The wait is over – the start of the Tokyo Motor Show tomorrow will see the world debut of Toyota’s FT- 86, and the production car will now be known as the GT 86, in a homage to the Corolla GT (or Levin) AE86 from 1983 to 1987, a car with an enduring reputation for delivering sheer excitement and capturing the fundamental joy of driving.

The arrival of the 2+2 driver-focused GT 86 heralds a return to Toyota’s sporting roots, with a front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive package, with power distributed to the rear wheels via a limited slip differential. It’s built on a new platform, with a highly aerodynamic bodyshell stretched tight over the car’s mechanical elements.

The car is powered by a four-cylinder 2.0 boxer unit, offering 197 hp at 7,000 rpm and a maximum torque of 205 Nm at 6,600rpm, and customers will have a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The manual offers quick, precise shifts using a tactile, short-throw lever, while the auto features steering-mounted paddle shifters.

It measures in at 4.24 metres long, 1.28 metres high and 1.77 metres wide, with a 2.57 metre wheelbase, dimensions that Toyota says makes the car the most compact four-seater sports car available today.

Both the powertrain and the driving position have been set as low and as far back as possible to achieve the best balance – the car has a near-perfect 53:47 front-to-rear weight distribution, and features an ultra-low centre of gravity, at just 460 mm.

The suspension features MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbones at the rear, with ventilated disc brakes fore and aft. External cues include a “scorpion” look for the front lower grille, model-specific 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, twin exhausts and an “86” piston logo that denotes the car’s special powertrain configuration.

Inside, the ergonomics and function of every element the driver interacts with have been scrutinised to make driving the car as natural, instinctive and rewarding as possible, Toyota says. There’s a 365 mm diameter steering wheel, the smallest ever fitted to a Toyota, and this one is trimmed in buckskin, developed from exhaustive feedback from test drivers on how to achieve the best steering performance and grip.

Other elements include the use of carbon-effect trim, all-black roof lining, red stitching on the upholstery, aviation-style rocker switches as well as lightweight, aluminium pedals and a three-meter instrument cluster arranged around a large tachometer.