"Fun to drive coupe that brings a much-needed dose of excitement to Toyota line-up."
The Toyota GT 86 has been charged with injecting a little excitement into the Japanese brand's dull and dependable image. Developed in partnership with Subaru, the rear-wheel drive coupe promises to mix driving fun with great value for money. The GT 86 is priced at around £25,000, and is aimed squarely at entry-level versions of the evergreen Audi TT. While the Toyota isn’t as attractive as the sleek Audi or muscular Nissan 370Z, it still has the ability to turn heads. And what the interior lacks in quality and cutting edge design, it more than makes up for with generous standard kit. But the GT 86 is car that demands to be driven rather than looked at. Sharp and engaging handling, a characterful 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and strong brakes help make the Toyota a number one choice for back road blasts - and the easy winner of our 2013 CarBuyer Best Coupe Award.
Thanks to its simple front-engine and rear-wheel drive layout, the beautifully balanced Toyota GT 86 delivers traditional driving thrills. The steering is direct and full of feedback, allowing you to place the GT 86 on the road with pinpoint accuracy. And while the Toyota lacks the outright grip of the Audi TT or Nissan 370Z, it's lower limits make the car's handling feel much more approachable and adjustable. Strong brakes and a precise gearshift complete the impressive driving dynamics. The only weak point is the 197bhp 2.0-litre flat-four engine, which feels a little sluggish at low speeds. Still, what it lacks in outright performance, it makes up for with a growling exhaust note.
Given its sportscar status, the Toyota GT 86 is surprisingly comfortable. The suspension is firm, yet does a good job of soaking up bumps, while the raucous engine dies down to a distant hum on the motorway. And while wind and road noise aren’t quite as well suppressed as in an Audi TT, the GT 86 is still a remarkably relaxing long distance cruiser. What's more, the heavily bolstered, high backed seats are supremely supportive.
Toyota has a strong reputation for reliability – and there's no reason to expect the GT 86 will be any different. The 2.0-litre flat-four engine is normally aspirated, so there are no complicated turbochargers or superchargers, while the car's lightweight construction means brakes and tyres should have an easy life. And while some of the materials used in the cabin look and feel a little cheap, overall build quality is first rate. There should be no safety worries either, as every GT 86 gets a full complement of seven airbags as standard, plus there's the added reassurance of electronic stability control.
Given that it's billed as a sportscar, it's no surprise to find the Toyota can’t match a family hatchback for space. However, it also struggles to match versatile coupe rivals such as the VW Scirocco for space. The two rear seats are only really suitable for children, while the boot can only swallow 243 litres of luggage. At least there's a folding rear bench, while the cabin is full of useful storage, including decent sized door bins and a large glovebox. Those sitting up front get plenty of head and legroom, while the driver will have no problem finding a comfortable driving position thanks to a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment.
Value for money
It's hard fault the Toyota GT 86 when it comes to value for money. For roughly the same price as an entry-level Audi TT, you get a car that's much better quipped and backed by a longer warranty. There's only one mode, but it has the amount of standard kit normally reserved for an expensive executive saloon. A touch screen sat-nav, Bluetooth handsfree phone connection and heated seats all feature, as do powerful xenon headlamps and 17-inch alloy wheels. And as with every Toyota, the GT 86 is backed by a generous five year, 100,000-mile guarantee.
The average official fuel economy figure for the GT 86 is 36.2mpg, with emissions of 181g/km, putting it in Road Tax band I - which is quite high. While the mpg figure may be achievable on longer journeys, heavy use of the throttle will no doubt see this figure drop quite considerably, resulting in regular fuel stops. However, the added peace of mind of a five year warranty should help to keep any unscheduled repair costs to a minimum.