Used test: Mazda MX-5 vs Toyota GT86

The Mazda MX-5 has long been the de facto source of cheap thrills on the used market. But the Toyota GT86 is now temptingly affordable – so which is best?...

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What Car? team
13 May 2017 06:00 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

Our verdict

When these two cars were new, they were priced so far apart that it was very hard to recommend the Toyota GT86 over the Mazda MX-5.

Now that they’re a little older, the gap between the prices has narrowed, and that makes the GT86 far more tempting. After all, it has plenty to recommend; not only is it the sharper, more focused car to drive, it also comes with the security of a metal roof and the added practicality of two rear seats and a larger boot. And let’s not forget the standard extra couple of years’ warranty.

That’s almost enough to win it, but not quite. Were the GT86’s interior smarter, perhaps, or the engine noise a little more appealing, that could have sealed the deal. But, as it is, the dashboard’s plain unpleasant to look at, while the engine’s gruff and doesn’t feel anywhere near as quick as it should given its power advantage over the MX-5’s. Throw in the higher running costs and it has to take second place here.

The MX-5 isn’t perfect, mind you. What it really lacks is space and storage – both inside and in the boot. It’s also rather noisy with the roof up and, ultimately, it can’t quite boast the feel of the GT86 on a back road.

But for all but the keenest drivers, the difference will rarely be felt; what’s more, the MX-5 has the sweeter engine and by far the smarter interior. It also gives you the flexibility of taking the roof down when the sun’s out, plus it’s better equipped. All this, and it costs less to buy and to run. In short, it’s still a winner.

Fancy an MX-5 with a hard-top roof? Read our review on the MX-5 RF

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Also consider:

1st – Mazda MX-5

Used test: Mazda MX-5 vs Toyota GT86

For Roof-down thrills; fine handling and ride; strong performance; low costs

Against Interior space; small boot; wind noise with the roof up

Verdict As much fun as you can get for the money

Rated 5 out of 5

Read the full used Mazda MX-5 review

Find a used Mazda MX-5 in the What Car? Classifieds

2nd – Toyota GT86

Used test: Mazda MX-5 vs Toyota GT86

For Great handling; decent ride; practical interior; good-sized boot

Against Engine noise; cheap-feeling dashboard; more expensive to buy and run

Verdict Superb fun to drive

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Toyota GT86 review

Find a used Toyota GT86 in the What Car? Classifieds

Specifications: Mazda MX-5 2.0 160 SE-L Nav

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol

List price when new £20,695

Price today £15,000

Power 158bhp

Torque 148lb ft

0-60mph 7.6sec

Top speed 133mph

Fuel economy 40.9mpg (official average)

CO2 emissions 161g/km

Specifications: Toyota GT86 2.0 D-4S

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol

List price when new £25,000

Price today £16,000

Power 197bhp

Torque 151lb ft

0-60mph 7.7sec

Top speed 140mph

Fuel economy 36.2mpg (official average)

CO2 emissions 180g/km

Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing