The GT86 is a sports car that’s relatively unique in its sector. Apart from the Subaru BRZ, it’s 99 percent identical to, of course. There are no turbocharger, very little chassis tech and some deliberately skinny tires. It’s primary aim isn’t grip, nor luxury, nor cocooning refinement. Its primary aim is fun.
Its whole recipe is decidedly old school. There’s just one engine – a 197bhp 2.0-liter four-cylinder – and it drives only the rear wheels, through a three-stage stability control system but no complex rear-wheel steering or the like.
While you can have an automatic gearbox, you shouldn’t have it. The standard six-speed manual is very good, and far more in keeping with the car’s ethos. The GT86 is a fantastic little coupe. Light on its feet, eager to change direction, it also rides beautifully and has delicious brakes. The off-beat flat-four engine is sweet and best of all, it’s joyfully well balanced when you turn off the stability control and have a bit of fun.
Even the electric power steering is masterfully good, especially with the smaller, neater steering wheel of the facelift. While an MX-5 is forgiving, with lots of body-roll before it starts to move around, the GT86 is a level up, with slightly snappier reactions and a need to be a bit more on your game. But it’s still a relatively friendly introduction to rear-wheel-drive sports cars.
It’s all nice and simple in here, with low-set seats and a perfectly positioned steering wheel that nestles into your hands as naturally as the stubby, slick-shifting gear lever. The rev counter is positioned right in the middle of the dial pack, proudly showing its 7,400rpm red line, although there is also a nod to sophistication with the availability of color touchscreen navigation in the center of the dash. Yes, you can buy significantly higher-tech hot hatches for the same money, but their center of gravity feels like it’s stacked on a roof rack in comparison. Toyota has spent the money where it matters – the oily bits – and this remains a brilliant set-up car for £25k. Toyota sells ten times as many GT86s as Subaru does BRZs, so sourcing one of these and getting a good deal should be much simpler.