Toyota GT 86 review
The Toyota GT 86 combines great fun and excellent value in a good-looking package
While the GT 86 isn't the most powerful car in its class, the 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 too, especially at the affordable end of the segment where the GT 86 competes.
It’s practical too, once you’ve accepted the limitations of a nominal 2+2 seat layout.
MPG and CO2 efficiency aren’t GT 86 highlights, and neither is the feel of the interior, but if you want the most engaging drive of anything in its price bracket – and some way beyond – the Toyota coupe delivers.
Toyota launched the GT 86 to address criticism that its line-up lacked excitement for driving enthusiasts, resulting in a back-to-basics, rear-drive sports coupe with a bargain list price and plenty of driver appeal.
The GT 86 was named after two of Toyota's (arguably) most inspiring cars. These are the 1960s 2000GT, which also donates some styling cues to the GT 86, and the mid-80s AE86, which has become legendary amongst the ‘drift’ fraternity for offering fun rear-drive characteristics in a cheap hatchback body.
The Toyota GT 86 is 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.
The Audi TT and Nissan 370Z are two possible rivals for the Toyota GT 86 along with the Subaru BRZ, but the low price of the both of the ’Toyobaru’ cars makes them more of a value proposition. Buyers might also be looking at the VW Scirocco, Renault Megane Coupe or any number of hot hatches.
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.
The GT 86 has been on sale since 2012, and is available in a limited choice of specifications. There's the basic GT 86 Primo, which does without the standard car’s keyless entry, climate control and automatic headlights, as well as a couple of high-end special editions called the GT 86 Blanco and GT 86 Aero. The latter adds a sporty bodykit and huge rear wing, but retains the same 2.0-litre engine.
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 a lot pricier.
Engines, performance and drive
With its low price and impressive handling, the Toyota GT 86 has few rivals that come close to beating it for driving enjoyment at such a low cost.
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The rear-wheel drive chassis on the Toyota GT 86 is perfectly balanced, and the relatively low overall weight of the car, coupled to a low centre of gravity, means it excels in corners.
There's loads of feedback from the GT 86's steering and the brakes are strong without biting harshly, meaning the driver gets loads of confidence when driving quickly.
An even weight distribution means the car feels well balanced, 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 GT 86 could easily cope with an extra 50bhp, which would make it all the more entertaining.
The interior can get a bit noisy at speed and the firm suspension is a bit bouncy on the motorway – but the GT 86 will put a smile back on your face as soon as you turn onto a twisty A-road.
The 2.0-litre flat-four boxer engine generates 197bhp and 205Nn of torque. Those are relatively modest numbers for a car of this nature, and to keep the power flowing, the Toyota GT 86's gearbox needs to be worked quite hard. Keen drivers won't mind too much, and the car will reach 62mph from rest in 7.6 seconds with some nimble shifting.
Opt for the auto and you get a traditional torque converter unit rather than the preferred dual-clutch set-up, although Toyota reckons its gearbox has software that mimics the feel of a dual-clutch box. It saps power though, to the extent that 0-62mph takes a rather pedestrian 8.2 seconds.
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. All versions of Audi’s TT are quicker than the Toyota, too.
However, if you’re prepared to push for performance and are more interested in the actual drive than comparing vital statistics, then the GT 86 can prove extremely rewarding.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Despite its small 2.0-litre engine, the Toyota GT 86 is surprisingly expensive to run. The six-speed manual version returns just 36.2mpg and emits 181g/km of CO2.
With the sporty bumpers and huge rear wing of the Aero model, fuel economy drops to 34.9mpg. With a fuel tank capacity just shy of 11 gallons, that would mean you’ll be visiting the fuel station every 380 miles – or fewer with something in reserve.
The truth is, of course, that driving the GT 86 in the manner intended is likely to see consumption drop to the wrong side of 30mpg.
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To put the figures into perspective, a similarly specced Audi TT with the 1.8-litre TFSI petrol engine returns 44.1mpg on the combined cycle (a mixture of urban and out of town driving) – which is all the Toyota can manage as its out of town figure. The Audi is also cleaner thanks to CO2 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 probably shouldn't put you off anyway.
Unlike rivals from VW and Audi, Toyota offers no diesel option to further extend efficiency.
Servicing and maintenance costs should be reasonable for the Toyota GT 86 though, and all models come with Toyota's five-year warranty so it’s not all bad news.
All Toyota GT 86 models are group 30, which is pretty much what you’d expect given the performance levels on tap.
Sadly the Toyota GT 86’s engaging driving experience does not seem to be translating into strong second-hand demand. As a result, the depreciation curve is much fiercer than that of the Audi TT, whose premium badge gives it a big advantage. We reckon you’ll be doing well to keep more than 45 percent of a Toyota GT 86’s showroom price after three years, whereas the TT could retain as much as 57 per cent.
It could be worse – the Nissan 370Z is not only significantly more expensive than the Toyota, but it'll likely shed more value too. 42 per cent predicted residuals mean you may not be able to consider the £30k+ 370Z as a new rival for your GT 86, but if you’re looking for a three-year-old car they’ll be similarly priced.
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.
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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-carbonfibre 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 such as the Ford Focus ST are cheaper to buy and they're 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.
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 carbonfibre-effect rear diffuser. The most noticeable addition is a huge rear wing which looks a little bit like an awkward aftermarket add-on.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All GT 86 models come with a six-speaker audio system, which is part of the Toyota Touch multimedia package. Featuring a 6.1-inch touch screen, the Bluetooth compatible system acts as the single interface for everything from sat-nav to smartphones.
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There are a limited number of apps, including a ‘send to car’ function for google location searches. Upgrading to Touch & Go Plus adds voice recognition and email integration.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The GT 86 is a 2 plus 2, which means it comes with a back seat divided into a pair of buckets with safety belts for two passengers. It may as well not have one though, as it’s so cramped back there as to be virtually unusable by anyone out of junior school.
But that’s not really the point of the GT 86, and for those up front there’s plenty of space to enjoy. For the driver there’s plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, although the low-slung driving position could hamper the view out if you’re short in stature – which would be particularly noticeable if you came to the Toyota from a sporty hatchback.
The big rear wing on the Aero model means rear visibility is compromised too, especially over the shoulder, while rear parking sensors are only available as a dealer-fit option.
There’s a surprising amount of cabin storage, with big door bins and a decent glovebox, as well as space for your phone and drinks in the centre console.
The Toyota is 4,240mm long, so 6cms longer than the Audi. The Renault measures up at 4,299mm nose-to-tail.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Legroom in the back seats is limited for even the smallest occupants, so the rear is only really useful as extra storage space. Even trying to accommodate a single person sitting sideways across the rear seat would be made trickier by the central console that extends right through the car to the rear seat back.
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Babies and toddlers get ISOFIX mounts though, although getting the kids strapped into them might feel like a bit of a chore if you have to do it more than occasionally.
You don’t buy a GT86 for practical reasons, but it does come with a 237-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, and the car’s designers claim the space is big enough for a full set of wheels and tyres – ideal for use on track days.
Reliability and Safety
Toyota has a reputation for producing bullet-proof 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 very good warranty, while Toyota dealers have a good reputation for customer service, too.
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As brands, both Toyota and Subaru scored very well in the overall 2015 Driver Power manufacturer survey and ranked 8th and 12th respectively. Their specific reliability scores were even better, with Toyota coming third (its sister brand Lexus was first) and Subaru following close behind in fifth.
However, the GT 86 wasn’t one of Toyota’s star performers, attaining only an ‘above average’ 79th place for reliability out of the 200 cars surveyed. Its build quality rating was worse at 171st, but we think this is more attributable to Toyota’s choice of ‘built to a price’ cabin materials than any intrinsic weaknesses.
On the safety front, 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. A limited-slip differential (for better grip in corners) comes as standard too. The car has yet to be tested by EuroNCAP, although modern Toyotas typically do well in the tests so we’d hope the GT 86 won’t buck the trend.
A good reputation for reliability isn’t just a great marketing boost; it also means Toyota can afford to offer one of the best manufacturer warranties in the business. That means full factory cover for five years, up to a limit of 100,000 miles. You could get a seven-year warranty, but you’d have to be looking at a Kia Pro_Cee’d instead of the Toyota GT 86. Other coupe rivals such as the Nissan 370Z and Audi TT come with only three years of cover.
Servicing should be pretty reasonable at Toyota workshop rates, and the company offers fixed price deals for intermediate and full services on the GT 86 at £179 and £299 respectively. You can spread the cost monthly, too.