I’m at an age now where driving around in anything sportier than a five-year-old Citroen Picasso is considered symptomatic of a mid-life crisis so it came as no surprise this week when I found myself on the receiving end of more than my fair share of sympathetic looks, pitying sighs and scathing ridicule.
I must admit I expected nothing less when the Toyota GT86 arrived at our offices. The GT86 is the Subaru BRZ’s identical twin. There are a few subtle differences between the two cars, but strip them of their badges and, from the outside at least, they’d be impossible to tell apart.
What that does mean, however, is that you get the same driver-focused, beautifully balanced sports car that never fails to leave you with a smile on your face.
The 2.0-litre Boxer engine – chosen specifically for its low centre of gravity – produces 197bhp, while the 0-62mph sprint still takes 7.6 seconds and the motor loves to be revved all the way to the 7,500rpn red line.
The throttle is crisp and responsive and, while the short-throw gearshift is accurate, a nice positive wrist is needed to maximise the gear changes. The exhausts note can sound a little flat until you start working the engine hard and it starts to beef up nicely.
Toyota have dedicated a lot of effort to ensuring that there’s fun to be found in the GT86, but the driver still has his work cut out to extract it all but there’s no denying it’s worth the effort.
The suspension is firm. Well, very firm. Around town the rock-hard ride can be wearing while at speed the lack of insulation makes normal conversation all but impossible but, point the GT86 in the direction of a B road and suddenly the chassis comes alive.
The GT86 corners flat thanks to that firm suspension while the beautifully weighted, accurate steering provides plenty of feedback. The brakes are strong but progressive, which builds confidence if you’re driving quickly.
The cabin isn’t the most luxurious, and some of the plastics are on the hard side but the design of the dashboard leaves the driver in no doubt that he’s behind the wheel of a sports car. Despite the lack of tactile materials the build quality is top notch and it’s certainly a well thought out and driver-friendly environment.
The sports seats are firm and supportive, with excellent lateral support from shoulder to thigh. They are set low, which makes climbing in and out an ungainly exercise for all but the most sprightly among us. Visibility is hampered by the low seating position but I didn’t find it to be a huge issue given the car’s relatively compact dimensions. There are two seats in the rear, but I think that the term seat would have to be applied very, very loosely.
The boot is a reasonable 243-litres, however, which is more than enough for the weekly shop or a couple of weekend bags.
The Toyota GT86 makes few compromises. What you see is what you get and, while there are a myriad of hot hatches that are faster, more frugal, more comfortable and more flexible but, then,
that's the beautiful simplicity of the GT86. If you're buying this car, you're not thinking about practicality, or economy, or emissions, you're buying it because you want to have fun. And on that score, you won't be disappointed.
Price from: £27,285
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Boxer
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Acceleration (0-62mph): 7.7sec
Maximum speed: 140mph
Extra urban: 44.1mpg
Emissions (CO2): 192g/km
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