Toyota GT 86 review
The rear-wheel-drive Toyota GT 86 is the sister car to the Subaru BRZ, and is great fun to drive
The Toyota GT 86 looks great on paper, offering buyers an attractive package of aggressive looks, pinpoint handling and Toyota’s famous reliability. Given that it undercuts rivals like the Audi TT and Nissan 370Z, the GT 86 makes a strong case for itself. It’s currently available in just two specs – automatic or manual – and the latter offers the more rewarding set-up. Even though the 2.0-litre, 197bhp flat four engine can feel gutless at low revs, the GT 86 proves a sweet chassis can be enormously rewarding.
Our choice: GT 86 2.0 2dr Manual
The GT 86 debuted with a distinct metallic orange paintjob that showed off the car’s aggressive stance and aerodynamic creases, while highlighting the low roofline and short tail. Although the gaping central grille and vents in the front bumper give the Toyota an imposing front end, there are very few distinguishing features to separate it from its Subaru sibling. Stand either next to an Audi TT, and the Japanese pair lack the premium feel of their German rival. This is even more evident inside, where the cabin is awash with cheap plastics, making the whole car feel less upmarket than its price tag suggests.
This is where the GT 86 excels. The lightweight, perfectly balanced chassis is a joy to drive and the rear-weel-drive setup is superb fun in corners. The steering gives great feedback and the brakes are progressive rather than biting, which inspires confidence in the driver's ability. The GT 86 is also a better motorway car than you might expect. It has a relatively forgiving ride and cruises well in top gear, too, although the cabin does get quite noisy at high speed. The biggest problem, though, is that the 2.0-litre flat four requires an enthusiastic attitude and some eager gearchanges to make the most of the 197bhp on tap. The narrow power band can prove frustrating, and at low revs this car doesn’t come close to rivals like the Nissan 370Z. However, if you’re prepared to push for performance, then the GT 86 can offer an extremely rewarding drive.
Toyota has a strong reputation for reliability, and the fact that all models come with a five-year warranty should give prospective buyers peace of mind. The Japanese carmaker came fifth in the 2012 Driver Power survey, showing that owners have an established confidence in the brand – putting it one place behind Nissan (4th) but well ahead of Subaru (11th) and Audi (15th). When it comes to build quality, interior plastics do feel cheap in places, but overall the car feels solid and well made.
The GT 86 is a strict 2+2, meaning the cramped rear seats are reserved almost exclusively for kids. That said, the front seats are accommodating, offering plenty of support for longer journeys. In terms of boot space, the GT 86’s 243 litres is less than the 292 litres offered in an Audi TT, but it’s a useful shape and can accommodate a surprising amount of shopping. All this makes a strong case for the Toyota as a daily driver, but if you need the back seats on a regular basis, it’s best to look elsewhere.
The GT 86 manages to return average fuel economy of just 36.2mpg. In comparison, a similarly specced Audi TT with the 1.8-litre TFSI engine, manages 44.1mpg. Emissions are fairly poor, too: the GT 86 chucks out 181g/km of CO2, while the relatively eco-friendly TT emits just 149g/km. If you go for the automatic option, these figures improve slightly, to 39.8mpg and 164g/km, but performance suffers as a result and the GT 86 feels even more strained. Servicing and maintenance costs should be reasonable, though, and all models come with Toyota’s five-year warranty.