Toyota GT86 (2012-2021) review - Engines, performance and drive
Great balance and nimble steering make the GT86 a joy through the bends – but more power would be good
With its low price and impressive handling, the Toyota GT86 has few rivals that come close to beating it for driving enjoyment at such a low cost. However, with the newer Mazda MX-5 now on sale, the Japanese coupe doesn't have it as easy as it once did.
The rear-wheel-drive chassis on the Toyota GT86 is perfectly balanced, however. There's loads of feedback from the 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 still 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 GT86 could easily cope with an extra 50bhp, which would make it all the more entertaining.
In fact, owners often complain that the GT86 isn't really fast enough, yet in slippery conditions, 197bhp feels like plenty. Despite a mild facelift in 2017, however, there's still no option for a more powerful turbocharged version. The aforementioned facelift did make some changes to the shocks and steering, but you'd be hard-pushed to notice the changes without driving the two cars back-to-back.
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
- Toyota GT 86 Orange Edition review
- New Toyota GT 86 2017 facelift review
- Mazda MX-5 vs Toyota GT 86
- Cosworth GT86 review
Used car tests
The interior can get a bit noisy at speed and the firm suspension is a bit bouncy on the motorway – but the GT86 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's gearbox needs to be worked quite hard. Keen drivers won't mind too much, and the car will manage 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds with some nimble shifting.
Opt for the auto and you get a traditional torque converter unit rather than a 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 ageing Nissan 370Z offers much more torque than the GT86, 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 GT86 can prove extremely rewarding.
In this review
- 1Toyota GT86 (2012-2021) reviewThe Toyota GT86 combines great fun and excellent value in a good-looking package
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingGreat balance and nimble steering make the GT86 a joy through the bends – but more power would be good
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEconomy and emissions lag behind class-leaders, and depreciation is significant too
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe focus is on fun, not premium fit and finish, but the Toyota GT86 has tons of personality
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Toyota GT 86 makes a practical tourer for two, but don't coun on it for the school run
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe GT86 is not the most reliable Toyota, says our Driver Power survey - but it's still a Toyota!