Used sports coupes tested: Audi TT vs Renault Sport Megane vs Subaru BRZ vs Toyota GT86

With these fast, fun coupés now going for less than £15,000, buying something sporty for summer is a very tempting proposition...

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What Car? team
25 February 2017

Used sports coupes tested: Audi TT vs Renault Sport Megane vs Subaru BRZ vs Toyota GT86

The Contenders

Audi TT 2.0 TFSI 211 Sport

List price when new £27,145

Price today £13,500

Available from 2006-2014

Classy, desirable and great to drive, the second-generation Audi TT was once our Coupé of the Year – and its successor still is today

Renault Mégane RS 265 Cup

List price when new £24,840

Price today £13,000

Available from 2012-2016

A coupé more by name than by nature, but the Renault Sport Mégane has a superb reputation and will be tough to beat

Subaru BRZ SE

List price when new £24,995

Price today £12,500

Available from 2012-present

The BRZ is firmer-riding and more driver-focused than its sister, the Toyota GT86, so promises to deliver driver enjoyment

Toyota GT86

List price when new £24,995

Price today £12,500

Available from 2012-present

The GT86 is the softer and more comfortable of the two siblings, and it comes with a longer warranty

Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

They say you ignore the old ways at your peril, and that’s something Toyota and Subaru took on board when co-developing the GT86 and BRZ. These four-seater coupés use the classic sports car layout (engine at the front, driven wheels at the back) and they do so because their one main aim has always been to provide pure driving pleasure.

The two cars also have a lightweight stature and a low centre of gravity to aid their agility, and both have the same rev-hungry 2.0-litre petrol engine that serves up 197bhp. In fact, the only real difference between the two lies in their suspension setups. It’s important to remember, though, that both of these machines are about delivering tail-happy laughs rather than tumbling lap times.

Nowadays, with both having developed excellent reliability records and with plenty of low-mileage examples around, both cars are looking like very tempting used purchases. But which is best? And, more importantly, should you choose either over their more established rivals?

Used sports coupes tested: Audi TT vs Renault Sport Megane vs Subaru BRZ vs Toyota GT86

The first challenge comes in the form of the Renault Mégane RS 265 Cup. Renault calls it a coupé, but really it’s just a very swoopy three-door hatchback. Nevertheless, with 261bhp to call upon, it’s hugely quick in a straight line, and with a sports chassis and a limited-slip differential, it’s even quicker through a set of bends, giving it more than enough performance cred to make it a worthy adversary.

Then there’s the ever-popular Audi TT – fast and fun to drive, especially when equipped with the potent 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, but it also has a gorgeous interior and huge desirability to throw into the mix.

What are they like to drive?

The BRZ and the GT86 are powered by the same naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine, which needs lots of revs before it gives its best. Even then, performance isn’t exactly sparkling; you’ll struggle to keep pace with the turbocharged TT and Mégane in this test.

Engine flexibility is particularly poor in the higher gears, so overtaking a lorry or a caravan on a country road requires you to drop down at least one, or often two, gears.

The fact that the BRZ and GT86 have rear-wheel drive should, in theory, let them put their power down more effectively than the front-wheel-drive TT and Mégane, but because the Japanese cars have skinny, low-friction tyres, actually the opposite is true.

The Mégane has a lot more power than the TT, but, thanks to its lighter weight, the TT fires off the line even quicker and wins against the clock when accelerating through the gears from 30mph to 70mph. Its engine is more flexible than the Mégane’s, too, pulling harder from low revs.

Used sports coupes tested: Audi TT vs Renault Sport Megane vs Subaru BRZ vs Toyota GT86

It’s a similar story when it comes to braking; the TT and Mégane easily outperform the BRZ and GT86; the latter two fared particularly badly when we tested these cars together new, taking a massive eight metres longer than the best car (the TT) to stop from 70mph.

It’s a similar story if you put all four cars on the same twisty country road. The BRZ and GT86 will be left for dead, because the TT and Mégane grip so much harder and stop so much more convincingly that you can brake for corners later and go around them at significantly higher speeds. In terms of pure ability, then, the two Japanese cars are outclassed.

However, that’s exactly what Subaru and Toyota wanted. By fitting skinny tyres, grip is kept to a minimum, with the aim of making the BRZ and GT86 entertaining at legal speeds.

The idea flies in the face of technical progress, but there’s no denying that the BRZ and GT86 are properly good fun. Both benefit from a neatly balanced chassis, while their quick and accurate steering makes you feel totally involved with the driving experience.

Better still, the fact that the power is sent to the rear rather than the front wheels allows you to aid the steering with the accelerator.

Used sports coupes tested: Audi TT vs Renault Sport Megane vs Subaru BRZ vs Toyota GT86

There are some differences between the two cars, though. The BRZ’s suspension is slightly stiffer at the front, which helps the car stay flatter through bends. However, the payoff is that the front wheels transmit more of the road’s imperfections through to the occupants. The GT86 also has lighter steering that unwinds a little more naturally on the way out of corners.

The problem for both the BRZ and GT86 is that their more capable rivals aren’t exactly dull to drive - far from it. With everything about the Mégane geared towards making it corner as quickly as possible, you feel surgically attached to the road.

Its sharp steering weights up nicely as you turn in, and its clever limited-slip differential allows you to slingshot out of corners without a hint of understeer. True, the Mégane has the firmest ride here, but it isn’t at all crashy or jarring.

The TT has the softest ride here, yet it stays almost as flat as the Mégane through corners. It’s on its way out of a bend that the TT will start to lose ground, though, running its nose wide under power unless you wait until the wheels are nearly straight again.

It isn’t just in terms of its suspension that the TT is the most comfortable. It’s the quietest car here, too. Its engine stays smooth even when you work it hard, and you hear little wind or road noise from inside at cruising speeds.

Used sports coupes tested: Audi TT vs Renault Sport Megane vs Subaru BRZ vs Toyota GT86

The Mégane isn’t as hushed, letting in more tyre noise on the motorway, but wind noise isn’t an issue and the engine stays fairly muted - as long as you take things easy.

Put your foot down in the Renault, though, and things gets significantly louder. There’s a prominent whoosh from the turbocharger and a deep bark from the exhaust, but those are the sort of noises you’ll probably appreciate if you’re looking for a performance car.

Unsurprisingly, there’s little to split the BRZ and GT86; the engines of both are loud when revved. The trouble is, the noise isn’t particularly pleasant, and you still hear it at cruising speeds, because even in sixth gear they are both spinning away at a dizzying 3100rpm.

Road noise is bearable on the motorway in both Japanese cars, but you hear the tyres slapping on the surface of the road more than you do in the Mégane.

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Used sports coupes tested: Audi TT vs Renault Sport Megane vs Subaru BRZ vs Toyota GT86