THE JOINT project between Toyota and Subaru has given birth to the GT86 and BRZ respectively, two sports cars that reverse the modern trend of more power, more grip and more speed in favour of delicacy, light weight and fun.
In fact the GT86 and BRZ are seen as such important cars for the industry that episode three of BBC’s Top Gear opened with an eight-minute feature on the twin cars, and although the lap time was closer to the bottom of the leaderboard than the top it was praised by Clarkson for its enthusiasm and sense of fun. So much so in fact, that Toyota’s website crashed during the airing of the programme as thousands of viewers logged on to check finance details and look up further information on the car.
It’s also something of a shame however, because the viewer response suggests there is plenty of interest in a car of this nature but also a lack of awareness that the stripped-back approach isn’t a new concept.
Mazda has reason to feel slightly aggrieved in particular given that its MX-5 is in its third generation and has always been a shining example of a simple, fun, and relatively inexpensive rear-drive sports car. New MX-5s start at £18,495 and the top-spec 2.0-litre version is £21,495 – still several thousand less than a GT86.
And while hot hatches have become super-hatches with 250bhp or more, their smaller siblings have been getting the balance just about right; the Suzuki Swift Sport has only 134bhp but it fizzes with enthusiasm and costs only £13,749.
Dip into the used car market and there’s a wealth of choice. There are only limited examples, but the last-generation Renaultsport Megane signed off with the outlandish R26R, which had bucket seats, racing harnesses, no rear seats and even Perspex windows in the search for ultimate thrills. A quick search turned up three examples, all with minimal mileage for around £17,000.
There’s another set of twins to consider too in the shape of the Lotus Elise and Vauxhall VX220, early examples of which are well into bargain territory and are unquestionably focussed, stripped-back sports cars that will provide enormous thrills but with relatively modest power – the original VX220 managed just fine on 145bhp. Used examples can be had for under £8,000.
It’s good news all round that buyers are interested in a car that swims against the tide, but it also highlights that there is more choice than you might imagine – if you’re prepared to do the research.