Looking for a final petrol-fuelled fling before going electric? Perhaps surprisingly for such a hybrid-heavy brand Toyota is here to the rescue, the GR86 building on the driver-focused foundations of the previous GT86 and sharing the same back-to-basics appeal but with much improved performance. If not as fast as a hot hatch the GR86 instead delivers the feedback and rear-wheel drive balance keen drivers crave in a package more focused and serious than the Mazda MX-5 you might also consider for this money. With the limited UK allocation of cars already sold out there’s clearly a small but passionate following for cars like this, those lucky enough to secure one getting a great return on their investment, both financially and in terms of sheer fun.
“Running costs will be higher than a hot-hatch or even more premium alternatives like an Audi TT or BMW 2 Series Coupe thanks to the relatively thirsty petrol engine and its high emissions”
The business model of supplying fewer cars than the market demands to protect residual values is nothing new for the likes of Porsche and Ferrari but, by accident rather than design, Toyota finds itself in the same position with the GR86. In simple terms changing safety regulations mean it only has a two-year window of opportunity to sell it, and a limited number of cars available in that period. All of which sold out within 90 minutes of orders opening. Bad news if you want to buy one at the very reasonable list price but great if you got your name down, on the basis residual values will be very strong and – as a result – finance costs look reasonable. While excitement is high you might even be able to sell it on at a profit but if you choose to keep the car and enjoy it as intended – which many owners likely will – running costs will be higher than a hot-hatch or even more premium alternatives like an Audi TT or BMW 2 Series Coupe thanks to the relatively thirsty petrol engine and its high emissions. That won’t matter for the target audience, given the GR86 is aimed at enthusiasts who value driving as a hobby as much as a means of getting from A to B.
Expert rating: 3/5
Reliability of a Toyota GR86 Coupe
“Toyota retains a reputation for building dependable products and the GR86 is, essentially, a very simple car by modern standards”
While its ratings on reliability studies have slipped a little of late Toyota retains a reputation for building dependable products and the GR86 is, essentially, a very simple car by modern standards so we wouldn’t have too many concerns here. The three-year/60,000-mile warranty is nothing special, but if you stick to having your GR86 serviced at franchised dealerships you qualify for the rolling Toyota Relax extended warranty, which can in theory last as much as 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Expert rating: 4/5
Safety for a Toyota GR86 Coupe
“You only get stuff like emergency braking, lane-keeping and active cruise control if you go for the automatic gearbox”
For a modern car the GR86 comes with a minimal package of driver aids and assistance systems, the defence being it’s designed for engaged drivers who prefer to take responsibility themselves. True, there are seven airbags should the worst happen and useful tech like blind spot alerts and rear cross traffic warnings for when you’re reversing out of a parking space or driveway. But you only get stuff like emergency braking, lane-keeping and active cruise control if you go for the automatic gearbox, which makes sense on the basis it’s the relatively mature choice and keen drivers who hate that kind of electronic mithering will be going for the manual anyway.
Expert rating: 2/5
How comfortable is the Toyota GR86 Coupe
“The suspension is firm around town and quite harsh over the bumps, though it settles down as speeds increase and your payback comes when the going gets twisty”
Like the GT86 from which it has evolved, the GR86 is a pretty raw machine and prioritises sharp handling and uncorrupted connection between car and driver. The engine is pretty noisy – Toyota even amplifies it via a speaker inside the cabin – and the suspension is firm around town and quite harsh over the bumps, though it settles down as speeds increase and your payback comes when the going gets twisty. There’s also quite a lot of tyre noise on rough surfaces, though for such a focused car it’s actually not too bad on the motorway. There are some token rear seats, which is more than most rivals offer and they include Isofix mounts so, at a pinch, you could carry the kids around as well. Driver and front seat passenger are much better catered for, with a low-slung and sporty driving position that puts the wheel, pedals and gearstick all within easy reach for when you’re pushing hard. The boot isn’t a bad size and with the seats down you can load bulky items like golf bags or even a bike with the wheels removed. Indeed, for a sporting coupe it’s actually pretty practical and there’s room enough to enjoy an extended roadtrip away without having to pack light.
Expert rating: 3/5
Features of the Toyota GR86 Coupe
“Toyota pitches the GR86 at people who value the driving experience above all else, so if you want fancy onboard tech and flashy digital displays you’re best sticking with that Audi TT”
There’s only one model in the GR86 range, which makes life simple! True, going for the automatic gearbox does get you a slightly more generous spec with climate control rather than basic air-conditioning and the additional driver aids (see the Safety section) but other than that the only cost option is metallic paint. You’ll be getting the message by now but Toyota pitches the GR86 at people who value the driving experience above all else, so if you want fancy onboard tech and flashy digital displays you’re best sticking with that Audi TT or digging a little deeper for a more premium alternative like a BMW 2 Series Coupe. We rather like the GR86’s honest, back to basics approach, though, and, while small, the central screen can run your phone apps via CarPlay or Android Auto so you can stay connected on the move. With features like faux suede/leather upholstery overall cabin quality is a big step up from the GT86 this car replaces as well.
Expert rating: 4/5
Power for a Toyota GR86 Coupe
“It’s super fun to drive as well, with fast and responsive steering and an eager sense of agility through the corners”
Toyota is of course known as a hybrid brand but there’s no electrification for the GR86, power instead coming from a bigger and more powerful version of the revvy petrol engine from the GT86. Now 2.4 litres, power is up nearly a fifth to 234 horsepower while, more importantly, Toyota has also addressed the annoying dip in the response that plagued the GT86. The six-speed manual is a delight, with a short movement and crisp engagement that suits the revvy nature of the engine. The automatic does get shifter paddles behind the wheel and a selection of modes but wouldn’t be our pick. By the numbers performance doesn’t look that impressive, given most hot hatches will blitz it off the line and you have to rev it hard to making meaningful progress. But it is usefully faster than a Mazda MX-5 RF, which is a better comparison for the audience it’s playing to. It’s super fun to drive as well, with fast and responsive steering and an eager sense of agility through the corners that’s rewarding on both twisty roads and race tracks alike.
Expert rating: 5/5
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