Always one to go against the grain, iconoclast Kotto finds himself taking aim at the Toyota GT86 & Subaru BRZ
don’t do January blues like the other column-people (other pronouns are available), I master my sadness with fits of deep rage and violent outbursts like a normal person. When I’m not strangling wildebeest I do car things, and like many pop culture things the motoring community has their own car idols. These idols quickly become blown out of proportion and cult-like following dilutes
the icon into nothing more than an anecdote of no meaning.
What am I getting at? Well, when a car is praised and lifted to celebrity status I, as an irritating contrarian, take a step back and analyse the bad bits because I suffer from the toxic trait of wanting wildly successful things to fail.
Think of a car that’s overhyped in the car community… And a Mk4 Toyota Supra may pop into your head… I bought into it early on, literally. Had it for a year before I sold it on as it was nothing special, a bit like sliding into the hot girl in school and realising you wished you stayed at home to play video games instead. It was a very dull car, fantastically fast in a straight line and exquisitely comfortable for long journeys granted… But show it a fast B road and it’ll be over the edge trying to keep up with a Fiesta ST180 or Mark in a rented Toyota Aygo. I standby my contrarian belief that the Alfa Romeo GT I owned alongside my Supra was the superior car, the only thing the Supra had on it was speed. And you can pick that up in a nightclub.
One other such car I can’t get on with that’s got a massive cult following and I cannot understand why is the Toyota GT86 / Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S. The new one coming out does look great, especially the Subaru iteration – BRZ / GR86 and maybe the bigger engine will salvage it but a naturally aspirated flat-4 is a stupid choice. I don’t care about a low centre of gravity when the car that surrounds it has no excitement. The plastic in Katie Price’s face has more personality.
I drove the GT86 in 2012 and later in the year the BRZ, I thought I’d try the BRZ in case I went in with too high expectations but nope… I was let down twice. The steering I can’t remember as being anything of note – it’s Japanese EPAS after all, so long as it works very well it gets signed off. The suspension was jiggly and annoying, but most cars are now so it was certainly ahead of its time. Grip in corners was terrible because of the stupid skinny wheels and tyres – aha you may think, it’s so you can drift! I guarantee, like the people who bought the Mk3 Focus RS’ that has a drift function… The vast majority have never explored this aspect. Simply because if you do, it’s a driving ban on the road… And on a track day, you get black flagged.
The chassis, if it was set up with good wheels, tyres and some suspension bits to give a vague idea of what the tyres are doing I think would be good. But why bother when you can get say an NC or ND Mazda MX5 which is better straight out of the factory? The ND MX5 with the 2.0 Skyactiv witchcraft engine is a sensation, a vastly superior car but it’s written off because it’s a “Miata” or “hairdressers” car and not a performance car which is what the GT86 gets described as for some reason. Now “girly” cars tend to be way more fun than “men’s” cars, but that’s another column.
I could continue about the miserable interior, the good driving position and the unacceptable wind & road noise but I must say how bad the 2.0 Boxer flat-4 engine is in these cars… You can wind it up the rev range in any gear and at no point does it give you a feeling of progress. If you jumped into a 1998 Ford Fiesta 1.25 16v and then the GT86 brand new… You’d say the Fiesta is the faster car. There’s zero reward for hitting the red line, it just makes a terrible noise and then you change gear. Thus, you start picking faults with window seals, stupidly big door cards and why I’m being overtaken by diesel saloons.
I look back at it now and I wonder how it’s held in such high esteem by so many. I’ve spoken to owners who say they did XYZ and it's now brilliant but I don’t want to do that, I want a brilliant car from the off like a Ford Puma or a Toyota MR2. I think I could drive one now and perhaps find some redemption in it by comparing and contrasting it to the vastly horrible new cars we get but the majority’s pathological lust and worship of this car stops me. Because like all things overhyped/over-popular it turns the thing into a joke to the people who want to see beneath the surface. The GT86 to me is TikTok - loved by all but you don’t have to dig far to find horrendous faults that make you wonder why anyone buys into it at all.