Gone are the days of impressive but impractical sports cars. Toyota’s new GT86 ticks all the boxes.
Sports cars have long been the preserve of the wealthy. Impractical, expensive to buy and costly to run, few people in the real world choose to own one because they either can’t live with the compromises, or can’t afford to run a more useful, everyday car as well to compensate.
As a result history isn’t exactly littered with practical sports cars. I challenge you to think of sports cars that you’d be able to transport your family in. Trust me, there are not many of them. That’s where Toyota’s GT86 model comes in. Getting my hands on one was a long and eagerly anticipated wait. Much has been written about its driving attributes. It’s a reasonable fit for sports car lovers, even for those with young families.
I was surprised to find the interior is as spacious as it is. I could get my young family inside it and a folded baby buggy in the boot. This is a revelation. It means this 2+2 seater has few competitors. The BMW Z4, Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Nissan 370Z, and Porsche’s Boxster and Cayman may all have rear-wheel drive but they don’t have two rear seats, even small ones. So if you want to actually get two young kids in the back you’re going to need to stump up for a BMW M3 or a Porsche 911, cars which cost at least twice as much as this Toyota.
The GT86 isn’t perfect but it is great fun to drive. It’s brilliance lies in two key attributes. First, it doesn’t weigh very much – it’s lightweight at just 1,275kg – which is most apparent when cornering. Second, it has been built to a simple, back-to-basics recipe. It is a traditional front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car that delivers a great deal of steering feel. The 197bhp 2.0-litre engine delivers plenty of power to the back, when driven well, and the result is a well-balanced and well-handling car.
The high-revving four-cylinder boxer engine revs to 7,500rpm, though it lacks low down acceleration so you have to thrash it, which feels very old-fashioned. The power is delivered across a fairly narrow range so it’s not until the needle is up in sight of the red zone that you to get the acceleration and growling engine noise you expect. That said, in order to get it there, you will have to be as keen as mustard in working through the gears. Add to this a near-perfect weight split of 53:47 and this car feels very old school, like cars used to be before a plethora of gizmos were added to keep drivers on the straight and narrow. You can slide it around and howl your way through the countryside at will. It’s twitchy enough to be challenging yet tame enough at lower revs to be driven easily and comfortably. It’s bumpy over London speed bumps but, really, how many are there between you and the M11?
Is this an aesthetically pleasing car? I can’t decide. It’s muscular rather than attractive and is Japanese-looking with its bulging arches, large front grille, mean-looking headlamps and chrome tailpipes and spoiler at the back. It certainly attracts attention.
The cabin is less impressive, even if the space is well considered. Cheaper plastic interiors remind you that this isn’t the most upmarket sports car, though the bucket seats, red stitching on the steering wheel and gear knob, and red instruments and dials certainly set the stage for the drama to follow. Functionally everything is good. My family and I spent a weekend in it and found it more than comfortable, though it’s quite noisy at motorway speeds.
All in all, I may have just found my perfect second car. It could be a bit quicker and the fuel economy could be a little better but the GT86 is great for weekend driving or even weekend racing and you can even get the kids in it. What’s not to like?
0-62MPH: 7.6 secs
TOP SPEED: 140mph
CO2 G/KM: 181g/km
MPG COMBINED: 36.2mpg
DESIGN Four stars
PERFORMANCE Four stars
PRACTICALITY Three stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Four stars