tall driver there is no legroom at all. The seats are comfortable, however, even on longer journeys, there's plenty of space in the front. With a 243-litre boot, the Toyota GT 86 is less practical for trips away than the Audi TT (which gets 292 litres), but it’s a useful shape and can accommodate a surprising amount of shopping. However the Toyota could easily still be used as a daily driver, providing nobody needs to sit in the back - though there are actually Isofix child seat fixings in the back if you've got very small children.
With fuel economy of just 36.2mpg, the GT 86 is hardly cheap to run, despite being so lightweight. In comparison, a similarly specced Audi TT with the 1.8-litre TFSI engine, manages 44.1mpg. Emissions aren't great either, at 181g/km of CO2, compared to the TT's 149g/km. The figures are a bit better in the automatic version, at 39.8mpg and 164g/km, but we don't think you should be buying a GT 86 if you're massively concerned with running costs - go for the manual and you'll have more fun and the car will go faster, too. Servicing and maintenance costs should be reasonable, though, and all models come with Toyota’s five-year warranty.