Used Toyota GT86 review
A full used buyer’s guide on the Toyota GT86 covering the GT86 Mk1 (2012-2020)
When the GT86 arrived, Toyota once again had a halo sports car to lust after. Immediately, it was critically acclaimed for its brilliant handling, and showed that just 197bhp was plenty to create a fun coupe. In the few years leading up to the arrival of the GT86, Toyota’s focus had been on its frugal hybrid technology and its SUVs, the brand’s famous sporty model lines like the Supra, MR2 and Celica had been left by the wayside. Pre-GT86, Toyota’s fastest-accelerating car was the V8-powered Land Cruiser behemoth.
Not that the GT86 chased fast sprint figures; instead, engineers focused on making it as light as possible and prioritised cornering dynamics over straight-line speed. Skinny tyres and rear-wheel drive made it great fun to drive, and the GT86’s centre of gravity was lower to the ground than that of the Porsche Cayman.
While many driver’s cars are compromised in terms of reliability or affordability, that isn’t the case with the Toyota. This really is a model that will suit a huge number of people unless ultimate practicality is key. The potential fly in the ointment is finding the right GT86 for you, because this isn’t a big-selling car in the UK. Owners also tend to hang on to them, so there aren’t huge numbers for sale at any one time. But as long as you’re prepared to travel or wait for the right example if necessary, you should be able to source the GT86 of your dreams.
Car group tests
- Mazda MX-5 RF vs Toyota GT86
- Toyota GT86 2.0 Boxer Automatic - Best cars for under £400
- Toyota GT86 Aero vs Subaru WRX STi & SEAT Leon Cupra
The rear-wheel-drive GT86 is the spiritual successor to the earlier rear-driven Celicas, along with the Corolla GT that was loved by hot-hatch enthusiasts in the eighties. So when Toyota teamed up with Subaru to create a driver’s car par excellence, the goal was achieved; the GT86 proved you don’t need a lot of power to really enjoy every drive.
- Toyota GT86 (2012-2020) - sporty Japanese coupé perfectly blends performance with practicality.
The first GT86s reached British roads in July 2012. There was only one trim level, and all cars had a 197bhp 2.0-litre flat-four petrol engine with either manual or automatic gearboxes, both with six ratios. A refresh in October 2014 brought a new entry-level Primo edition, a limited-run Giallo with metallic yellow paint, and the GT86 Aero, which added a bodykit. Tyre pressure monitoring became standard, too.
A Euro 6-compliant engine arrived in July 2015, while the GT86 Aero gained 18-inch alloys. A new Blanco special edition with pearlescent white paint and heated leather-trimmed seats joined the range, too. The car was more heavily revised in October 2017 with a stiffer bodyshell, retuned suspension, updated instrumentation, tweaked styling and improved aerodynamics. There was also a GT86 Pro range-topper with leather and Alcantara trim.
Which one should I buy?
Part of the pleasure of driving a GT86 comes from the deliciously precise gearchange, so while the auto box works well enough, and cars fitted with these have quite a following, most people will be better off buying the manual. Other than that, it’s a question of finding the best GT86 that you can afford.
The standard car came with dual-zone climate control, sports seats, bi-xenon headlights, powered folding door mirrors with electric adjustment, and 17-inch alloys. Sat-nav was an option, along with leather and Alcantara-trimmed heated front seats, although some special editions got these as standard. Another option worth seeking out is the nine-speaker JBL sound system.
Alternatives to the Toyota GT86
The obvious alternative to the GT86 is a Subaru BRZ, because it’s essentially the same car with a different set of badges. The Subaru is rare, though; the agreement between the two companies meant the lion’s share of cars wore Toyota badges.
Audi’s TT is a hugely desirable sports car, with four-wheel drive on some models. It’s good to drive, although not as engaging as the Toyota, but you can buy one in coupé or roadster forms, with either petrol or diesel engines, and manual or auto transmissions.
The Volkswagen Scirocco also offers hatchback usability and a decent choice of engines or gearboxes, but this isn’t as much fun as the Toyota, either. The Nissan 370Z is another contender, with its muscular V6 engine and rear-wheel drive, but it’s thirsty.
What to look for
The manual box’s change into second gear can be particularly obstructive, especially until the oil has warmed up.
Several owners have had problems with batteries going flat because of incorrectly wired heated seats, so ask vendors about this.
Squeaky stoppers seem to be a fact of life for many GT86 owners, with effective fixes proving elusive; listen out for noisy brakes during a test drive.
The seat bolsters aren’t as durable as you might hope; they can wear through in fewer than 20,000 miles, so check for damage here.
For a brilliant driver’s car the GT86 is fairly practical, because while the rear seats are only really suitable for children, they fold down to boost the 237-litre boot. The cabin design seems dated in places and some materials don’t look or feel of premium quality, but the seats are grippy and supportive, the available equipment ticks the right boxes and all the controls are user-friendly enough.
All GT86s have to be serviced every 12 months or 10,000 miles. The schedule simply alternates between minor and major, priced at £250 and £395 respectively. The major service includes a brake-fluid change, because that’s due every two years or 20,000 miles, while the coolant should be replaced after the first 100,000 miles or 10 years, then every 60,000 miles or six years.
The cost of this is included in the major service, and because the engine is chain-driven, there’s no cambelt to replace, which helps to shave running costs. Once a GT86 hits its fifth birthday, it’s eligible for membership of the Toyota 5+ Club, which knocks 20 per cent off any maintenance or MoT performed by an official dealer.
The Toyota has the edge over the Subaru when it comes to warranty. Subaru BRZs get three years and 60,000 miles of cover, whereas the Toyotas left the factory with a five-year warranty. In 2021, Toyota announced its Relax warranty cover, which provides peace of mind for 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Impressively, the cover also applies to used cars; even if your car’s more than five years old, it can have a year’s warranty cover if you have it serviced at a Toyota garage.
Toyota has issued two GT86 recalls. In October 2016, 4,556 cars built from April 2012 to March 2015 were called back because the steering power assistance could be lost. The fix is a new wiring harness. A recall in April 2019 affected 3,505 GT86s made from April 2012 to May 2013, with potentially faulty valve springs leading to possible engine damage. Stronger springs are the fix.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The GT86 hasn’t appeared in our Driver Power surveys, but Toyota regularly finishes in the top 10 of our brands poll. Even more impressive are owner ratings across the reviews on our sister website carbuyer.co.uk; virtually all the write-ups give the Toyota a full five-star rating. Owners love the handling, rarity, reliability, practicality and value – and dislike virtually nothing.