Compare the BMW 230i to the Toyota GR86 in front of any BMW fan and you’ll have to wait for them to stop laughing before you can finish. However, that laughter would be the laughter of ignorance, as the much cheaper Toyota can absolutely stand toe-to-toe with the Bimmer. In this new comparison test from Auto Express, you get to see exactly why.

On paper, both cars actually stack up fairly well. The Toyota uses a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine to make 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. While the BMW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot is significantly more powerful—255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft—the 230i is also significantly heavier. The Bimmer weighs around 3,550 lbs, while the Toyota is just over 2,860 lbs. So the Bimmer is quicker to 60 mph, mostly thanks to its quick-shifting eight-speed auto versus the Toyota’s six-speed manual, not by too much: 5.1 seconds for the BMW and 6.1 seconds for the Toyota. Plus, the GR86’s manual is more fun than quick 0-60 mph times.

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Then there’s the steering, chassis balance, handling, refinement, and fun. Drive the BMW 230i and you’ll be reminded (slightly) of BMW’s of yesteryear. It’s small, playful, fast enough to be fun, and precise. However, its lifeless steering, artificial engine/exhaust sound, and overly insulated cabin do suck some of the life out of the car. Whereas the GR86 is a throwback to old-school sports cars, with its zingy engine, gorgeously accurate steering, and tail-happy chassis. The GR86 feels more like an old-school BMW than the 230i does.

Of course, no BMW customer is going to cross-shop the GR86 because it isn’t premium enough. The GR86 is loud inside, its suspension isn’t as sophisticated, and its Subaru-sourced boxer engine can feel a bit coarse and unrefined, especially in contrast to the silky smooth BMW engine. However, when if customers actually care about driving dynamics over brand prestige, they’d give the GR86 a try.

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It’s a tough test because the 230i offers fun but more refinement than the Toyota, while the Toyota offers more fun but less refinement. So which car is actually best? Check out what Auto Express thinks.

[Source: Auto Express]