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GT86 is a fantastic Japanese sports car that goes as well as it looks.

Developed as a co-production with Subaru - who calls its version the 'BRZ' - Toyota's GT86 marks a triumphant return to sports car-making for the hugely popular carmaker. The exterior styling turns heads and while the car looks modern, GT86 manages to pay homage to sporty Toyotas of old. There are hints of Supra, Celica and even mark II 'MR2'!

The interior of GT86 may lack some more modern touches, like backlit buttons and switches, but you forgive it these shortcomings once you turn the key. Inside, the '2+2' fastback GT86 is really a two-seater. While the driver gets to sit behind a nice three-spoke leather steering wheel and the front seat passenger sits low, but comfortably, a glance over your shoulder reveals two more seats.

In practical terms, the rear seats can only fit kids, or should I say a kid behind the passenger seat and a cross-legged kid behind my driver's seat. To avoid accusations of cruelty, the back seats are best used for just very short journeys.

In the past I have been critical of Alfa Romeo for making impractical analogue speedometers that have a tiny display for 0-120km/h - and the GT86 is guilty too. Thankfully, there is a large digital speed readout in the centre of the dash. Other than this, the GT86 is hard to fault.

Unlike Toyota's iconic front-wheel drive Celica, power goes to the rear wheels of the GT86, and this makes the car a whole lot more interesting. The steering is razor sharp and beautifully geared, while the standard manual six-speed gearbox is joyous thanks to a very short throw and near-perfect positioning. A paddle-shift automatic is available also (but I haven't tested it yet). Power comes from a two-litre, four-cylinder 'boxer' petrol engine sourced from Subaru that delivers 200bhp – all of the horses are usable in the real world and this is the key to GT86's appeal. GT86 makes a beautiful induction roar that encourages the driver to rev the car hard.

Thanks to the nature of the boxer engine, GT86 has a very low centre of gravity and the resulting effect this has on the car's handling is really impressive. Couple in the car's low weight of just 1,242kgs and the result is predictably a lot of fun. The ride is a little jittery (in a sporty way) on anything but smooth surfaces but once you press on and drive with a degree of enthusiasm the suspension works really well.

The GT86 was designed to be fun and that's why the 17-inch alloys come with tyres (from the Prius!) that aren't oversized and allow you feel the car bite and sit down when you exit a corner. The suspension setting is softer than I'd like for, say, track use, but for the real world it is perfect. GT86 does a great job of talking to the driver and this puts a smile on your face behind the wheel. Going from 0-100km/h takes 7.6 seconds, which isn't outrageously quick but it is still a whole heap of fun powering on through the gears.

This is a wonderful machine and a much-needed halo vehicle in the Toyota range.

GT86 starts at €39,895 – it isn't the fastest sports car but it is one of the 'fun-est'!

Michael Sheridan