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Driven: Toyota GT86 2015MY. Image by Toyota.

Driven: Toyota GT86 2015MY
A price cut and some fancy graphics - enough to make us love Toyota's GT86?

   



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Toyota GT86 2015MY

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: rakish coupé body, superb dynamics, attractive interior...

Not so good: ...but cabin finish feeling dated, engine lacks grunt, you can't order one in this livery or spec, two-door shape not exactly practical

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota GT86 Giallo Edition (with Yatabe Speed Trial graphics, see copy)
Price: starts from £22,995; Giallo Edition was £27,495, car as tested £28,245 (excluding Yatabe updates, see copy)
Engine: 2.0-litre 'boxer' four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door, 2+2 coupé
CO2 emissions: 180/km (Band I, £350 VED first 12 months, £225 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 36.2mpg
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Power: 200hp at 7,000rpm
Torque: 204Nm at 6,400- to 6,600rpm

Our view:

You've got to love a bit of nostalgia. In order to celebrate 50 years of Toyota in the UK, the company's press team decided to clothe six of its GT86 cars in some historic competition motorsport liveries. While they're all brilliant, some should be more familiar than others - such as the 'tiger stripes' example that pays homage to the JGTC Supra of the 1990s, the red and black version that is a recreation of the Celica that Ove Andersson drove in the 1972 RAC Rally and the most iconic of all, the red, white and green Castrol livery evoking the firm's enviable performance in the World Rally Championships with the Celica GT-Four in 1994 and '95.

However, this car is the Yatabe Speed Trial edition and here's a quick bit of history for you: following a couple of impressive competitive performances in May and June of 1966, a Tosco-tuned (now known as Toyota Racing Developments, or TRD) 2000GT was entered into that October's Yatabe Speed Trial at the high-speed Japanese test course. And once the 72-hour event had concluded, the yellow-and-green 2000GT had averaged 128.76mph, smashing three world records and setting a further 13 international speed and endurance benchmarks in the process.

But driving this particular example leaves us with a problem. Aside from the Motor Mode vinyl graphics - comprising a green bonnet, yellow three-quarter windows, a big 'Toyota GT86' legend on the door/front wing, and period Esso, NGK and Denso decals along its flanks - Toyota GB has fitted 40mm V-Maxx lowering springs, a Milltek Sport stainless steel exhaust and perhaps the most gorgeous set of alloys we've seen on any press car: Rota D2EX 18-inch rims with an ET38 offset. And so the Yatabe is not representative of a showroom GT86; it's more like driving a mildly modified owner's example for a marque-specialist magazine, which does at least allow you to experience the latent potential in the Toyota's chassis, should you wish to buy one and then throw a couple of grand at it.

Despite this, GU64 VYP was actually a Giallo Edition before it was a Yatabe, which itself was a special model launched to mark the 2015MY updates for the whole GT86 range. Since launch in 2012, Toyota says these revisions are the 'most significant changes' seen on the car but they do not include anything mechanical. A shark-fin antenna, additional equipment inside (tyre-pressure monitoring, air conditioning, electric folding door mirrors, Bluetooth and multimedia system) and a carbon-effect finish for the dash mark out these 2015MY versions. A new trim, Primo, saw the entry ticket for a GT86 drop to £22,995 but the higher-spec cars received dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and go and other toys.

The Giallo was an 86-strong run that came in metallic yellow (giallo being the Italian for yellow) and benefitted from leather trim with heated seats, as well as some decals of its own: those twin black stripes and GT86 logo along the side sills, plus black door mirrors. VYP, car number two of 86, was therefore the ideal basis for the Yatabe conversion. A Giallo Edition cost £27,495 when new but it has been replaced by the £28,500 GT86 Blanco as the stylised Toyota range-topper now.

It's the wheels that make the biggest difference to the way the GT86 Yatabe drives. Wearing 235/35 R18 Pirelli tyres, they offer up much more grip than the 17-inch Michelin Primacy rubber you'd get as standard; and those low-friction Michelins are what gives the GT86 its notoriously tail-happy nature. As it is, the Yatabe requires quite a considerable amount of throttle in order for the rear tyres to break traction in the dry. That will displease the oversteer heroes, but do you know what? We reckon it improves the cross-country pace and overall driving experience of the GT86 markedly. There's also more grip on the front axle and so there's less scruffy understeer to work around, plus the steering - always a GT86 strong point - is even livelier and more informative than ever. You thus lean on the Toyota in a way you never would before, maintaining higher speeds in the corners and realising that, despite its relative lack of readily accessible oversteer, it can entertain you in a way no front-driven hatchback could hope to.

That 40mm drop on the springs also helps road-holding, although it does little for ride quality. While the GT86 is never uncomfortable, it is always very firm, making it feel busy on a motorway cruise. Shame, because despite the horizontally opposed engine holding around 3,000rpm at 70mph, it's actually a pretty good long-distance machine: reasonably quiet and capable of returning very near its quoted combined economy figure of 36.2mpg (we saw 35.3mpg).

All that extra hold the GT86 has on the tarmac, allowing for better maintenance of pace, is most welcome when it comes to performance, because by today's standards the Toyota is still lacking grunt. We're big advocates of normal aspiration - not least for the crisp, linear throttle response and increased engine braking it provides, both things the Toyota possesses - but one look at the 0-62mph time and torque data should tell its own story. Even caning the boxer four hard through the first three gears of a lovely, tight and mechanical six-speed transmission does not yield up startling acceleration. It's quick enough for most needs, but something only modest by hot hatch power standards (say, a MINI Cooper S or standard Ford Fiesta ST) will feel notably faster. Also, the boxer burble is frustratingly elusive; there are odd occasions in the rev range where it starts to become louder and you think you're about to get the classic flat-four soundtrack, but it never materialises, more's the pity. Big kudos for the Milltek system, though, which imbues the GT86 Yatabe with a corking exhaust note that's pleasingly strident under heavy throttle and mercifully subdued for sedate driving.

It's such a hard car for us to sum up, then, because in many ways we utterly love it. It still has that lightness of touch in cornering that eludes all but the very finest hot hatches, it still has a comfortable and handsome interior (best to look at it rather than touch bits of it, though, as there are some cheap plastics to be found) and it still represents something different in a front- and four-wheel drive marketplace. Yet despite price cuts, it remains too expensive - and to try and modify a GT86 to this spec would probably cost £30,000, all things considered. Also, its style of power delivery will annoy more drivers than it will entrance. This exact car, perhaps with another 20hp/40Nm and a price tag of around £24,000? Now that would be a different matter entirely.

So nostalgia can be a wonderful thing and, if we spoke with our heart, we'd say we adore the GT86; never more so than with those exquisite alloys, tweaked chassis and eye-catching paint scheme. But our head says the rev-happy, torque-light coupé's days look numbered in a world dominated by more practical, quicker and - often - cheaper hot hatchbacks. For the Toyota GT86's sake, it's a pity that car buyers today do not view everything through rose-tinted glasses.

Alternatives:

Mazda MX-5: an absolutely top-spec 2.0 MX-5 Sport Nav would cost £23,295 and offers the same relatively low-power, rear-drive thrills, with the addition of an open roof. To be honest, we prefer the Toyota's dynamics but we know many who would opt for the Mazda instead.

Nissan 370Z: another 'affordable' Japanese coupé with rear-wheel drive, albeit with more power and more cost. It'll please those who feel the GT 86 lacks oomph yet the Toyota has the better chassis, especially with a few choice mods like this example.

SEAT Leon Cupra 265: we could have picked a Volkswagen Scirocco here but one of the most well-sorted and affordable hot hatches of the moment is more likely to be what tempts potential buyers out of the Toyota. SEAT is sharp in the corners and comparatively rabid on the straights, even with 'just' 265hp.


Matt Robinson - 20 Oct 2015



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2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.



2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 

2015 Toyota GT86. Image by Toyota.
 






 

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