Toyota GT 86 review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Toyota GT 86 combines great fun and excellent value in a good-looking package

Competitive prices, brilliant handling, accurate steering
Slightly gutless engine, cheap interior plastics, poor economy

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The Toyota GT 86 is a back-to-basics, rear-drive sports car with a bargain list price and plenty of driver appeal. It's identical to its sister car, the Subaru BRZ, in all but its badge, sharing the same 2.0-litre 197bhp boxer engine and six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed auto is also available as an option, but we'd avoid this as it doesn't do justice to the car's sporty nature.

While the GT 86 isn't the most powerful car in its class, the naturally aspirated engine begs to be revved and offers plenty of performance for keen drivers. The lightweight body and rear-wheel drive layout make it one of the best handling sports cars on sale,

It's been on sale since 2012, and is now available in a choice of specifications. There's the basic GT 86 Primo, which does without keyless entry, climate control and automatic headlights, as well as a pair of high-end special editions called the GT 86 Giallo and the GT 86 Aero. The latter adds a sporty bodykit and huge rear wing, but retains the same 2.0-litre engine.

Toyota GT 86 vs rivals

The Audi TT is also an alternative to the Toyota GT 86 and the Subaru BRZ but the low price of the both of the ’Toyobaru’ cars means they're better value. The Subaru BRZ is now cheaper than a manual Toyota GT 86 thanks to a £2,500 discount and has more exclusivity. Toyota, however, has a wider dealership network should anything go wrong.

Both Toyota and Subaru scored very well in the 2014 Driver Power manufacturer survey and ranked 17th and 16th respectively.

Toyota also makes a tuned Toyota Racing Development (TRD) version of the GT 86, which adds some tuning parts and has a more aggressive looks. However, it's very pricey.

Our choice: GT 86 2.0 2dr Manual

Engines, performance and drive


With its low price and impressive handling, there isn't much that comes close to beating the Toyota GT 86 for driving enjoyment at such a low cost.

The rear-wheel drive chassis on the Toyota GT 86 is perfectly balanced, and the low weight of the car means it excels in corners. There's loads of feedback from the steering, and the GT 86's brakes are strong without biting, meaning the driver gets loads of confidence when driving quickly.

Even weight distribution means the car feels well balanced, though, while responsive steering allows you to catch tail slides with relative ease. On track, you can easily turn a slide into a drift by keeping the power on, although circuit use also demonstrates that the GT86 could easily cope with an extra 50bhp, which would make it all the more entertaining.

Toyota GT 86 rear action

The interior can get a bit noisy at speed and the firm suspension is a bit bouncy on the motorway. The 2.0-litre flat-four boxer engine generates 197bhp and to keep the power flowing, the Toyota GT 86's gearbox needs to be worked quite hard - but keen drivers won't mind too much.

The Nissan 370Z offers much more torque than the GT 86, and some may prefer its muscular 324bhp V6 engine to the free-revving unit in the Toyota.

However, if you’re prepared to push for performance, then the GT 86 can offer an extremely rewarding drive.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


Despite its small 2.0-litre engine, the Toyota GT 86 is quite expensive to run. The six-speed manual version returns just 36.2mpg and emits 181g/km of CO2. Add the sporty bumpers and huge rear wing of the Aero model, and combined fuel economy drops to 34.9mpg.

To put it into perspective, a similarly specced Audi TT with the 1.8-litre TFSI petrol engine returns 44.1mpg. The Audi is also more efficient thanks to emissions of 149g/km.

The Toyota GT 86 with the automatic gearbox has slightly better figures. It manages 39.8mpg and emits 164g/km. But that model is best avoided as the manual is faster and far more fun. If you're looking at buying a GT 86, a few mpg shouldn't put you off.

Servicing and maintenance costs should be reasonable for the Toyota GT 86 and all models come with Toyota's five-year warranty.

Interior, design and technology


The Toyota GT 86 is a traditional looking sports car with aggressive styling, which includes a long bonnet and a short tail, plus a large front grille and rear splitter with twin exhausts. The Subaru BRZ is virtually indistinguishable aside from the badges.

The Audi TT has a more premium feel and appearance, especially on the inside, but the way the Toyota GT 86 looks reflects its personality - it's fun.

The interior of the Toyota GT 86 is full of cheap looking plastics, but the layout (flick switches, for example) and the mock-carbon fibre trim make it feel like a road-going racer. The frameless rear-view mirror and optional built-in sat-nav give it the edge over Subaru's BRZ, but hot hatch rivals like the Ford Focus ST are cheaper and nicer inside.

The Toyota GT 86 TRD gets an even more aggressive body kit, which has a different front spoiler, side skirts and special 18-inch alloy wheels, while special edition Aero models add a huge rear wing – without any tweaks to the engine. The GT 86 Giallo gets a vibrant yellow paint job, but only 86 will be made available to UK buyers, so if you want one you'll have to act fast.

Then there's the GT 86 Aero to give a bit of extra visual impact. There's a new bodykit, deeper front bumper and side skirts and a carbon fibre-effect rear diffuser. The most noticeable addition is a huge rear wing which looks a little bit like an awkward aftermarket add-on. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space


You don’t buy a GT86 for practical reasons, but it does come with a 243-litre boot, which is easily big enough to take the weekly shop or use on a weekend away. The back seats fold in a 50:50 split, although the car’s designers claim it’s big enough for a set of tyres – ideal for use on track days. 

Toyota GT 86 interior

Legroom in the back seats is limited for even the smallest occupants, so the rear is only really useful as extra storage space. 

Up front, there’s plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, although the low-slung driving position hampers your view out, so it isn’t as good as you get in either rival here. That big rear wing means rear visibility is slightly compromised, especially over the shoulder, while rear parking sensors are only available as a dealer-fit option.

Reliability and Safety


Toyota has a reputation for producing bulletproof cars, although the GT86 is actually built by Subaru. However, there’s plenty of similar technology used by both manufacturers, and a GT86 should be stress-free to own. It’s helped by the fact you get a five-year/100,000-mile warranty, while Toyota dealers have a good reputation for customer service, too.

The GT86 features seven airbags, while the electronic stability control has a Sport setting designed to allow you to maximise track fun without disabling all of the safety systems.

As for safety, the Toyota GT 86 gets seven airbags, stability control and a limited-slip differential (for better grip in corners) as standard. It has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP.

Last updated: 10 Feb, 2015