The critically acclaimed GT86 was released into the wild early last year to rapturous applause from critics and petrolheads alike, delighted that a mainstream manufacturer had created an affordable sports car that favoured handling prowess over all-out power. The engine is mounted at the front, power is sent to the rear wheels and it’s all wrapped up in a lightweight chassis that is designed to thrill on twisty roads. To combat naysayers that claim the GT86 lacks visual flair, Toyota has hit back with this… the TRD version.

What is it?

A standard GT86 with its 197bhp, 2-litre boxer engine but with the addition of racy exterior appendages such as a large rear wing, quad exhaust pipes and a Tarmac grazing bodykit – all designed and manufactured by Toyota’s Racing Division (or TRD for short). Absolutely nothing has been added or taken away from the engine and the suspension set-up remains identical to the standard car. This is purely a vanity exercise for those wanting their ride to appear more muscular.

What is it like to drive?

It’s a GT86, so it drives fantastically well. Yes, the 2-litre boxer engine lacks a lot of grunt but the chassis set up is perfectly judged for low (ish) speed fun and games. Think of this much like the Lotus Elise of old – a small car that delivers big on the thrills – but with a much larger boot and the option of posting small children into the rear seats. It handles like a proper rear-wheel-drive sports car should; direct and nimble through corners but with enough pliability to nudge the rear end out should the mood take.

What is it like inside?

As race-inspired as one would expect with grippy Alcantara-effect seats, a TRD gear knob and analogue as well as digital readouts from the dash. But underneath the track-day glitz lays a very useable machine. A 6.1-inch touch-screen display caters for most of the multimedia needs, including Bluetooth phone pairing and DAB radio. Cruise control, dual-zone climate control and smart entry add to the everyday usability, while optional extras such as satellite navigation and Google Local Search connectivity rival some of the more advanced family saloons. It’s certainly comfortable but don’t expect it to be roomy. When we said ‘post’ small children into the rear seats, we literally meant package them into an envelope and fold them into the cabin. The boot isn’t great either, sporting just 243 litres of load space when the rear seats aren’t folded down – around 40 litres less than a Peugeot 208.

Is it practical?

That really depends on how you approach the GT86. If it is simply a weekend car that is rolled out of the garage when the sun breaks through the clouds (a la Caterham 7 or Lotus Elise) then this is a very practical machine that boasts several cup holders, a proper glove box and some kind of useable boot. It’s also comfortable on longer journeys and comes with Toyota's impeccable reliability record. But if you plan to trade in the Ford B-Max for this sporty number – the wife, kids and dog may just up sticks and find a new chauffeur. Its fuel consumption may also be an issue; returning just 25.9mpg on the combined cycle but expect that to drop to the low 20s if driven with any gusto.

Should I buy one?

Fans of proper rear-wheel-drive sports cars with a low centre of gravity and driver-focussed cabin will not be disappointed with the sharp handling, superbly taught chassis and super crisp gear change of the GT86. But – without sounding like every journalist that has driven the car – that 2-litre boxer engine really does need a turbocharger. Toyota engineers will argue that it will ruin the purity of the driving experience but in its current guise, the powerplant does little to have the hairs standing on end unless the car is really pushed towards the ragged edge… something that’s often difficult to achieve on the UK’s congested roads. The TRD pack looks fantastic and attracts a lot of attention from passer's by but for almost £8k over the standard car? We're not sold.

Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used GT86 in our classifieds here.

The facts

Toyota GT86 TRD

List price: £33,095
Engine: 2-litre, four-cylinder, DOHC boxer
Power: 197bhp
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 25.9mpg (urban), 44.1mpg (extra-urban) 25.9mpg (combined)
Emissions: 192g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested