Naturally we had a whole heap of fun driving the new Toyota GT86 on well-maintained twisting Spanish mountain roads, but how does it fare in Ireland? It's shockingly good, all the more impressive when you present it with narrow roads, a challenging surface and, God forbid, a few bumps. Sensational.
Inside & Out: 4.5/5
As it's so different to anything else on the road in Ireland the GT86 really stands out. You're a celebrity driving it as everyone wants to take a look. I even caught one of the guys hanging off our bin collection truck taking a photograph on his phone. At 6am in the morning. Admittedly it has taken time for the looks to grow on us and there are aspects we'd change, but the detailing is exquisite and the compact size suited to this part of the world.
Naturally those dimensions mean it's no MPV inside, but the front seats are comfortable and there's plenty of room, in a snug sports coupé kind of way. The driving position is faultless too. Forget carrying adults or baby seats in the back, though the boot holds a surprising amount of stuff. The instrumentation is sporty and very Japanese, which may not be to the liking of all, but we love it. No need to pay more for Alcantara either, as the standard cloth seats are great.
Engine & Transmission: 4/5
We're torn on this front. On one side there's no doubt that the engine could do with a little more low-down torque. Also, it's quite raucous. However, having spent a week at the wheel none of this seems to matter. The sound becomes part of the car's personality - and it sounds fantastic in the upper reaches of the rev counter - while you always make good progress. Indeed there's a lack of inertia and weight that pervades the whole car so even ambling along in town it's a real joy. On the open road it's seriously fast. There are loads of quicker cars, but this never feels slow - and is always exciting.
The six-speed manual gearbox is satisfyingly mechanical and the lever right to hand, while the clutch weighting and pedal spacing are perfect.
Ride & Handling: 5/5
Having relished the GT86's chassis on smooth roads abroad, we fully expected to be making excuses for it now. It's quite the opposite, as it turns out to be even more impressive being used day-to-day in a variety of conditions, and it deals with properly challenging roads in a highly engaging manner. The steering is direct and feelsome, yet has little kickback; the relatively narrow and high-profile tyres offer only modest grip, so you can get your kicks without having to travel at silly high speeds; the high, firm brake pedal is backed up by fade-free anchors; it deals with mid-corner bumps without being thrown off line; and it threads through urban traffic with all its patchwork of surfaces and obstacles with zeal. Can you tell we like it?
No matter where you're going or what type of road you're on the GT86 is an occasion. It engages the driver like few cars, yet its performance is completely accessible to the novice enthusiast. As you can see from our images it can even drift when asked (best kept to track!). In short: this is the most exciting to drive new car to hit the Irish market in a long long time.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 4.5/5
A starting point of less than €40,000 is about right for the GT86. There are few real rivals on the Irish market right now. It's a shame that its high emissions mean relatively high annual road tax, though even driven 'enthusiastically' we averaged 11 litres/100km (25.6mpg).
The specification is on the generous side of adequate, with dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth, cruise control, a touch-screen infotainment system, LED daytime running lights, heated and electrically retracted door mirrors, seven airbags, a limited slip differential and plenty more all standard. Somewhat surprisingly, the automatic version is priced the same and there are few other options to think about other than colour and seat covering material.