Toyota GT 86

Surprised to see a Toyota win our Performance Car of the Year title? Don’t be. The GT 86 marks a triumphant return to form for the world’s biggest car maker.

This is a back-to-basics sports car that follows a classic recipe to deliver a wonderfully engaging driving experience. From the moment you get behind the wheel, it’s clear this car has been designed and developed by true driving enthusiasts.

An incredible 91 per cent of components are unique to the GT 86, and when Toyota conceived it, three rules were set in stone: it had to have rear-wheel drive, no turbocharging and normal tyres.

Helped by its relatively small wheels and near-perfect weight distribution, it provides the sort of natural driver engagement usually reserved for cars like the Lotus Elise. All the controls are beautifully weighted with great feedback, while every input from the throttle and steering results in a crisp response.

Body control is superb, the brakes have plenty of bite and the manual gearbox slots happily from ratio to ratio, while the boxer engine relishes hard work.

The car is engaging at safe road speeds, yet playfully driftable at the track, and you could drive the GT 86 all day and not get bored as its handling is so accurate.

It’s fine for everyday use, too. It’s comfy, doesn’t ride too badly and has a faultless driving position – even the boot is a decent size.

So is it perfect? Well, the cabin’s a little old-fashioned and some people will crave more performance, but there’s real magic on display here.

Better still, the affordable price tag and five-year warranty mean Toyota’s new sports car appeals to your head as well as your heart. It’s a very worthy performance car champion.

Behind the wheel

Owen Mildenhall, Senior road tester

In an age when many performance cars filter your interaction with the road in the pursuit of meaningless lap times, the Toyota GT 86 stands out. Drive it on the limit, and you can feel the effect of every input from the steering, throttle and brake pedal. Accurate, fun and vice free, this is a car that makes you long for a twisty road every time you slide into the driver’s seat.

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