Toyota GT86 (2012-2021) Review
The Toyota GT86 is such great fun to drive that you’ll be willing to overlook its obvious flaws.
Strengths & weaknesses
- Great fun to drive
- Plenty of standard equipment
- Surprising practicality
- Not as fast as you’d expect
- Running costs
- Dated entertainment system
The Toyota GT86 has been around for nearly seven years now and exists more or less exclusively for drivers that like to have fun behind the wheel.
There have been minor tweaks to the GT86 since its launch in 2012, but fundamentally this back-to-basics coupe has remained true to its original remit to provide some old school driving engagement. It’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine doesn’t deliver all that much performance, while there’s not much grip from its skinny, energy saving tyres (the same as used on the hybrid Toyota Prius), but the rear-wheel drive Toyota makes up for this by being a genuine hoot to drive.
Finding direct rivals for the GT86 is a little tricky, as it really exists in a class of one. The GT86’s prices run from £27,325 to £30,360, but even so the cheapest versions of the Porsche Cayman or Lotus Evora are far more expensive, while the Nissan 370Z is closer on price but much more expensive to run and a strict two-seater.
Closest in spirit and price to the Toyota is the Mazda MX-5, which has similar performance and driver focused handling and, with its folding metal hardtop raised, gives a quieter and more secure coupe feel. Oh, and of course there’s the Subaru BRZ, which essentially the same car as the GT86, but with different badges. Far fewer Subaru dealers mean its a much rarer car too.
Where the Toyota scores over many of its rivals is with an interior that’s more spacious and usable than you’d imagine. There’s decent space for the driver and passenger, plus a pair of seats in the rear. The GT86’s two-door layout means access to the rear is tight, but once in there’s just enough space for a pair of adults - although realistically these seats are best reserved for children. At 223-litres boot is similar in size to a supermini’s, but that figure is still over 70-litres more than that of a Mazda MX-5, plus the Toyota’s rear seats fold flat for greater carrying capacity. You’d struggle to call it a family car, but the GT86 will make a decent fist of the school or supermarket run if called upon.
The interior of the GT86 looks and feels a little old fashioned, plus the plastics look a little cheap, but it all works well enough. It’s reasonably comfortable too, while even the cheapest versions have all the standard equipment you’re likely to need, including climate control and keyless entry. That said, Toyota’s Touch 2 entertainment system lags well behind the best. Not only is there no option to add Apple Carplay or Android Auto, the set-up features clunky graphics and an operating system that’s not as intuitive as you’d hope. Making matters worse is the fact the sat-nav upgrade on this system (called Touch 2 Go) is optional on all versions of the GT86.
The Toyota GT86 hasn’t been assessed by EuroNCAP and it’s fair to say its safety systems are no more than basic. There’s electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and seven airbags, but that’s about it. You can’t get autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist or lane departure warning, even as options.
However, if you’re looking for fun behind the wheel, then the Toyota’s flaws will be easy to forgive once you get moving. The steering is precise and the handling communicates exactly what the car is doing at all times, giving you the confidence to push on when the roads get twisty.
Yes you’ll need to work that 2.0-litre engine hard to get the best performance results, but its thrummy soundtrack and the chunky six-speed manual gearbox means this is no real hardship. Better still, the Toyota offers decent refinement and a taut, controlled ride, meaning it’s more than bearable during more mundane driving duties.
|Warranty||5 years / 100,000 miles|
|Boot size||223 litres|
|Tax (min to max)||£830 to £1240 in first year, £145 thereafter|
Best Toyota GT86 for...
Best for Economy – Toyota GT86
Toyota GT86 - In reality this is more a question of engine and gearbox, as there’s only one engine and when fitted with a manual gearbox it promises 33.2mpg (the six-speed auto manages 32.8mpg). Bear in mind Toyota recommends more expensive 98RON unleaded fuel for all GT86 models.
Best for Families – Toyota GT86 Pro
Toyota GT86 Pro - The GT86 isn’t really aimed at families, but its four-seat layout and decent-sized boot means it’ll do a decent job if pressed into service. Pro trim level delivers all the kit you’ll need and nothing more.
Best for Performance – Toyota GT86
As with the economy, the GT86’s performance it pretty much identical across the range and depends on the gearbox choice. The 2.0-litre with the six-speed manual is brisk, delivering 0-62mph in a claimed 7.6 seconds and a 140mph top speed.
One to Avoid – Toyota GT86 Club Series Blue Edition Automatic
There’s not an awful lot wrong with this car, but the six-speed auto is sluggish and when mated to this trim level it makes for the most expensive GT86.
July 2012: The GT86 goes on sale with just one trim level available and a choice of either six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearboxes. However, desirable touchscreen entertainment with sat-nav is a desirable option.
Feb 2013: Limited edition TRD model joins the line-up and adds bigger wheels, a fancy bodykit, more powerful brakes and quad-exit exhaust. Just 250 examples brought to the UK.
Oct 2014: Primo and Aero models join standard GT86. The former is cut-price entry-level model that goes without climate and cruise control and is identified by its lack of rear spoiler on the boot. The Aero gets bespoke wheels and bodykit, including a huge and rather garish rear wing.
Nov 2014: Another limited edition model in the form of the Giallo. Only 86 examples are sold in the UK, all with distinctive yellow paint finish and black leather interior trim.
July 2015: Yet another special edition, this time called the Bianco. Like the Giallo it’s limited to 86 units, but this time there’s special pearlescent white paint with grey stripes running over the bonnet and roof.
Oct 2016: The GT86 gets its first facelift, with revised designs for the front and rear lights, a smaller diameter steering wheel, subtly upgraded suspension and a touch more torque for the engine - although performance is largely unchanged. The range now runs to GT86 and GT86 Pro, the latter getting more standard equipment.
May 2017: The GT86 Orange Edition joins the range. Limited to 350 examples it’s based on the GT86 Pro and boasts Solar Orange paintwork and a leather and Alcantara interior.
Jun 2018: GT86 Blue Edition Club Series joins the line-up as a permanent fixture. Same equipment as Pro, but with blue paint and anthracite wheels are standard. It’s also available with an optional Performance Pack that adds gloss back wh
Understanding Toyota GT86 names
The Toyota GT86 is available in GT86, GT86 Pro and GT86 Blue Edition Club Series
Engines 2.0 Petrol Boxer
There is just one engine choice for the GT86 - a 197hp 2.0-litre, which has a flat-four or ‘boxer’ arrangement for its cylinders
Gearbox 6-speed manual and automatic
here are two gearboxes available: a manual and an auto, both with six gears
Toyota GT86 Engines
Petrol: 2.0 Petrol Boxer
Arguably the easiest decision to make when buying a Toyota GT86 is which engine to choose because, well, there’s only one! The naturally aspirated unit (so no turbocharging here) delivers brisk rather than outrageous performance, with most hot hatch models, such as the VW Golf GTI, proving rather faster accelerating than the GT86. Still, the engine delivers a pleasingly thrummy noise and, like all proper sportscars, goes better the harder you make it work.
The flipside of this characteristic is that the Toyota can feel a little sluggish at low revs (when driving around town or accelerating up a motorway incline in sixth gear, for example). The 2017 facelift added a little more torque, or muscle if you will, to counter this, but in reality you still need to rev the 2.0-litre unit 3000rpm or so to get the 1670kg Toyota to perform like you’d imagine a sportscar to. Another downside of this power delivery is that the economy is rather poor, with even the manual gearbox car struggling to give much more than 30mpg in real world driving conditions.
There is the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox on Pro and Blue Edition Club Series models, but we’d avoid this sluggish and performance sapping transmission.
2.0 Petrol Boxer
32.8 - 33.2mpg
7.6 - 8.2sec
130 - 140mph
Toyota GT86 Trims
GT86, Pro, Blue Edition Club Series
The Toyota GT86 is fairly straightforward, with only minor changes in specification separating each model (hence the rather small increase in pricing from entry-level to top-of-the-range).
Kicking off the line-up is the GT86, which comes with most of the kit you’re likely to need, including keyless entry, climate and cruise control, automatic LED headlamps and the Touch 2 touchscreen infotainment that features USB and Bluetooth connection. Options are limited to rear parking sensors, a sat-nav upgrade and some cosmetic dealer fit additions.
Step up to the Pro and you’ll get a small spoiler for the tailgate, while inside there leather and Alcantara trimmed seats (the fronts are heated too), plus suede trim from the top of the dashboard and door inserts. The optional extras are the same as those of the standard car.
At the top of the range is the catchily titled Blue Edition Club Series. Essentially its a Pro but with blue exterior paint and contrasting gloss black door mirror housings. However, it’s the only model available with the Performance Pack upgrade, which adds firmer Sachs dampers for the suspension, gloss black 17-inch alloys and more powerful Brembo brakes. At £1460 it’s not cheap and in reality only those who take their cars on frequent track days are likely to notice the small improvements.
Toyota GT86 Reliability and warranty
The Toyota GT86 has dropped out of the top 100 the Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey in recent years, but when it appeared in 2016 owners were less than impressed with reliability, placing it 95th.
It’s reassuring that the GT86 is backed by Toyota’s comprehensive warranty, which covers the car for five years or 100,000 miles.
Used Toyota GT86
The Toyota GT86 is built in relatively small numbers for a Toyota, meaning new discounts are rare and it’s quite a rare secondhand choice, with used values are fairly strong.
Currently there are 19 Toyota GT86 models on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £15,990 to £25,440 for nearly new examples.
Monthly finance payments start at £227 and rise to £354.
There have been a number of special editions since the GT86’s introduction in 2012, including the TRD, Giallo and Bianco. However, these models offer no more than cosmetic upgrades for the TRD and bespoke paint finish for the other two - yellow for the Giallo and pearlescent white with stripes for the Bianco, both of which were limited to 86 units.
The Orange Edition Club Series of 2017 got, you guessed it, Orange paint and a production run of 350 examples. They all also got leather interior trim. However, these models are rare, plus don’t really attract much of a price premium.
Most versions are the standard GT86, which are arguably the best bet as they offer the greatest value and the most kit. The entry-level Primo, which was produced from 2014 to 2016, is best avoided as it was stripped of items such as cruise and climate control.
In October 2016 the facelifted GT86 was released, and it’s this model that’s worth seeking out when buying used. All versions are well equipped, plus the small enhancements to the interior create a more upmarket ambience. Better still, those registered after 1 April 2017 are liable to an annual road fund licence bill of £145 rather than £300.