Although it may look quite different from its predecessor, the 2022 Toyota GR86 keeps a happy face. I like the way the new coupe looks, especially covered in Toyota Track bRed paint (look, I didn’t come up with the name), a $ 425 option. It plays well against the dark elements in the front bumper, window upholstery and 18-inch alloy wheels. My tester’s premium upholstery also includes a rather convex wing, which gives the back extra aggression.

The exterior has never been a major source of criticism in the original 86, but the interior is such and Toyota has taken good steps to improve its quality. The 2022 GR86 has a much more attractive cab, with a multi-layer dashboard that eliminates excessive reliance on the original from flat, useless surfaces.

The choice of materials is better, especially in the upholstery Premium, where microfiber suede is combined with leather seats, steering wheel and switch for older cockpit. However, this is an affordable sports car, so hard plastics are still everywhere. Aside from the strange squeaking while driving, I’m a big fan of what Toyota does in the GR86.

Toyota GR86 is also a little easier to live than its main competitor, Mazda MX-5 Miata. Door panels have storage pockets, albeit small. But they combine well with a surprisingly spacious corner under the shell of the central armrest, which has wide enough cup holders for medium-sized Nalgenes. The trunk is also solid, offering 6.3 cubic feet of space: This may not look like much, but it’s much better than the Miata’s 4.6 cubic foot trunk.

But you are not considering the Toyota GR86 because it is practical. You are here for fun and you are lucky because GR86 offers it with a spade. Under the hood is a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated 4 engine and eliminates the need for the old model for more power. 228 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet may not look like much on paper, but it feels like a huge blow when driving, thanks to the torque reaching the much more appropriate 3700 rpm instead of 6400 rpm from the previous generation. Pulling and shifting is possible in almost any gear at any speed, reducing the need for unnecessary shifting, but I still find myself letting the revs go up as the sound of the GR86’s engine keeps getting louder and better. as the tachometer arrow increases.

A six-speed automatic transmission is available, but my tester has a six-speed manual. This is a good setting, but not perfect. The clutch is well weighted, but the bite point is a little too high for my taste, which doesn’t allow some shifts to feel as smooth as they might otherwise be. Modulating the throttle is easy when the car is in gear, but the cable connection system seems to react inconsistently when starting and flashing for a lower gear, leading to some awkward shakes. There is also quite a bit of deceleration, which requires short pauses while shifting into a higher gear for the smoothest shift. The rod itself is precise, but the throws are a bit long and from time to time the first gear requires some finesse to enter completely through the door.

2022 Toyota GR86

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2022 Toyota GR86

The interior is much nicer than before.

Andrew Croc / CNET

As you would expect from a compact sports car that embraces the earth, the ride quality is not exactly pillow. The GR86 is moving harder than the average Miata, but there’s some body rolling to push the boundaries before things get really stupid. But in the corners of Michigan’s winding forest roads, the GR86 feels great, which makes me want to take every turn a little faster than before. The Michelin Pilot 4 summer tires 215 / 40R18 provide more than enough traction, and if you press the gas too early, the rear will bend a little. A little theater keeps things alive. The only real mistake here is the noise from the road, which creeps into the cabin from seemingly every angle.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the manual GR86 at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, the numbers I think are actually low. My city mileage is closer to 22 or 23 and I regularly see highway sections over 30 mpg, so a light foot can go a long way.

Technology was another major drawback in the first generation 86, but Toyota is also covering for you. The replacement of the old infotainment system is an 8-inch touch screen, working with a simple version of Subaru’s Starlink software – a reminder that this car and the BRZ coupe are kissing cousins. Not exactly handsome or heavy with features, but it offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through its 2.1-amp USB-A ports, and the responsiveness is high enough for everyday use without disappointment. The new 7-inch digital gauge doesn’t have the brightest graphics on the unit, but all the relevant information on the display is easy to read at a glance, and who doesn’t love the big old tachometer in the front and center?

Who doesn’t love a fun and affordable sports car?

Andrew Croc / CNET

The GR86 is a mixed front safety bag. Hand-held models with premium upholstery are limited to dead zone monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning, and base models do not receive either. If you want to switch to the package, which includes automatic emergency stop, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, you must select the automatic transmission. This is a huge problem, as other car manufacturers have included these systems in clutch-change cars with little problem.

Although the Toyota GR86 2022 receives a number of major improvements, its price remains affordable. The base GR86 will return you $ 28,725, including $ 1,025 destination fees, while Premium upholstery brings that up to $ 31,325 by adding more sophisticated interior surfaces and better technology. My tester costs a reasonable $ 32,432, thanks to the elegant red paint, some different accessories and floor mats. This makes it right in dispute with the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a convertible with similar prices and a slightly softer approach to the lifestyle of sports cars.

Toyota has met the wishes of many enthusiasts with the 2022 GR86. It drives a bit more like a sports car, the interior no longer feels extremely cheap, and the powertrain has taken a bunch of things to get on and off. This is a big improvement, which is just as much fun.