In-depth reviews

Toyota GT86 review – the best budget sports car on sale?

Increasingly rare accessible rear wheel drive thrills

Evo rating
Price
from £27,325
  • Fun at sensible speeds, great driving position, old-school values
  • Wants for a bit more power, low-grip Primacy tyres an acquired taste

Ask yourself this: what do I really need from a car in order to be able to enjoy it on the road? If the answer is leather seats, parking sensors and a posh badge on the bonnet, then the Toyota GT86 isn’t for you.

If, however, what matters is three pedals, reactive steering and a sweetly balanced chassis, the GT86 is worth a test drive at the very least. The steering accuracy and control weights are supremely well judged, while the boxer engine's 197bhp and skinny tyres mean the chassis can almost always be teased out of shape. Crucially, in the world of 300bhp hatchbacks, it’s also a car you can get stuck into driving on public roads without fear of losing your licence.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

> Read: Subaru BRZ review - Is Subaru's sports car a class-leader?

Rarely does something in the motoring world feel ‘just right’ and while the GT86 isn’t without its issues, it comes very close. The 0-62mph sprint doesn’t set the world alight, but to compensate for that you spend a lot of time in the GT86 with your foot flat to the floor and using the engine to its potential – an increasingly rare experience in modern performance cars.

Back in 2017 the GT86 received a facelift, and a couple of special edition variants have arrived since, with no more power but some worthwhile extra features. Prices now start at £27,830. Admittedly, the changes are modest, but include upgraded dampers, a stiffer bodyshell, a better-appointed interior, more technology and several subtle but effective exterior design revisions. What hasn’t changed is the car’s mischief-making nature, for which we’re grateful.

Toyota GT86: in detail

  • > Engine,  gearbox and technical highlights - Two-litre flat-four needs working hard but doesn't sound good doing so. Slick six-speed manual is a joy.
  • > Performance and 0-60 time - Low torque figure limits low-revs performance, but performance is respectable if you're prepared to work for it.
  • > Ride and handling - A mixed-bag. The standard Michelin Premacy tyres don't do the chassis justice - but it's entertaining and interactive.
  • > MPG and running costs - Mid 30s MPG is reasonable for a car of this type. A five-year warranty and Toyota reliability should keep running costs low.
  • > Interior and tech - Little joy to be found in the design or materials, but the driving position is perfect. Rear seats aren't suitable for most humans.
  • > Design - Compact sports car proportions give off the right impression and it looks more exotic than the price would have you believe. Details are less successful.
  • > Living with it – Our view after seven months with Toyota’s sports car.

Prices, specs and rivals

The GT86 is currently available in three different grades. At the bottom is the standard GT86, starting at £27,855 and offering 17-inch alloy wheels, a Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system, and goodies including keyless entry. It's starting to look a little pricey these days, but then the average hot hatchback is now over £30,000, so perhaps £28k isn't so bad for a rear-drive sports car on a bespoke platform.

Above this is the GT86 Pro, at £29,005. The extra dosh doesn't get you a new set of wheels, but does trim the front seats in leather and Alcantara, and lets you warm your posterior too, while automatic LED headlights and a rear spoiler join the party. That last one we've never been sure about – the GT86 styling is best unadorned, we reckon.

Next up the food chain is the current special edition, dubbed (in rather long-winded fashion) the £29,550 GT86 Club Series: Blue Edition. As the name suggests, it's blue – Electric Blue specifically, and one of the best colours we've seen on a GT86. The specification includes the same machined-finish 17-inch wheel design, plus a black rear spoiler and black door mirror caps. It's at its best though with the optional Performance Pack, as on the car pictured – there's a more subtle 17-inch alloy design, Sachs performance dampers and Brembo brakes. It adds £1460 to the price.

Chief amongst rivals is Mazda’s MX-5 RF powered by the range-topping 2-litre, which was refreshed for more power in 2018. The little roadster is a hoot to drive but loses out to the GT86 when you go in search of that last tenths of performance, where body roll curtails your confidence and thus progress when you really push. A used Porsche Cayman is certainly worth considering too; more recent 718 Caymans even have four-cylinder boxer engines like the GT86…

And the GT86 has a cousin, in the form of the Subaru BRZ (slightly more expensive now at £31,995). Its suspension is tuned very slightly differently to the '86’s, and its styling is arguably slightly more attractive after each had a mid-life restyle, while it's Subaru that created the cars' boxer engine. It flies under the radar a little – Subaru doesn't seem to market it as heavily as Toyota does the GT86 – but being nearly identical, it's still fantastic fun.

More on GT 86

No sub-GT86 model in Toyota’s ‘three brothers’ sports car range
Toyota GT 86 coupe

No sub-GT86 model in Toyota’s ‘three brothers’ sports car range

A three-strong sports car lineup may still happen, but any new Toyota MR2 looks likely to slot in between the GT86 and Supra
8 Mar 2019
Toyota unveils GT86 TRD Special Edition – the most focussed factory GT86 yet
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota unveils GT86 TRD Special Edition – the most focussed factory GT86 yet

With Sachs dampers, Brembo brakes and grippy Michelin tyres, the TRD Special Edition is the GT86 you’ll want, but there is a downside.
24 Jul 2018
Trio of liveried Toyota GT86s celebrate Le Mans 24h
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Trio of liveried Toyota GT86s celebrate Le Mans 24h

With the Le Mans 24 hours imminent Toyota has applied a collection of its historic motorsport liveries to three GT86 coupés.
8 Jun 2018
Toyota GT86 Club Series Blue Edition launched with performance pack
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 Club Series Blue Edition launched with performance pack

Range-topping Toyota GT86 brings optional performance pack comprising Brembo brakes and a Sachs suspension upgrade.
31 May 2018
Toyota launches GT86 Gazoo Racing Trophy race and rally series
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota launches GT86 Gazoo Racing Trophy race and rally series

Trophy will allow race and rally drivers to compete against each other in series all across Europe
23 Jan 2018
Toyota GT 86 v Mazda MX-5 RF - an open and shut case?
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT 86 v Mazda MX-5 RF - an open and shut case?

Of these two affordable rear-drive sports cars, which one really hits the spot?
14 Dec 2017
Toyota GT86 Orange Edition kicks off 'Club Series' line
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 Orange Edition kicks off 'Club Series' line

Well, what else would you call a GT86 painted in a vaguely orangey hue?
16 May 2017
Ferrari-powered Toyota GT86 goes drifting - video
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Ferrari-powered Toyota GT86 goes drifting - video

Ryan Tuerck's remarkable Ferrari-powered Toyota "GT4586" has its first track outing
6 Jan 2017
Toyota adopts manga style with Initial D-inspired GT86
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota adopts manga style with Initial D-inspired GT86

Dressed-up sports car replicates the AE86 Corolla from Japanese comic book series
30 Jun 2016
Toyota GT86 Shooting Brake - extra practicality from extended sports car
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 Shooting Brake - extra practicality from extended sports car

Restyled roof improves interior space and adds a different level of appeal to Toyota's coupe
6 May 2016
Toyota GT86 gets updated styling, quality improvements - new images
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 gets updated styling, quality improvements - new images

Small changes should make Toyota's sports car more liveable, but won't make it much faster. Updated with New York show images
29 Mar 2016
Toyota GT86 Blanco – stripy special edition joins revised range
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 Blanco – stripy special edition joins revised range

New range-topper for Toyota's sports car range; extra kit and extra cost
25 Jun 2015
Toyota 2000GT, Celica, Supra inspire Goodwood GT86 liveries
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota 2000GT, Celica, Supra inspire Goodwood GT86 liveries

A selection of historic race and rally colour schemes will adorn a fleet of GT86s appearing at the Festival of Speed
2 Jun 2015
Toyota GT86 gets updated range-topper, cheaper entry model
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 gets updated range-topper, cheaper entry model

Toyota’s rear-drive coupe takes another step towards affordability
8 May 2015
Toyota GT86 revised in Japan, luxury Style Cb model added
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 revised in Japan, luxury Style Cb model added

Sleek new front-end styling for luxury version of Toyota’s lightweight sports car
11 Feb 2015
Toyota GT86 gets more affordable, adds options
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 gets more affordable, adds options

Sacrifice some equipment and GT86 motoring now starts from £22,995
17 Oct 2014
Toyota GT86 rally car revealed for German debut
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 rally car revealed for German debut

The CS-R3 is a rally-spec Toyota GT86, and it will make its debut at Rallye Deutschland
1 Aug 2014
Nissan's GT86 rival in doubt
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Nissan's GT86 rival in doubt

The Nissan IDx rear-wheel-drive sports car, a potential Toyota GT86 rival, faces an uncertain future
16 Jul 2014
Toyota GT86 turbocharged by Fensport review, price and specs
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 turbocharged by Fensport review, price and specs

The Toyota GT86 has been turbocharged by Fensport to provide Porsche 911 levels of power
8 Jul 2014
Cosworth to offer GT86 and BRZ tuning packages
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Cosworth to offer GT86 and BRZ tuning packages

Engineering company Cosworth has announced a range of tuning packages for the Toyota GT86 or Subaru BRZ. Details here
30 May 2014
Toyota GT86 supercharged by Abbey Motorsport review, price and specs
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 supercharged by Abbey Motorsport review, price and specs

Nissan Skyline specialist Abbey Motorsport has supercharged the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ to 270bhp
1 Apr 2014
Toyota GT86 TRD v Mazda MX-5 BBR Turbo track video
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 TRD v Mazda MX-5 BBR Turbo track video

The Toyota GT86 TRD goes head-to-head with the turbocharged BBR Mazda MX-5. Sideways video action here
28 Jan 2014
Toyota FT-1 'new Supra' concept Detroit show pictures and video
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota FT-1 'new Supra' concept Detroit show pictures and video

The Toyota FT-1 celebrates past cars like the 2000GT, pointing to a future Supra replacement. Live show pictures, video and details here
16 Jan 2014
Toyota GT86 R3 rally car announced
Toyota GT 86 coupe

Toyota GT86 R3 rally car announced

Toyota has announced that TMG is developing a rear-wheel drive GT86 CS-R3 rally car, which will compete in the 2015 season. Details here
11 Nov 2013