Toyota GR86 Review 2023

Lawrence Allan

Written by Lawrence Allan

heycar ratingMaximum fun for the money
  • 2022
  • Sports car
  • Petrol

Quick overview


  • Hugely entertaining to drive
  • Much better engine than old GT86
  • Roomier than an MX-5 with small rear seats


  • Lacks refinement when cruising
  • You can't actually buy a new one and it'll be rare used
  • The cabin is hardly upmarket

Overall verdict on the Toyota GR86

"The Toyota GR86 is a small sports car of the old school. It's simple, affordable, not over-burdened with power and designed to put a smile on your face at legal speeds. It's an evolution of the recipe used for the Toyota GT86, but is the new model a better all-rounder? We'll find out in our 2022 Toyota GR86 review."

Toyota GR86 Review 2023: front driving

If we could say one thing about the new Toyota GR86 it would be 'get one while you can'. Or rather 'if' you can, because Toyota is only building it until 2024 and all the cars destined for Europe sold out in minutes.

Why only build a new car for a couple of years? Well, the GR86 isn't technically an all-new car. It's actually a thorough upgrade of the old Toyota GT86 sports car, which has been around for a decade now.  And the main reason why Toyota can only build a fairly small number of GR86s before killing it is that the car's structure won't meet tough new safety rules coming into force in 2024. 

Of course Toyota could re-engineer the entire car, but that means spending lots of money that likely won't translate to more sales. The sports car market is slowly dying out as buyers prefer more practical and usable hot hatchbacks, sports saloons or fast SUVs. Nevertheless, there's enough die-hard car enthusiasts to snap up the new and improved GR86.

The Toyota GR86 shares a stable with Toyota's other Gazoo Racing performance models: the GR Supra and GR Yaris. The GR86 is actually the entry-level model being the least powerful (with 235PS) and the most affordable (with prices starting from just under £30k). As with the GT86, it's been co-developed with Subaru which also builds the very similar BRZ, although that's only sold in the USA now. 

So what makes the Toyota GR86 better than the old GT86? The engine, for one. It's still a 'boxer' four cylinder engine without a turbocharger, but its size has been upped from 2.0-litre to 2.4-litres. That means more power but (crucially) more torque from lower down the rev range. Where you really had to work the GT86 hard to get anything out of it, the GR86 delivers more performance more of the time as a result. Don't worry though: it still loves to be revved. 

Making the most of that engine is easy with short gearing and a slick manual gearbox. There is a six-speed automatic which we've not tried yet, but we wouldn't expect it to suit a pure sports car like this.

The same old fun, engaging handling that the GT86 was known for is alive and well in the Toyota GR86, except there are improvements in key areas. You now get more (but not too much) grip courtesy of better tyres, while the steering is sharp and more feelsome. It feels really agile on a twisty road, although the ride is firmer than in something like a Mazda MX-5 and it's quite noisy at speed. There are definitely better long distance companions, but it's tolerable. 

Another key area of improvement is the interior, which is a fair bit less cheap-feeling than the GT86. It's certainly still a long way from an Audi TT on quality terms, but then that's a more expensive and less driver-focused car. What matters is that it feels solid and built to last, the controls are easy to get along with and the seating position is low-slung yet comfortable. You've even got a pair of (admittedly small) rear seats and a boot that's big enough to deal with a long weekend away for two.

The Toyota GR86, then, is a GT86 that's evolved. Arguably better looking, even more enjoyable to drive and a bit more liveable, it's entirely fit for purpose as a simple sports car. We understand why many buyers will go for a more refined, faster and roomier hot hatchback, however. 

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If you're someone who needs one car to be fun to drive, deal with everyday situations and make the commute more effortless, than the Toyota GR86 probably isn't for you. It's nowhere near as comfortable, spacious and refined as a good hot hatchback like a Volkswagen Golf GTI or even a Honda Civic Type R

Buying a Toyota GR86 as your only car is definitely one for the purists, who will revel in its sheer driver appeal. We suspect quite a few owners will have a second, more sensible car for mundane daily drives, however. 

There's only one Toyota GR86 - you don't even get trim levels to choose from. The only choice you need to make is between a manual and automatic gearbox. 

While we've not yet driven the automatic, and auto gearboxes are a lot more satisfying for keen drivers than they used to be, the point of the GR86 is that it's a pure, engaging driver's car. Unless you really can't be bothered with changing gear we'd point you in the direction of the extremely satisfying manual version.

The closest competitor to the Toyota GR86 is the Mazda MX-5, despite the former being a coupe and the latter being a convertible. Both are somewhat compromised in the desire for pure driving pleasure, so while the Mazda is more comfortable at a cruise the Toyota is more accommodating for taller drivers and passengers. 

The small coupe market is not massive these days, but we'd definitely include the Audi TT and BMW 2 Series Coupe in the rivals camp. Neither will be as fun to drive as the GR86, but both are easier to live with, more practical and feel noticeably posher.

Comfort and design: Toyota GR86 interior

"The Toyota GR86's cabin looks and feels positively cheap next to a BMW, but it's not meant to be luxurious. What matters most is that it's easy to use, the driving position is mostly spot-on and there's not too much tech distraction from the joy of driving it."

Toyota GR86 Review 2023: interior

If you're not familiar with Toyota's affordable sports car you'd climb into the GR86 and wonder what the fuss is all about. There's lots of hard plastics, not a huge amount of space and an infotainment system that looks aftermarket. 

To defend it needs some context: for starters, Toyota spent most of its money engineering the car underneath, with the interior considered of less importance. But also the rudimentary materials are part of the reason why it's over 300kg lighter than a 2022 BMW 230i. The GR86 actually seems built to last, even if it largely isn't posh to the touch.

The simple dash layout is a breath of fresh air, with easy rotary controls for the air-con, no touch-sensitive switchgear in sight and big, simple buttons for features such as the heated seats or traction control on/off toggle. The Mazda MX-5 is perhaps an even better blend of design and ease-of-use, though.

The driving position is as low-slung and sporty as you'd expect of a car like this. There's plenty of adjustment in the seat, but this tall tester would like a touch more reach adjustment in the steering wheel to have optimum levels of comfort. Six-footers and under should be perfectly fine, however. 

Visibility out of the Toyota GR86 is surprisingly good. The view out front isn't obstructed by thick pillars and a high dashboard, and while you do get a reversing camera it's nice that there's a decent sized rear window to see out of. 

When you accept the caveats that we just mentioned the GR88 is actually a noticeable improvement over the old GT86 - particularly the early versions of that car. 

As standard you get nice suede-like material on the doors and part of the dash top, plus some soft-touch material in areas that matter such as the armrests. The leather steering wheel feels of decent quality, and  nothing feels flimsy or easily breakable. 

We have to stop the compliments there, though: the majority of the cabin is still made up of hard plastics that aren't especially nice to touch (even the door handles feel cheap), while our car had a glovebox that rattled over bumps. If you come to terms with the fact you're getting Toyota Yaris levels of finish here it's fundamentally okay, however.

Toyota has never been a front-runner in infotainment systems, but the screen in the old GT86 was pretty hopeless even by those standards. It just about did the job, but the small and dated display with fiddly menus meant it wasn't exactly user-friendly. 

You might sigh when you see that the Toyota GR86's central screen again looks pretty aftermarket. But it's actually a half-decent screen this time: there's a bigger 8.0-inch display, it's reasonably responsive and intuitive and you get features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Again, the system in an Audi or BMW is far slicker, but you get what you pay for.  

As standard you get a digital instrument panel, but again if you're expecting anything like Audi's cool, configurable Virtual Cockpit you'll be disappointed. What matters more to enthusiasts is that it's very clear and easy to read, looks quite sporty and has a big, simple button to change the trip displays. 

A pleasant surprise is that the speakers have clearly been upgraded over the old car. They were pretty pathetic-sounding in the GT86, but now have a decent stab at letting you enjoy music and drown out the road noise. 

The Toyota GR86's dimensions make it 4265mm long, 1775mm wide and 1310mm tall. That's bigger in every dimension than a Mazda MX-5 but still pretty tiny compared to most modern cars, and smaller than the average family hatchback. 

That extra space over an MX-5 translates to a front cabin that is plenty big enough even for broad or tall drivers - the Mazda is a bit tricky if you're over six foot and almost undrivable if you're more than four inches taller than that. You also get nicely supportive sports seats in the Toyota, too.

Fold the front seats forward and you'll find a pair of small seats separated by a central tunnel. You could technically fit two adult back there - great for quick lifts back from the pub, for example - but really they're either for children or (more likely) for some shopping or luggage when the boot is full.

Speaking of the boot, the Toyota GR86 has 226 litres of space behind a fairly narrow opening. An Audi TT has more space and a more practical hatchback-like boot lid, but the Toyota trumps the tiny space you get in an MX-5. Also handy is the fact that the rear seats fold by pulling straps in the boot. If you removed the front wheel you could probably squeeze a bike in the space left with them folded.

Storage is okay, with a decent-sized bottle holder and smaller area for oddments in both doors, a pair of cupholders in the centre console, a decent glovebox and some space below a flip-up centre armrest. 

Handling and ride quality: What is the Toyota GR86 like to drive?

"The Toyota GR86 is all about driver appeal: if it doesn't succeed here then it's entirely pointless. Happily it does, making usually mundane journeys a riot."

Toyota GR86 Review 2023: rear driving

The Toyota GR86 is the ultimate proof that you don't need a million horsepower, foot-wide tyres and a race harness to have fun. In many ways it's the perfect car for tight, twisty country roads. 

For starters it's small and relatively light. A bit less small and light than an MX-5, but certainly less bulky than most sporting coupes. That makes it nimble and easy both park and thread through traffic. Trust us, you can even enjoy driving this thing in a city - only the sharp clutch of the manual model might grate a bit if you were in lots of start-stop traffic.

It also makes the GR86 fun when you get out of town. Find a good twisty road and you'll be smiling very quickly. It steers beautifully (better than the old GT86), and feels super agile when you chuck it into a bend. You also get enough grip for it to stay locked on the corner line you pick, but not too much grip that it doesn't feel playful and adjustable at regular speeds.

Toyota hasn't gone for the same eco tyres you got on the old GT86 for the GR86. Some might lament that it's a little less easy to slide it about at low speeds, but many will welcome it feeling a bit less likely to spit you into a hedge when it's wet and cold. The cornering limits are a bit higher then, but not too high you feel like you need to find a racetrack to get stuck in.  It's more fun than any small coupe rival we can think of. 

If there's a downside to the engaging handling it's that the Toyota GR86 isn't exactly comfy and refined by modern standards. The ride is firm and a bit choppy on really rough roads, although it smooths off the nastiest potholes just enough to not be harsh around town. 

There's one engine available in the Toyota GR86 and it sounds like a pretty humble one at first. With 2.4-litres and no turbocharger to help it along you don't get the instant shove of turbo rivals, but the fun is in working it to extract every ounce of performance it has. 

And actually, with 235PS and a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds it will get a shift on. That's 35PS more than the old GT86 and there's 50Nm more torque, too (up to 250Nm).

The actual torque figure doesn't matter as much as where the torque comes in. In the old GT86 there was a huge yawning gap in the rev range where nothing much happened at all, with a surge of power right before you hit the rev limiter. In the GR86 it gets into its stride from 4,000rpm, with a distinctively snarly boxer engine tone building with the revs.

That means you won't get out-dragged by a diesel hatchback if you're in the wrong gear. But it also makes the GR86 a lot more effortless on a motorway, with far less of a need to change down a cog or two to get moving. Happily it'll still give you more the harder you rev it, which is a big part of the appeal. Push it up to the 7,500rpm redline and it even beeps to tell you to change up.

Other than the firm ride the biggest obstacle to doing long distances in the Toyota GR86 is the amount of cabin noise. The din kicked up by the tyres on the road surface and the wind isn't unbearable but it is very noticeable. On concrete road sections, for example, you might well develop a headache after a while. 

Drowning it out with the stereo is possible, but not everyone wants pumping tunes for their whole journey. Something you won't want to drown out is the hard-edged engine noise which is helped by a (natural-sounding) boost from the speakers. 

That's great when you're revving it, but at lower speeds there's quite a bit of noise and vibration from the engine when you're just pottering about - at certain low revs it'll buzz the cabin plastics. Fun it may be, refined it isn't.

Don't be put off by the fact that the Toyotas GR86 won't meet upcoming 2024 safety regulations: it should be perfectly safe with a roster of airbags and active safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-trafic alert and and of course tyre pressure monitoring. 

Interestingly, though, you don't get automatic emergency braking unless you go for the automatic model, which also brings lane keeping assistance. That'll hardly be a deal-breaker for enthusiasts but it's probably the only real argument for going for the automatic model. 

The Toyota GR86 has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP and isn't likely to be given the small volume of cars being built.

MPG and fuel costs: What does a Toyota GR86 cost to run?

"The Toyota GR86 is cheap to buy but fuel, tax and insurance costs aren't much to write home about"

Toyota GR86 Review 2023: side static

Officially the Toyota GR86 manages 32.1mpg on the combined WLTP cycle. That's not a terrible figure, and one we easily managed to beat on longer motorway journeys, but it certainly isn't that competitive in 2022 given the modest engine size. 

For starters a 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5 will manage over 40mpg on the same tests, while even a Volkswagen Golf R with 320PS, a turbo and four-wheel drive can beat it on paper. We suspect the GR86s official figure is so low because of its short gearing, which penalises it on the official test cycle.

In reality you'll probably find up to 35mpg is possible with a mix of journeys, and near to 40mpg is achievable with gentle driving at a constant cruise. Interestingly the automatic model is quoted with an identical figure to the manual. 

We can't give you a really precise assessment of the GR86's long-term reliability given its so new. What well can say is that Toyota has an excellent reputation for building long-lasting, problem-free cars earned over many years. 

Toyota finished a strong 8th place in the latest Satisfaction Index. It's far from the brand's best performance in the survey but owners are generally very happy with their cars. 

As a sports car known to be driven by enthusiasts it probably won't surprise you that the Toyota GR86's insurance groups are pretty high. If you're a young driver, or have previous accidents or points on your licence, expect some pretty hefty quotes to come back. 

Officially the Toyota GR86 sits in group 50 in manual form, although interestingly the automatic model is five groups lower at 45. Those are significantly higher than a Mazda MX-5, perhaps due to the GR86's rarity and parts availability.

Another sting in the tail with the Toyota GR86 is its high emissions, which translates to expensive road tax (VED) relative to its cost. 

Whether you go for the manual or automatic model it sits in one of the highest tax bands, meaning a painful £1420 first year rate - higher than key rivals. At least the GR86's low list price means you're not stung by the 'premium' car tax, while the standard rate after the first year drops to £165. 

How much should you be paying for a used Toyota GR86?

"Demand is high and supply is low for the Toyota GR86, so despite an affordable new price don't expect any used bargains."

Toyota GR86 Review 2023: rear static

The Toyota GR86 is certainly very affordable as a new buy, particularly for a sports car. Prices start at £29,995 for a manual version and £32,085 for the automatic. 

That's only a few grand more than a Ford Fiesta ST for a bespoke sports car. And sure, the MX-5 starts at just under £26,000, but that's for a sparsely-specced model with the weedier 1.5-litre engine. By the time you've specced the 2.0-litre model pricing is very similar. 

That's the good news. The bad news is that if you haven't already made a reservation it's very unlikely you'll be able to buy one. It's estimated that only around 450 cars are coming to the UK and they all sold out in just 90 minutes. That's out of roughly 4500 cars coming to Europe. While there are rumours Toyota  might be able to secure some more from other markets nothing has been confirmed. 

That restricted supply is also bad news for used Toyota GR86s. While it's likely some of these owners will try to 'flip' (sell on) the cars for profit when they take delivery, you'll be paying a premium of several thousand pounds for one. Even a year-old car with a few thousand miles on it will likely sell above list price. At least there are plenty of used Toyota GT86s around to choose from...

There's only one version of the Toyota GR86. Standard equipment includes 18-inch black alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, a limited-slip differential, auto wipers and lights with auto high beam, heated and power-folding door mirrors, lane departure warning, an eight-inch touchscreen media system, a reversing camera and heated front seats.

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

Yes, the Toyota GR86 was available to order in the UK. Emphasis on 'was' there because it sold out in just 90 minutes after going on sale. Toyota is only making the GR86 for a short period because it would need to be totally redesigned to meet upcoming safety regulations. You might find a few on the used market in due course.
The Toyota GR86 is price from £29,995 for the manual version and £32,085 for the automatic version in the UK.
Fast enough to have fun with, that's for sure. It won't keep up with high-end turbocharged sports cars and might even struggle with a decent hot hatch, but how much performance can you use on the road anyway? With a 0-62mph of 6.3 seconds and a 140mph top speed it'll rarely feel underpowered.
No, unlike the Mazda MX-5 the Toyota GR86 is actually a four seater. You'll struggle to get full grown adults back there for anything more than a quick lift from the pub, but children will be perfectly happy for longer trips.

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