Because people don’t seem to realise this: I do live in the UK. So it is rather UK centric.
The Toyota GT86 (aka Subaru BRZ, Scion FRS) when released was heralded as the return of inexpensive, rear wheel drive sports cars. I may be in the minority, but upon release what I clapped my eyes on was an admittedly very pretty car with too many drawbacks to even register on my shortlist. I test drove the GT86 over a year ago before putting my money down on a Mustang, but I was hoping to come away throwing money at my local Toyota dealership instead given all the hype.
I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time, I still have my notes from when I drove it to hand if you can believe that, but yet another video on YouTube from someone even younger than me proclaiming the GT86 to be an excellent car, when they’ve probably never driven anything other than a Chevy Spark, finally prompted me to write this small article.
So here are my four reasons why your money is best spent elsewhere. If you like the car or own one, then don’t take this as me attacking you – this is simply why I wouldn’t spend my own money on a GT86.
1. The engine is terrible
I can hear people calling out to the heavens even as I type this. “Ben, you don’t need a lot of horsepower to have fun!” – you’re correct, you don’t need a lot of power at all to have fun. Just look at the Suzuki Swift Sport with 130hp, the Fiesta with 197hp or any Japanese Kei car with a maximum of 64hp.
You don’t need a lot of power to have fun. What you do need, however, is Torque, and the GT86 rivals Honda in the low Torque battle. However, unlike Honda you don’t have a stupid high red-line to make up for the Torque deficit.
Sure, the Suzuki Swift only makes 118lb-ft, but the major difference is that there isn’t a drop in the Torque output equivalent to the Marianas Trench slap bang in the middle of the rev range like on the GT86, and its here that the Toyota’s engine falls completely flat (figuratively and literally).
When I drove it I recall my foot being flat to the floor without much “go” happening. Yes, its fun to rev a car to the redline but with the GT86 it wasn’t fun, it was necessary or else you weren’t going to have any fun at all. It was a chore to wind it up to the red-line and a buzzkill if you fell even a fraction outside of its comfort zone. The engine is in dire need of a retune or a factory fitted turbo.
People constantly state that you can make the car better by doing XYZ modification as soon as you buy it. If you have to modify a car to actually be good the second it exits the showroom, then its not a good car.
2. The entire car is a cost cutting exercise
Yes, I do have a Mustang on order and yes, the interior even with the premium package is filled with cheap plastics and fake chrome, but the GT86 is on another level of cheap. Everything is horrible plastic, none of the HVAC controls have any real weight to them, the wheels are covered in really cheap rubber attempting to pass for tyres, the suspension makes zero effort to be comfortable with no real benefit (rock solid suspension doesn’t equal better handling) and the equipment levels are pretty low.
Aside from the exterior styling being rather pretty the rest of the car screams budget, and when you consider the price of the vehicle you start to question why you didn’t just go with something else.
It is not a nice place to sit. Its dark and cramped. Even the steering wheel is cheap to look at with chintzy plastics and no buttons what-so-ever, despite there clearly being areas where buttons should go.
Excuses have been made as to why the GT86 has economy tyres. Said tyres giving up early so you can enjoy its limits at legal speeds is the most common reason, which is backwards in every sense of the word – in reality its because Toyota has a surplus of Prius tyres since they sell so many of that loathsome little box.
3. Its expensive
When the car was released it cost a pretty penny. £25,000 to be precise. To put that into perspective, that could get you into a Megane RS, which is cited as one of the best driver’s cars on a regular basis where the GT86 is not. Spend £27,000 and you’ll be in a Nissan 370Z with a screaming V6, spend £28,000 and you’ll be in a Porsche Boxster. Since 99% of new cars are bought on finance it wouldn’t cost much more per month (if anything more per month) to buy the Nissan or Porsche, and you are far more likely to haggle a discount out of Porsche. If you are hell bent on spending less, get a BMW 1-series hatchback instead.
Whichever one of those alternatives you go for, you’ll end up with a more engaging car.
In 2015 Toyota lowered the prices to £22,500 by sacrificing equipment, they called it the “Primo” trim. Seriously, the list is so barren that a Radio Antenna is one of the highlighted features. If you must have the cheapest GT86 possible, then buy a Primo, but its as empty inside as a Dacia Sandero.
If you live in the states, the Nissan and Porsche will be well outside your price range and the 1-series hatch doesn’t exist – what options are open to those on the other side of the pond? Pony Cars. The new Camaro is a hair over $25,000 with a 275hp Turbo-4 and the underpinnings from the Cadillac ATS, a car which is presently giving BMW a good kicking on the handling front. The FRS is actually the more expensive vehicle at $26,100. You’ve also got the V6 and EcoBoost Mustangs both at less than $26,000, with an EcoBoost performance pack tallying in at $28,290 which is far better value for money.
4. The Mazda MX5 exists
This is where the Toyota doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The MX5 is cheaper than even the Primo trim GT86, has peppier engines, is lighter, is the tiny-car handling benchmark and is better built. There really is nothing more to be said. If you want cheap, rear drive thrills, just buy the MX5. Its been the hallmark of tiny sports cars since 1989 for a reason, and this is coming from someone who isn’t particularly a fan of the MX5.