Toyota GR86 vs. Mazda MX-5 Miata: Which Roadster Wins?

Toyota GR86 vs. Mazda MX-5 Miata: Which Roadster Wins?

When you’re after a bit of old-school European roadster charm, you’ve got to look to the Japanese models of the Toyota GR86 and Mazda MX-5 Miata.

The GR86 and Miata are two of three impressive Japanese roadsters with excellent driving manners and enough power to rocket them down a road at a fast pace. The third of this trio is the Subaru BRZ, but that’s a bit of a digression. When you’re looking at the Toyota and Mazda roadsters, trying to find the model that provides the most fun and excitement on the road, which one should you choose? Let’s explore.

What makes these cars attractive to driving enthusiasts?

These two small roadsters are relatively basic, pared-down, and inexpensive sports cars with the old-school fun and charm you’ve been missing. Both offer RWD setups to give you a traditional sports car build and setup. These two cars are well-balanced, making them fun to drive whether you’re tossing them in and out of corners or rocketing down a straightaway.

Putting aggressive models against each other

To learn which of these sports cars could be the best choice, the team at Car and Driver put the most aggressive version of each on a track to learn which would be the best choice. The standard equipment is extremely similar in both cars with small, high-revving naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engines and six-speed manual transmissions handling the drive. These cars ride on summer tires, which are ideal for racing around a track.


Much like the similarities in equipment, the price of each sports car puts the Toyota GR86 and Mazda MX-5 Miata Club in a photo finish. The GR86 Premium carries a base price of $31,325, while the Miata Club costs $32,165. The pricing differences show up when options are added. The Miata Club reaches $37,260 when the BBS Recaro package and Machine Gray paint are added. Conversely, the GR86 can be had with special Track Red paint and a few items that only bring the price to $32,432, making the GR86 much more affordable.

Performance Numbers

How well do these two Japanese sports cars do when put to the test? These two models are so closely related that both reach 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. This changes when raced to the quarter mile instead of highway speeds. The Miata finished a quarter-mile sprint in 14.2 seconds at 97 mph, a respectable figure to be sure. Turning to the GR86, the sprint was completed in 14.0 seconds at 101 mph, making the Toyota just a little faster in a longer sprint.

Of course, these figures are only a starting point for performance. Most affordable sports cars are built to be playful and fun on the road, not for all-out track performance. Still, these two roadsters performed well.

When the Car and Driver team took these two cars to the M1 Concourse campus in Pontiac, MI, the figures were once again very similar. The GR86 was faster through the course than the Miata, completing the run in 26.7 seconds compared to the Miata’s 27.1 seconds.

Can you drive these sports cars every day?

One of the joys of driving an affordable sports car like the Toyota GR86 or Mazda MX-5 Miata is the potential to drive this car every day. These two models handle daily driving extremely well, making it easy to show off the stylish build in traffic while searching for that open stretch of road that can quickly become the perfect place for you to enjoy a great drive.
These two cars bring pleasure and driving engagement to your time behind the wheel. Each has a light clutch, active engine, and strong braking. The ride may be firm, but it’s meant to provide drivers with the desired feedback when behind the wheel.

Which car should you drive?

It should be fairly obvious which of these two cars you should drive. Unless you absolutely must have the convertible body style of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Toyota GR86 is a better option. The Toyota is more affordable, especially after options are added, its faster in longer sprints, and it was faster around the test track.

Still, the Miata is a good option, and if you want the convertible feeling, it’s available in two forms with the Mazda. You can have the traditional soft top or the RF hardtop with this car, while the Toyota only comes as a coupe.

Both of these roadsters provide excellent driving manners and fun on any road, which means you can’t make a wrong choice with the Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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