2023 Toyota GR86 GTS Manual Review: Still a Great Sports Car?
Price & Equipment: 8.5
Performance & Economy: 9
Ride & Handling: 9
Interior & Practicality: 8
Service & Warranty: 8
What we like:
  • Excellent overall sports car
  • Sublime handling, comfortable ride quality
  • Awesome fun factor
What we don't like:
  • Not as cheap to buy any longer, missing some features
  • Clutch can take some getting used to
  • Rear seat is useless for passengers
8.5DiscoverAuto Rating:

Just 20 years ago, it seemed like most mainstream brands offered a sports car or sport-focused product in their lineups in Australia. In 2004 alone and available for under $50,000 are cars like the Mazda MX-5, Toyota Celica, Honda Integra, Hyundai Tiburon, MG TF and the Toyota MR2, which is a massive contrast to today’s market where a plethora of SUVs are now available in their places. Now there are really just three offerings on the relatively affordable small sports car front: the Mazda MX-5, the Subaru BRZ and the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS tested here.

With many more hot hatch offerings and the introduction of the fast SUV, sports cars have taken a big hit on the sales front and many car companies simply don’t offer them any longer. If you’re lucky enough to have space, should you buy something like the GR86 over an equivalent hot hatch? Let’s find out.

How much does the 2023 Toyota GR86 cost to buy?

The starting point in the 2023 Toyota GR86 line up is the ‘GT’ model which is priced at $43,240 plus on road costs no matter which transmission you choose. Step up the GR86 GTS tested here and you’ll be paying a premium of $2,150 over the GT, or $45,390 plus on-road costs (around $50,000 drive away, depending on location).

GR86 GTS standard equipment:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Dusk-sensing automatic all-LED exterior lighting
  • Intermittent manual wipers
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Leather and suede upholstery
  • Heated front seats
  • Keyless entry and start
  • Heated and power-folding exterior mirrors
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen
  • Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio
  • Six-speaker sound system
  • 7.0-inch digital driver’s display
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • Limited-slip differential
  • Cruise control
  • Sports pedals

GR86 GTS standard safety equipment:

  • Seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee unit)
  • Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
  • Lane departure warning
  • Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
  • Hill hold assistance
  • Reversing camera
  • Alarm
  • Auto high beam
  • Tyre pressure monitoring

The GR86 is untested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP, but the previous 86 – which shares the GR86’s body – achieved a five-star safety rating based on outdated testing protocols in 2012. It’s unlikely the GR86 will be tested by ANCAP, but the 2024 update (with features like AEB for the manual) has made it safer.

GR86 GTS options:

  • Dynamic Performance Pack with Sachs sports suspension, Brembo four-pot front brake callipers, two-pot rear brake callipers and painted brake callipers: $2,200

GR86 GTS colour range:

  • Spark Red: no cost
  • Blaze Blue: $595
  • Rapid Blue: $595
  • Magnetic Grey: $595
  • Ice Silver: $595
  • White Liquid: $595 (fitted to our test car)

GR86 GTS buyers have a choice between an all-black interior or a black interior with red carpets and trim inserts for no extra cost.

The closest and only real rival to the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS (apart from its BRZ twin) is the Mazda MX-5 G20 RF which is priced at $46,250 plus on road costs. While it is an extra $860 spend it does have a rather cool electric folding hard top roof. The Toyota is better equipped as the Mazda misses out on features like folding mirrors, airbags (the Mazda has four compared to seven on the Toyota), keyless entry, auto high beam, 18-inch wheels (Mazda has 17-inch) and heated seats. The MX-5 does however gain over the GR86 rear parking sensors, satellite navigation, wireless smartphone mirroring and auto wipers.

How powerful is the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS?

Powering the 2023 Toyota GR86 is a new (for this model and its Subaru BRZ twin) engine. It is a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol unit that sends grunt to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. The engine produces 174kW of power (at 7,000rpm) and 250Nm (at 3,700rpm) of torque versus the MX-5’s lesser 135kW/205Nm outputs, though the GR86 does weigh 114kg more than the MX-5. The claimed 0-100km/h time for the GR86 GTS is just 6.3 seconds – a healthy 1.3 second improvement on the 86 – and its top speed is 226km/h.

The new engine is a lively and eager unit, and we weren’t expecting it to feel so different to the previous model 86’s smaller 2.0-litre unit. It loves using the rev range to get going and is happiest at higher revs, where its fake engine noise makes itself known, but doesn’t subtract from the experience. It shouts when accelerating and gives a satisfying surge in power at higher revs – peak power hits at 7,000rpm – makes you feel like you’re driving something special. We much prefer this new engine over the outgoing unit as it feels like it suits the personality of the GR86 much better, and it’s got more grunt as well.

Interestingly enough, Toyota doesn’t charge for choosing the optional six-speed automatic over the manual like most brands (including Subaru and Mazda) do. Our test car was fitted with the six-speed manual transmission, and it’s – by far – the better transmission option of the two for a sports car. The ratios are fantastic and though the clutch does take some getting used to we did like it in the end. The throw between the gears is nice and short and overall it’s pleasing to operate, but the MX-5’s gearbox and clutch are definitely better – better than most new cars, it must be said.

The claimed average fuel consumption figure for the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS fitted with the manual transmission is a high 9.5L/100km and 217g/km for CO2 emissions – significantly more than the MX-5’s 6.9L/100km combined figure. Our time spent behind the wheel of the GR86 saw an average fuel consumption figure of 10.3L/100km, which is closer to the claim than expected, but still not great. The GR86 must run on 98RON premium unleaded fuel to fill its 50-litre fuel tank.

What is the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS like to drive?

The 86 quickly gained a reputation for its sublime handling and great ride quality, and the GR86 has improved this slightly with even greater sharpness and yet, more maturity. As a daily driver that you can take to the track as well and it’s difficult to think of doing better in today’s market than the GR86 – let alone for the (relatively) modest price that Toyota is asking for it. Like its predecessor, the GR86 is a very rewarding car to drive – but this time around it’s a touch sharper and more comfortable as well.

The GR86 has long impressed us with is handling prowess and this GTS continues to do so. It’s blessed with a taut, and beautifully balanced chassis, allowing for drivers to have some sublime fun through corners. As a package, it’s hard to fault for keen drivers, turning into tight corners sharply with little body roll with tons of grip through corners too. It’s a seriously fun car to drive. It eats corners up. The steering is communicative and has a great amount of feel too. Thanks to its slight dimensional changes compared with the previous 86, its centre of balance has actually lowered by 1.6mm and roll is non-existent.

On a more sensible front, the GR86’s road noise levels are lower than the MX-5’s, though still nothing special, Its outward visibility is reasonable. The suspension tune is spot on for daily driving, with the ride quality bordering on comfortable. Around town, it rides beautifully over speed bumps and potholes and is super relaxing to drive in traffic. The steering is nicely weighted and super immediate off centre, while still light enough not to fatigue the driver around town. It feeds information on what the car is doing through the driver’s hands and is an absolute winner.

Sadly, heading out of town with the GR86 won’t be as enjoyable as it could be as there is quite a bit of tyre noise when driving at speed. Tyre roar and wind noise are ever present, but after a few days of driving, it’s nonetheless easy to get used to the levels of noise in the GR86’s cabin. After all, this isn’t a luxury car, but a sports car. The GR86 very much nails the brief of what it was conceived to do: to be the purest driving experience possible, for an affordable price.

How practical is the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS?

The interior of the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS is a nicer place to spend time than its predecessor. The GR86 now has more technology and nicer materials than before, though those chasing more room will be left disappointed as it’s pretty much the same as the old car. For example, the centre console and doors are almost identical to the old car but the dashboard is now more modern and has better materials like extra soft touch plastics.

There is still a decent amount of hard plastics inside, as you’d expect for an affordable sports coupe, though the door panels have some soft fabric and the top of the dash is soft touch also. The leather and suede seats in the GTS are offer a great amount of support and are quite comfortable. Storage is not something you usually associate with a two-door sports car, but in this case, it isn’t too shabby. There are two cup holders that also double as the centre console with a lid to hide valuables, bottle holders in the front doors and coin storage next to the manual handbrake.

Ahead of the driver is a 7.0-inch digital display that isn’t as sharp or as configurable as we would like it to be. It’s fine in isolation but compared to the latest digital driver’s displays used in new Toyota products like the Corolla Cross, it makes the GR86’s cabin feel a bit dated and it has limited functionality: the rev counter and layout of the display changes when you put the car into track mode, but other than that, only the left side of the display can be changed between a lap timer, a G meter and a trip computer.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen features wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio and a reversing camera, but no inbuilt navigation or Toyota Connected Services. The screen quality is reasonable and it is very easy to use with the shortcut buttons to the side of the screen helping immensely, but it feels dated to look at, especially against the company’s latest infotainment software in some of its mainstream products. The standard six-speaker sound system is also better than expected, but nothing special.

As you can imagine in a two-door sports car, the rear seats are merely just extra storage space. If you manage to fit there – which, according to Toyota, is easier now thanks to revised seat access – headroom is very limited and legroom is non-existent. More happily, however, the seatback folds (as one) and according to Toyota, four tyres can be fitted with the seat down. It is worth noting that unlike the Mazda MX-5, at least the GR86 does have a rear seat.

Opening the boot reveals a reasonable 237-litres of cargo space, which is far more capacious than an MX-5 but, thanks to its high floor and shallow opening, still nothing amazing. There is also no spare tyre in the GR86, but a tyre inflation kit in its place – strange when the BRZ has a full-size alloy spare.

What warranty covers the 2023 Toyota GR86 GR86 GTS?

Just like all other new Toyota models, the 2023 Mazda GR86 is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Unfortunately, the downside of Toyota’s aftersales package is that it does not offer any form of roadside assistance as standard. Mazda offers the same five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with the MX-5, though it also offers five years of roadside assistance as well.

Servicing the 2023 Toyota GR86 occurs every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, which is better than the previous 86’s odd nine-month/15,000km intervals. The cost to service the GR86 over five years or 75,000km is a reasonable $1,400 ($280 per service). By comparison, the Mazda MX-5 needs to be serviced every 12 months or 15,000km as well and will cost $2,633 over the span of five years/75,000km (or $526 per service – almost double the cost of the GR86).

Should I buy a 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS?

Is there a place for an affordable sports coupe on the current new car market? We certainly think so. They are fun, relatively cheap, can be practical and are engaging, and the GR86 is definitely the best example of that. We love the Toyota GR86 and our week spent behind the wheel was spent with huge smiles on our faces, even in regular driving. It handles impeccably, rides well and does whatever you ask of it. Yes, a hot hatch is more practical but we would argue that a nice light sports coupe is more fun.

The question is would we buy a GR86 over a Mazda MX-5 and the truthful answer is yes. We believe the GR86 to be not only an all-round better car but also a better sports car as well as you feel more part of the driving experience. The GR86 offers more fun factor with its grippy tyres, excellent chassis and even a relatively practical interior. It’s an excellent all-rounder and if you’re after such a car, it’s the one to buy.

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