Did we get a bit carried away when we tested the Toyota GT86 last year? Just in case we gushed, we asked Dep-O-tee – Adam Sloman – to share his thoughts
Photography: Adam Sloman
Legend has it that when Mazda unveiled the MX-5 the designers at Rover Group’s Birmingham HQ let out a collective sigh and bemoaned the fact that a Japanese manufacturer had taken everything their marque was known for, repackaged and improved it and sold it. By the bucket load.
Cup your hand to your ear as you read this and there’s a chance, just a chance, that you might hear that same sound emanating from the West Midlands once more. The reason this time isn’t from Mazda, it’s from Toyota and the GT86 and it’s the kind of car MG should be making.
A car which despite its joint Toyota/Subaru parentage owes a considerable amount to a rather well-known British sportscar, the MG MGB GT.
The BGT was great looking, fun, surprisingly practical and as a new car, affordable. The Toyota starts at £24,995, pitching it well below the likes of more obvious rivals like the Audi TT, albeit with more kit and a longer warranty. Not only that but there are Audi TTs seemingly on every street corner – not so with the Toyota.
The BGT has a special place in my heart, my Father bought one brand new, back in 1973 and it remains in the family to this day. It was the first car I lusted after, the first car I washed, the first car I sat in and made ‘brrrmmm brrrrmmm’ noises. I can still remember not being quite big enough to lean over those long, luscious front wings to check the oil level in the engine or the carburettor’s dash pots. Yup. Some will knock the BGT as being common as muck, but it’s a car I adore and played a big part in me becoming a motoring journalist.
The GT86 follows much of the same formula as the BGT but updates and improves the recipe significantly and in the all too short week I had with the car, began to inspire the same sort of devotion in me as the MG.
Firstly, there’s power. Plenty of power. With 197bhp it’s not the most powerful car in the world, but the way in which it transmits that power is nothing short of superb. The GT86 is such an incredibly fun car to drive. Case in point – I used the car to go out for a run to the shops, a ten minute round trip tops. Two hours later my wife called to ask where I was.
The GT86 is a car that is incredibly communicative, it talks to you, willing you on to push it through the next set of curves. Allied to a six-speed gearbox with a neat, taut, rifle-bolt ‘shift, the GT86 is a thrill to drive and being behind the wheel instantly reminds me of my first automotive love, the BGT. While the MG delivers its thrills in analogue, the Toyota captures that spirit in full high-definition. This is your favourite Seventies album, remastered, crystal clear and better than ever.
Some may scoff at it for ‘only’ having 197bhp but the Toyota is about more than numbers. The way it delivers that power is what counts and I defy anyone to find a better car in this segment at this price. It’s happy to have fun when you want it to, but ask it to be a normal civilised car and it will happily do that too. The soundtrack from the Subaru-developed flat-four engine is a little too muted for my liking.
Secondly, there’s the styling. The GT86 looks wonderful. Toyota has a fine tradition when it comes to sportcars and the GT86 continues that tradition with aplomb. There’s no angle that makes the GT look bad. Everyone from my 40 year-old brother to my three-year-old daughter was desperate to go out in the car.
Slipping behind the wheel of the Toyota, I found the driving position to be almost perfect. The seats comfortable, yet supportive, the steering wheel with its chunky rim being perfectly placed.
It’s surprisingly practical, too. OK, so a fully grown adult will be begging to get out of the back seat after anything more than 500 yards, but for anyone under the age of four those seats are spot on. Ahem. Moving on… The interior might not be the best quality, but everything you could want is here, with the notable exception of a DAB tuner – how it will stand up to five or 10 years of use is another matter.
But let’s be honest, nobody’s going to buy a GT86 for the interior. You’re buying this car because you want an honest-to-goodness sportscar and anyone who drives the Toyota will find themselves hooked immediately. The car is so finely poised, so wonderfully balanced that it’s impossible not to want it. A week was not nearly long enough with such a truly awesome piece of kit.
This is the kind of car that British manufacturers used to produce, the MG MGB GT, or the Triumph GT6 to name but two. As a life-long MG fan it’s the kind of car I wish MG made.
Luckily for us driving enthusiasts, Toyota does. This is a car that exists purely for the sheer enjoyment of driving. A car to put a smile on your face and keep you coming back for more time and time again.
The Toyota GT86 isn’t a just a good sportscar, it’s a companion and given time, like the MG, it deserves to become an icon.