The Toyota GT86. Picture by Laura Holme.
Car: Toyota GT86Model: D-4S ManualMpg (comb): 36.2mpgCO2: 181g/kmPrice: £24,995 on the roadLoaned by Wight Motors, Sandown
TOYOTA has always been associated with thoroughly engineered, dependable cars, which aren’t necessarily intended to set the blood coursing.
But there is an inspired corner of the company, where lateral thinking and an enthusiasm for driving has been encouraged.
One of the earliest public statements of this intent was in the Bond film, You Only Live Twice, which featured one of the sexiest cars of the time — the Toyota 2000GT.
That didn’t make it to this country, in official sales anyway. But in Britain, we have been treated to a long line of cars which put fun first, of which MR2s and Celicas are the most recent. Quite a few nice examples still grace Island roads.
Now, happily, those Toyota enthusiasts have been at it again and the GT86 has arrived. And boy, was it worth the wait.
The GT86 is a light, rapid sports coupe to engage the enthusiast, while being very reasonably priced, given what it is and does.
At the heart of the car is a two-litre engine, which petrolheads will be intrigued to know is a boxer, like a V4 but with the cyclinder banks flat. It was jointly developed with Subaru.
This configuration makes it compact, so it can be set further back in the chassis, and offers a lower centre of gravity, which all helps the handling. It is also intrinsically very smooth running.
The steering is light and precise, making it easy to place the car accurately and exploit the high levels of road-holding.
The brakes are powerful, progressive and well weighted.
But it is the engine which will get under the skin of any keen driver, with its distinctive boxer beat rising in urgency with the revs. And you are likely to find yourself exploiting the revs to get the best of the performance, with peak power and torque at quite lofty rpm, as befits its sporty nature.
This is made more fun by a light and precise six-speed gearbox. A six-speed automatic is also available.
The GT86 does pull well from low down though, so it’s easy to drive when speed is inappropriate, but offer it the whip and safe overtaking is yours.
The cabin is well laid out and the red and black leather and Alcantara seats in the test car were extremely comfortable, with superb support. All of today’s bells and whistles, including dual-zone climate control, were present.
It’s also surprisingly economical, given the performance, with up to 44mpg on the extra-urban cycle. I saw a shade over 30mpg during the test.
Toyota’s chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada, has been quoted as saying he just wanted to put a smile on people’s faces when the car was being developed. He’s succeeded — in spades.