You might imagine that it would be difficult for a jury to agree to award a prize to a new car that only one of them has actually driven. But if that car is the successor to the brilliantly entertaining Toyota GT86, if that one judge is completely convinced of his claim, and if there’s so little disagreement in the virtual conference room and so much nodding and anticipatory chuckling, you know what? It’s not that hard.
The Toyota GR86 is our Best Fun Car of 2022 thanks to some road driving and plenty of fast laps on Spain’s Parcmotor Castellolí circuit (which is blessed with plenty of tantalizing, sweeping turns in third gear, as it should be). We will be running finished production cars at the European press launch later this month and getting right-handed drivers in the UK later in the summer.
But we already know they’ll be brilliant: slightly faster, more grippy and more focused than the hilariously indulgent GT86, but still an invitation to powerslide that even a Trappist monk couldn’t refuse.
It will be available in the UK from £29,995, which is almost £5,000 less than the very cheapest Audi TT and about the same as what you could pay for a Ford Puma ST.
That’s not a bad driver’s car, considering it’s in the crossover class, but if you want pure driving pleasure it shouldn’t even be part of the same discussion. The GR86 uses a larger-bore four-cylinder boxer engine than the GT86, with displacement increased from just 2.0 to 2.4 liters. It revs to higher revs and produces 232 horsepower at 7000 rpm. But the 20% gain it makes in torque, which makes it feel even bigger for accessibility at lower revs, is the more transformative factor in how much faster the GR86 feels, both on the road and track, than the GT86.
Much, however, feels very familiar about the new sports car: the really low-slung driving position and the low front hood, which speaks so clearly of low-carried mass and the dynamic advantages they bring. The steering is medium weight and feels fairly mechanical. The gearshift needs a firm push in any ratio and the atmo motor still needs work and revs to do its best.
But it sounds wonderfully angry and raw when it does, and it always reacts so sharp and revs so freely – so much so that you don’t want to be anywhere but above 4000rpm. The tragedy is that the GR86 won’t be around for long. While its predecessor had a good long run of eight years, it will bow after just two or three years as European laws tighten their grip on safety and emissions.
So if you want a really alluring and useful sports car at a great price, now is the time. There will probably always be a way to take care of wealthy lovers, but the rest of us should be collecting our rosebuds while we can.