Friday, 1 February 2013

Toyota in convertible GT86 shocker

IT WAS only a matter of time. Toyota is considering putting a convertible version of its fabulous GT86 into production.

The Japanese car giant will unveil what it's calling the FT-86 Open at this year's Geneva Motorshow in a few week's time, and while it's calling it a concept car I wouldn't be fooled; if the original FT-86 concept coupe was anything to go by, I'd put my money on an al fresco version of the rear-drive enthusiasts' favourite being in the offing.

It's one of two concepts the company's showing off in the Swiss city - the other being what's billed as Toyota's response to the Renault Twizy - and while the official line is that it'll only decide to put the FT-86 Open into production if the public likes it, chances are it will. What's not like about the inevitable but inviting prospect of one of the great drivers' hits of the past decade?

The coupe version of the GT86 is a bit of a Life On Cars favourite, blending sleek coupe proportions, keen pricing and old fashioned rear-wheel-drive, oversteer-happy dynamics to create something that offers as much fun as some sports car costing two or three times its £25,000 price.

The initial impression I got when I drove it last year was that it's a Mazda MX-5 on a 1.5 times scale with metal rather than fabric over your forehead but that's selling it short. It's somehow meatier and more challenging, but more thrilling too.

Of all the cars I drove last year, this was by far and away the one I had to fight my way past other journalists to get a go in, and I can understand exactly why. I can also also understand exactly why Jeremy Clarkson said the GT86, of all the four billion cars he drove last year, was his favourite. In an automotive landscape where everything is anodyne and the loudest sound you're likely to hear is the chime of a seatbelt safety warning, the GT86 is a motor with a sense of mischief. It's a laugh.

Throw in open-top thrills (without ruining too much of the coupe's dynamics) and I reckon they'll have a bit of a roadster hit on their hands.

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