I have to avert my eyes whenever I see a Keep Calm and Carry On poster. Or tea towel. Or mug. Or key ring. Or strappy top. Especially when it’s worn by a divorcee in the throes of a style crisis. The charm of James May’s t-shirt from about 5 years ago has long gone.
The same problem blights Toyota GT86 reviews. There are so many derivative chunks of sycophantic prose that they’re impossible to take seriously. A load of hyper-bollics. So we’re not going to add to it. The GT86 is low, pointy and flattering. It is a very naughty boy… but not quite the messiah.
In fact, there are some reasons why we reckon you’re better off sticking to a good-old-fashioned front wheel drive hot hatch. Like the tremendous new Golf GTI, for instance. Here’s why…
For a start, the Toyota is a clunky bugger at low speeds. The combination of a tall first gear, lack of low-rev torque and mechanical diff make it cumbersome to manoeuvre. Changing from 1st to 2nd gear needs a patient wrist too – a dose of double de-clutching is sometimes necessary when it’s cold. If you’re planning to mooch about town, get a Golf.
Secondly, it’s thirsty. Over 300 miles across town, country and motorway we averaged a heady 31mpg, without driving like we’d robbed a post office. We’ve only spent about 50 miles in the mk7 Golf GTI – and despite driving like we HAD robbed a post office, it matched the Toyota’s MPG. Head to head, the VW will be better on fuel.
It’s iffy on a motorway too. For a start, despite famously wearing the same organically grown tyres as a Prius, it’s bloody noisy. And you know how the engine isn’t known for its low down torque? Well that’s fine when you’re in the mood for constantly buzzing the red line. But it’s not fine when you need to pull 4th gear to fend off the pleb trying to undertake you in his Peugeot 3008, and then don’t actually manage to keep up with him. That’s the opposite of fine. Sad petrolhead dads will constantly want to race you… and they’ll probably win.
Next, the interior. Actually, the interior’s fine. The bits you touch are good. And despite what car journos think, most people won’t scratch its gizzards with their fingernails, or thumb its instrument cowl to see how ‘soft touch’ it is. Plus, the new Golf GTI has some grotty materials too. Including a particularly gnarly bit that your knee hits round fast corners.
Finally, is the steering perfect? Well… not quite. Once you’re into a corner, it’s nicely weighted, progressive, reasonably good at telling you about front end grip and has a natural self-centring action. But. We reckon it’s a little TOO eager on the turn in. While darty and alert and things like that, it’s tuned so hyperactively that the rest of the car can feel left behind. You turn the wheel, the front instantly reacts… then, for just a millisecond, you’re left wondering when the rear will follow. Tiny gripe, but a gripe all the same. The Toyota’s more fun through a corner, but the Golf GTI goes into them with a more natural gait.
So. Should you buy a Toyota GT86? We’d love to. But don’t believe ALL of the hype. In some cases, it’s best to Keep Calm and Get a Golf GTI.