4 Reasons why the Toyota GT86 is a bad buy

Because people don’t seem to realise this: I do live in the UK. So it is rather UK centric.

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

EcoBoost Mustang
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

Porsche Boxster
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

Mazda MX5
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.


Gopnik Petrolhead

GT86/BRZ is great as a starter, if you have enough money for it, but i think it would be number 1 recommendation in future, as they get cheaper

12/14/2015 - 20:53 |
2 | 2

Even then I’d still recommend the MX5, which will be even cheaper to buy and insure.

12/14/2015 - 20:55 |
2 | 0

the reason its not that good from the second it exists is because you get what you pay for.
the frs/brz/86 is a car for people to build and learn on. Its not a car you buy and then just use to take you from point a to b its a car you make to be unique and home made. Its like cake without icing you make the icing and style it like you want. im planning to buy a scion frs in the next few months and i looked at the miata, wrx, sti, and with the frs i can do what i want i can go and buy a big turbo, supercharger or even twincharge it. with any other car its already done for me and if i would like to change something i would potentially have to ruin something already complete.

sorry for the rant, i might be wrong on few points but this is why i think the frs is a great affordable starter car.

12/14/2015 - 20:56 |
0 | 2
Ben Anderson 1

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

That’s the problem I have with it, though. Its not cheap and if you need to modify it for it to be good, then its not a good car in the first place. I’m all for modifying cars, but if its required to make the car as it should’ve been from the showroom floor then its failed its mission statement. Not saying a built GT86 can’t be excellent, but stock its lacking.

12/14/2015 - 20:59 |
4 | 2
Beverly Hillbilly

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

My counterpoint: why buy a new type of cake without icing, when I can go buy a cake I know is amazing with all the icing and goodies I’ll need?

The MX-5 has a bigger and already proven aftermarket

12/14/2015 - 21:48 |
0 | 0

I would cut a finger if I had to buy the MX5 over the GT86. Said that, I’m a big fan f the gt86 and never have driven one so my opinion doesn’t really matters.

12/14/2015 - 20:57 |
6 | 2
Beverly Hillbilly

Owning an NC MX-5 Club, I have this to say: THANK YOU

Toyota and Subaru listened to what 16 year olds want, and the F-RS is the result. I’ve driven one, and felt like it was made for dumb kids who yell “Tokyo Drift!” A lot (just opinion)

The NC Club is faster in every way, and is proven to be a reliable car. The hype is over, and now its easier to see that the F-RS just isn’t what it was billed to be.

12/14/2015 - 21:46 |
24 | 2

u really should not comment when u have little knowledge about a topic, bud

12/14/2015 - 22:32 |
6 | 38

Couldn’t disagree with you more. I have an MX5 NC while my mate has a BRZ. Sure round town the MX5 has more low down torque, but that’s it. Round our local racetrack he’s 4 seconds quicker than me, which we then verified by handing both cars to a pro-driver instructor. Also on the absolute limit, the 86 in particular is way easier to control where as the MX5 tends to snap out more and can be a bit of a handful to bring back.

12/15/2015 - 06:28 |
4 | 0
Deus Robert Paulsen

Sorry but I think you are “overhating” it a little bit.
the engine isnt that bad. It falls a bit flat ok but the last 2krpm are were the go is and the power there isnt really that bad. Compare it to other 2.0 n/a engines. But not the s2000. The engine is just too good.

And the thing about the ubelivable cheap plastics…I cant find that Kind of cheap plastic in the 86. I work for a vw audi dealership and i drive a lot of the new vag cars. And the gt86 isnt that far away from a lower class vw like a polo or something. It really isnt cheap like a dacia or an aygo or something. I think its overall pretty nice and in some detail it may lack a bit of “quality plastic”

In the end: its a great drivers car. And its got a lot, a whole lot of very positive reviews from all over the world.

12/14/2015 - 21:57 |
34 | 2

I don’t think I’m over-hating at all. I just flat out don’t like the car when placed against the competition. Its chassis dynamics and exterior looks are its two main selling points, and on those two fronts it does very well - but the whole package is lacking, and the engine is the weak link. Fixing the engine would make it far, far better. Its why so many people tune out the Torque drop and/or fit a turbo almost instantly.

I also never said it was on the same level as a Dacia inside. I said the Primo trim was as empty (lacking equipment) as the Dacia.

12/14/2015 - 22:04 |
4 | 8

i drove the 2016 scion frs and its really nice it got new little things that complete the “cheap interior’’

12/14/2015 - 22:26 |
0 | 0

most people I know that own a frs build thier cars and none are even close to the same, one with a turbo, one with a supercharger, one with a dash kit supporting a 8’’ inch screen, one with different seats. with a miata or a wrx would be stupid to do this because they already have the ideal part in their car.

12/14/2015 - 22:18 |
0 | 0
Ben Anderson 1

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

As I said above, I do like the idea of making a car better and making a car your own. But as I also stated, it should not be an excuse for the car’s downfalls.

12/14/2015 - 22:20 |
0 | 0

Also the ND looks better. Much better.

12/14/2015 - 22:35 |
0 | 0

I proffer the Fiat 124 Spider to be honest. Though, I’ve never been a die-hard fan of the MX5 styling in any generation.

12/14/2015 - 22:36 |
2 | 0
One Lap Kings

I think the GT86/FRS/BRZ is going to be the Nissan S-chassis of this generation. Maybe not the greatest when new, but the aftermarket will be endless and you can do just about anything with it for a reasonable price (In the future when these cars get relatively cheap). I wouldn’t consider owning one now because I personally find them on the expensive side (thats coming from a university student paying student loans), but give them a few more years and I believe they’ll be a bargain in the used market. I’m already seeing many of them modded at track days, so I can just imagine what their future holds when used prices hit rock bottom.

12/14/2015 - 22:41 |
0 | 0

I agree they’re excellent cars when built up properly. Turbo, better tyres, some tweaks to the aero and you have yourself a fantastic coupé.

Though I still don’t think that’s an excuse for their downfalls off of the showroom floor. Nissan S-Chassis when they were new were amazing cars for the time, hence why they became classics in the first place. The modding came later. A GT86 will become a classic because of modding and that doesn’t sit well with me.

12/14/2015 - 22:47 |
2 | 0

I see what you’re saying but you have to remember that the FRS is getting old, so it’s bound to fall behind competition. As for other cars being faster, R&T did prefer the frs over the V6 Mustang so that’s saying something.

12/14/2015 - 23:00 |
0 | 0

Hence why I also put in the EB and EB Performance Pack, since that is the more resolved sports car compared to the V6.

The FRS is old but I feel my points still stand even back in 2012. The engine hasn’t changed, and you could still buy a Porsche or a Nissan, and the car with a decent spec level hasn’t gotten any cheaper - instead they just reduced it to poverty spec.

12/14/2015 - 23:02 |
0 | 0

I want to be angry with your for writing this article but I have to admit they’re all valid points. The only thing I could argue is about preferences and subjective topics. I prefer the GT86 over the Miata primarily because of the exterior looks and the fact that it’s a coupe. I’m not a fan of convertibles and I really like the styling of the GT86. Also, I really couldn’t care less about the weight of buttons and knobs in the interior but I can definitely see why other people would.

12/14/2015 - 23:01 |
14 | 0
Ben Anderson 1

In reply to by Dragan

I’m going from a purely logical standpoint in the article, and, to me, logically the MX5 would be a better buy. I wasn’t accounting for personal taste.

Hell I live in the UK where fuel is US5.50 a gallon and I’ve ordered a V8! So I know that personal taste can mean a lot to someone.

12/14/2015 - 23:06 |
2 | 0


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