Vehicle Comparisons

Toyota GT86

Toyota GT86

If you thought involving affordable sportscars belonged back in history, then you'll find Toyota's GT86 a welcome breath of fresh air. Developed and desired by enthusiasts, it remains a benchmark in the compact coupe sector, a masterclass in driving dynamics. Now, it's even better.

Differences with this improved model include revised suspension that improves corner turn-in and further enhances the original version's keenness of response, agility and its ability to adjust the cornering attitude as much with the throttle as the helm. Another key change lies with a freshly-added selectable 'track' mode that lets the driver tap into the GT86's full potential by adjusting the level of stability and traction control, including a 'fully off' option. Under the skin, the body structure has been made stiffer, and the Showa shock absorbers have been retuned for better handling and ride comfort.

The 2.0-litre Boxer engine beneath the bonnet remains, as does the relatively light 1,180 kg kerb weight which might lead you to expect the GT86 to make rather more of its 197bhp and 151lb of torque than the estimated headline performance stats of 140mph and 0-62mph in 7.6s suggest. But this car isn't just about raw power. Its lean kerb weight plays just as big a role in the way it handles and rides. A limited slip differential is also fitted as standard, reaffirming GT86's essential 'driver's car' character.

And, in this respect, all the ingredients look especially promising: quick steering and relatively low-grip tyres ensure that outright traction never overwhelms the desire to play the angles, should the driver so wish. Back-to-basics fun was always at the heart of the brief for this car.

Disappointments? A short-throw gearchange that's a tad notchy and a six-speed auto option that, while smooth, lacks the snappy alacrity of the best double-clutchers. But that's about it.

The styling changes made to this revised model are subtle. There are now 'teeth' featured along the bottom edge of the lower grille in the redesigned nose section, which apparently help smooth the airflow. There is also a smarter, deeper rear bumper design, aero-stabilising fins have been introduced on the side of the car and there are smarter LED headlights and rear tail lamp clusters too. Otherwise it's as you were. This remains a very good-looking car indeed and if the styling isn't daring enough for you, then optional side, roof and bonnet decals are available in black or silver to add an extra dimension to GT86's sporting appearance.

Inside, the driving environment should certainly help get you in the mood, with its low-slung bucket seats and driver-centric control layout, not to mention the drilled pedals and footrest. There are more detail changes here too, aimed at creating a more connected feel between driver and car. Central to this is the grippier three-spoke steering wheel, the smallest yet deigned for a production Toyota (diameter 362mm). A new 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display is included in the instrument binnacle's triple-dial arrangement with a switchable menu that provides performance-focused data, such as power and torque curves, stopwatch and a G-force monitor. As before, there are usable rear seats and a reasonably-sized 243-litre boot.

Could this car be any better? Of course, it could be faster, grippier, quieter and of better quality inside. But personally, we wouldn't really want it to be. All of those things would dilute the very qualities that make this GT86 what it is. Sportscars always used to be this way, light, low powered and modestly rubbered. We had fun in them then and we can have fun in this one now. The chassis is excellent, the controls are brilliant, the driving position nigh-on perfect and the engine, if not aurally exciting, is revvy and fun.

So, what we have here is something to savour; one of those rare machines that involves you so much that you don't need to be travelling at three figure speeds to have fantastic fun. Factor in the affordable running costs and high residuals and this becomes a very tempting proposition indeed, especially in this usefully improved guise. In years to come, it'll be a landmark car for Toyota. Get one and you won't regret it.

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Volkswagen Scirocco

Volkswagen Scirocco

Volkswagen has updated the Scirocco, although you'd be forgiven for not noticing. There's some subtle styling tweaks and some modest interior changes but the bigger story is more power across the board coupled with better economy.

At the top of the range, the powerhouse Scirocco R gets an entirely different engine. It's still a 2.0-litre turbo driving the front wheels, but power now goes up to 280PS, up 15PS on the old unit. The other petrol engines comprise a 1.4-litre petrol with 125PS, and a 2.0-litre 180PS unit which replaces the previous 1.4-litre 160PS powerplant. The previous 210PS 2.0-litre TSI is given a shot in the arm to now generate 220PS. Two diesel engines are offered, both 2.0-litre units, with either 150 or 184PS. Depending on power output, both petrol and diesel engines come with a choice of six-speed manual and six or seven-speed DSG gearboxes.

Otherwise, things are much as before. The chassis remains unchanged and that'll be good news for those looking for a genuinely competent handler. No, the Scirocco has never been quite as entertaining as, say, a Renaultsport Megane at the absolute limit but the deal has always been that owners would sacrifice 10 per cent of outright ability for 50 per cent better quality.

If it ain't broke, don't facelift it has seemed to be the mantra as far as the Scirocco goes and most onlookers wouldn't be able to spot the differences to the latest version unless they had two cars parked next to each other and a good amount of time. The revised front bumper features aerodynamic 'blades' in the outer section, like those of the Mk 7 Golf GTI. There are also integrated indicator lights, daytime running lights and fog lights. Splash out on the optional bi-xenon headlamps and you also get LED daytime running lights incorporated into the headlight pods. There's more lightwork at the back, where the Scirocco is updated to LED tail lights, while the bumper has been reshaped to appear lower and more purposeful. As on the Golf, the Volkswagen logo badge now acts as the tailgate release handle. The Scirocco R gets its own bumpers and bigger alloy wheels, in this case the 18-inch 'Cadiz' rims shared with the Golf R. The 'Talladega' alloy wheel, previously reserved for the Scirocco R, is now an option for the rest of the Scirocco line up.

Drop inside and you might well spot that the dashboard has been updated, with new-look dials and an auxiliary instrument cluster above the centre console, consisting of chronometer, charge pressure and oil temperature gauges - a tribute to the 1974 original. There's a reasonably wide boot aperture which opens up 292-litres of luggage space. Fold the split rear seats down and you've got 755-litres. The Scirocco features four, individual sculpted seats finished in a choice of either cloth or leather. The sports seats aren't just restricted to those up front - the contoured rear chairs feature integrated headrests to offer plenty of support.

The Volkswagen Scirocco was a formula that didn't need wholesale changes and with this product update, it hasn't really got them. The under-bonnet updates are well worthwhile though, offering more power across the board teamed with better efficiency. The styling improvements are just a bit of sympathetic tweaking, although the interior does now look a little more contemporary. That was needed, given the big step forward the Golf 7 made over its predecessor in 2013, and while the Scirocco still doesn't feel quite as glitzy inside as the Golf, it's still leagues better than a Renault Megane or a Hyundai Veloster.

The Scirocco's formula has endured, with a notable hiatus, since 1974. Despite times changing, the basic premise hasn't. If you want a coupe that looks good, is well screwed together and which isn't going to cost a fortune to run, Volkswagen has your back.

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Audi TT Coupe

Audi TT Coupe

The third generation Audi TT coupe follows an evolutionary styling theme, gets a bit more adventurous inside and really makes the numbers when it comes to performance and efficiency. Choose from diesel or petrol, front or quattro all-wheel drive.

The engines and transmissions were probably the strongest suit of the last TT and this one builds upon that foundation. Three powerplants are offered. The 2.0 TDI diesel opens proceedings and there's a choice between front wheel drive or quattro 4WD. Its 184PS power output will get it to 62mph in 7.1 seconds with front wheel drive, a time that dips to 6.7s with the quattro model. Beyond the black pump, things get a bit more serious. There's a 180PS 1.8-litre petrol unit at the foot of the range but beyond that, the 2.0 TFSI petrol unit gets the same 230PS as the Golf GTI and here you get a choice of front or quattro all-wheel drive. Both will hit a top speed of 155mph, with the manual front-wheel drive car getting to 62mph in 6.0 seconds and the S tronic twin-clutch quattro model taking a mere 5.3s. The top of the four-cylinder range is marked by the 310PS Audi TTS Roadster. It covers the standard sprint in 4.7 seconds and its top speed is electronically governed at 155mph. Here, the 2.0 TFSI engine produces 380 Nm of torque between 1,800 and 5,500 rpm. A manual transmission is standard, with an S tronic transmission incorporating launch control, which regulates maximum acceleration from a standstill, available as an option. The flagship model is the 400PS 2.5-litre five-cylinder TT RS model, which only comes with S tronic auto transmission and can get to 62mph in 4.7s.

The quattro drivetrain has been re-engineered. By networking quattro drive with Audi drive select, the driver of the Audi TT can adjust the operating parameters of the all-wheel-drive system to suit his or her individual requirements. In "auto" mode, optimum traction and balanced driving dynamics are given priority. In "dynamic" mode, torque is distributed to the rear axle earlier and to a higher degree. In the drive select "efficiency" mode, the set-up can temporarily shut down the quattro system if conditions suit this. Audi's magnetic ride adaptive damper control system is fitted as standard to the TTS and is optional for all other versions. Compared with the previous version, Audi magnetic ride has been improved in terms of characteristic spread, control dynamics and precision as well as user friendliness. In other words, you'll really be able to tell it's working when you press the button. The body is lowered by 10mm in S line versions, in the TTS and wherever Audi magnetic ride is fitted.

One thing's for sure. Even if you'd never seen this car before, you'd know it was an Audi TT. Some commentators have been a little disappointed in how safe Audi has played the exterior styling and I'd count myself as one of them. It's still a handsome car but it looks like a midlife facelift of the second-generation model more than an all-new piece of design. The big front grille gives the car a meaner look and there are some lovely details. The fuel flap on the right-side panel is the classic circle surrounded by socket screws. This shape is again reminiscent of the first-generation TT, although here there is no filler cap beneath the flap. This means that there is nothing to be unscrewed and the pump nozzle slots straight into the tank neck.

The interior, on the other hand, is a real piece of work. Pure, clean lines dominate and seen from above, the instrument panel resembles the wing of an aircraft; the round air vents - a classic TT feature - are reminiscent of jet engines with their turbine-like design. The vents also contain all the controls for the air-conditioning system, including seat heating where applicable, temperature, direction, air distribution and air flow strength; as an option they can also house small digital displays which show the chosen setting. A 2+2, the TT Coupe gets a load area with a capacity of 305-litres, which is 13-litres more than before and can be extended by folding the rear seat backrests forwards.

It's doubtful that the Audi TT will ever cause quite the stir that the amazing first-generation car did, so it needs to impress in other ways. This third take on the TT theme is an interesting amalgam of evolutionary exterior styling and some genuinely new ideas inside the car. Improving the driving experience so that the TT is thought of as a proper driver's car has clearly been one of the key design criteria. Putting a TTS and a Porsche 718 Cayman back to back might well yield some very interesting results.

Everything seems to have been done the right way in this car. Weight has been taken out to improve efficiency and agility. Big budget has been spent on the suspension and drivetrain. The S tronic gearbox is one of the best twin-clutch systems at any price and there are some enormously clever online systems available if you have the coin. We'd have liked to have seen Audi be a bit more adventurous with the exterior styling, but other than that, this is a desirable package.

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