Thrills aplenty as Toyota gets sporty with its GT86
Toyota has often been accused of making safe 'n' sturdy cars that are more cuddly than edgy. Not too much wrong with that, as sales figures testify. Japan's biggest car maker has been a best-selling brand on the Irish market over many years and the latest offerings -- the Avensis is a good example -- have a more stylish and sharper look about them.
But fans have long yearned for a flag-waving model and hark back to the days of the Celica and Supra, which were head-turners in their day. Well, the wait is now over, as a new sports car hits the streets to provide thrills aplenty with an affordable price tag of €39,895 for those who want to add high-end performance to their driving. Say hello to the GT86.
Developed from the ground up in conjunction with Subaru, it sports a front engine with rear-wheel drive and the low-slung smart looks will certainly do the job in attracting attention to the Toyota badge. This is a compact two-door sports coupe with four seats, but the emphasis is on driver enjoyment. It is a compact design, not much longer than the Auris despite the long bonnet, so rear seat room is limited. It arrives next month and drivers can expect an exciting performance from a cleverly engineered car.
Under the bonnet is a 2-litre flat-four naturally aspirated 197 bhp petrol engine developing 204 NM of torque between 6,400-6,600rpm, which will take you from 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds with a top speed of 220km/h. The engine configuration means that best performance comes with keeping the revs above the 4,000 mark but the 6-speed gear change makes light work of this, and on the open road the GT86 is a pleasure to drive, with cornering its speciality.
Behind the wheel, the excellent weight distribution makes for good road manners. The steering is light and the brakes highly effective. Instruments are easy to read, seats are body hugging and the driver gets a good view of the road. The weight/power ratio makes high speed cornering a doddle and there is good feedback from the steering. There is a full safety pack of airbags and braking assistance on board with climate control for added comfort.
The bulging wheels arches, swept back lights and sleek lines, black alloys, dual exhaust, rear spoiler and front fogs will definitely appeal to the boy racer brigade but with a 243-litre boot, compact exterior size and a claimed fuel economy of over 35 mpg, the dad or mum with a starter family could justify having a fling with this model, although the 181 g/km C02 rating attracting a Band D road tax rating of €480 will rankle with many Irish drivers used to lower ratings in turbo-charged diesel models.