Gina Baksa escapes the hustle and bustle of London and heads for England’s comparatively serene south coast in the Toyota GT86 sports coupe.
Some cars are made for fun, and the speedy, no-frills Toyota GT86 sports coupe is a case in point. The GT86 is a driver’s car: no lazy auto transmission here (although it’s available). Instead, this 6-speed manual sports car awakens all the senses in utilising its 197bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder capability. I love it. It’s been a while since I drove a manual and I’ve forgotten just how engaging a gear shift can be – even if my left foot rarely leaves the clutch in city traffic.
Today I’m escaping London and driving the GT86 to Brighton for the weekend. Starting its powerful Boxer engine is fabulous – a roar and this rear-wheel-drive Sportster is raring to go. The sporty growl cleverly feeding into the cabin via the engine’s intake system. Just a touch on the aluminium pedals and the Toyota GT86 launches onto the A23 with smooth gear changes up to sixth as I head south. Acceleration is 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds, which is more than enough to despatch gnarly boy racers tailgating on the motorway. The low-slung sport seats are supportive and adjustable, and I like the leather and Alcantara on the doors and dash. Very touchy-feely. The steering wheel has audio controls embedded which is a good safety feature.
Top speed in the GT86 is 140mph and as I nudge 90 there is still so much space between the metal and the floor. She takes careful handling and I’m in awe of the power beneath the bonnet. The suspension is firm and off the motorway, I’m feeling every lump and bump on the road. A GrandTourer in name but probably not in reality. Short jaunts of around 1.5 hours are enough before a pitstop. But the excitement! I’m reminded of my first driving lessons at 17 in a Ford Fiesta manual, feeling the anticipation of freedom.
And this is exactly what the Toyota GT86 gives you – a sense of freedom and the open road. A superb runner on the motorway, the car corners well and is very responsive – with superb brakes. I feel very safe, even at this lower driving position. It takes me an hour or two to master smooth gear changes, but once I hit my sweet spot – the gear number is illuminated on the dash dial – driving is even more fun and engaging.
Another old-school feature is the manual parking brake. A beast of a lever that feels much more reassuring than many ‘modern’ automatic brake park buttons. Proper driving! And the GT86 is easy to park too – her length a manageable 4,240mm. Rear-wheel drive means a little caution in the wet, but I didn’t experience any rear end slide during a downpour. In fact, road holding in the Toyota GT86 is superb. A rear wiper and wash would be welcome though.
Music is provided courtesy of the DAB tuner and an excellent six-speaker audio system. More impressive than I’d imagined, with a rich bass sound.As you’d expect there’s a USB port and aux-in socket, plus Bluetooth. The 6.1-inch touchscreen has a 4.2-inch multi-info display that works well and is adjustable between day and night mode. It works well, but I feel the screen would be better in anti-glare material and angled more towards the driver.
My electric blue Toyota GT86 sports coupe attracts admiring glances on my way south. I love her smooth racy lines, the jaunty shark fin antenna and red Brembos glinting in the Spring sunshine. Her wider grille, LED lights and fixed roof give her track-car looks that scream ‘race me!’. Despite the efficient air con, a sunroof would be welcome on a hot day, but the fixed roof doesn’t detract from the GT86’s appeal.
The boot is spacious enough for two small suitcases. Pull down one-piece folding rear seat and you’ve enough room for golf bags and shopping. The metal sounds and feels a little tinny when shutting the boot but that’s my only quibble.
Safety features aren’t lacking in the GT: you get driver’s knee airbag, as well as driver and passengers front and side bags. And curtain airbags. ABS with EBD and brake assist are standard, as is the useful tyre pressure warning.
Environmentally the Toyota GT86 emits 196g/km of CO2 (NEDC correlated data) – a tad more than its nearest rival the Mazda MX-5. But since the GT86 is not super-mileage company car material, I imagine few owners will be concerned. Fuel economy combined is around 33.23mpg (WLTP data), but the GT86 doesn’t pretend to be a hybrid. There’s a generous 5-year/100,000-mile warranty and one-year Toyota roadside assistance for new vehicles.
Having driven this beauty for a week now, I’m reluctant to hand back the keys. The Toyota GT86 may be old school, but she’s a gutsy sports coupe with great style and enough power under the bonnet to put a smile on your face each time you drive her.
Toyota GT86 2.0 Specifications
- 2-door coupe
- OTR £30,440
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol
- Power: 197bhp
- Torque: 205Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
- Top speed: 140mph
- Economy: Combined: 33.23mpg (WLTP data)
- CO2: 196g/km
- Insurance Group: 35A
For more information visit: www.toyota.co.uk