Just what else is there at this price? Harris showed the 370Z couldn't match the Toyota, and would you rather drive a Camaro than either of these two? Exactly.
The GT86's interior just makes you want to drive. There's little in terms of surprise and delight but there is a fabulous seat to drop into and a real sports car feel that is lacking from the BMW. Which could, until you fire it up, be mistaken for an optioned up 116d both inside and out.
Ahead there's a tacho redlined at a fraction under 7,500rpm that also contains a digital speedo, all the info you need positioned centrally. There's one button to switch the display to km/h too, for the full JDM effect. Plus there's a change-up light AND buzzer. Lots of nerd cool there and anyone raised on a diet of 90s Japanese performance cars will feel very at home. So, yes, it's quite plasticky too. We've been told those rear seats can actually hold growing humans too, so the Toyota doesn't totally lose on practicality though the BMW is the only real option if you need 'proper' back seats.
But if you want to see where that extra money goes it doesn't take long in the BMW to appreciate the serious step up in quality and gizmos the 1 Series offers. It's just a far more grown-up car, for better or worse.
The styling. Toyota's latest coupe couldn't be anything but a Japanese coupe, with hints of the Lexus LFA and Nissan GT-R in its design. As inside, the GT86 nails the sports car vibe in a way the Beemer can't.
There's the history with the GT86; it puts you in mind of old Initial D-spec Corollas, and we love the fact Toyota and Subaru collaborated on producing a car solely for the purpose of having fun.
If you want to brag then the GT86 isn't for you. Pretentious though it sounds, it's about the feel and the intangibles of driving rather than the raw stats. You want numbers? 200hp, 151lb ft, 7.6 seconds to 62mph and 140mph. The M135i driver wouldn't need to switch from Eco Pro to keep up.
But there's one vital figure for this comparison, and that's weight. The Toyota weighs 1,240kg, 260kg less than the porky Beemer.
In the real world, the numbers become even more irrelevant than in the pub; the GT86 feels lithe and responsive in a way that only a light(ish) car can. The more thuggish BMW, wonderful though it is, simply can't match the Toyota for alertness and plain fun.
But the Toyota is far from perfect. That torque deficit can be frustrating when exiting corners (ok, trying to skid) and then there's the noise; in isolation, you'd call it eager to be nice but, against the BMW, it just sounds rather weak.
Do they compare on price?
With our particular specifications, not really. There's the best part of £10K (£9,685) between the GT86 (£27,995) and M135i (£37,680). Even with just the options we would choose (the auto 'box, the Professional media upgrade and the DAB), the M135i would still be £34,500.
Though, as we've seen, the reality in BMW dealers suggests it's worth haggling. Some GT86 owners are plumping for the £750 Touch&Go navigation system and optional paint, but there is far less to be spent on extras compared to the BMW.
In reality, the gap is far closer. Comparing manual with manual (because the GT86 auto is as poor as the BMW's is great), both with no options, the price differential is just over £5,000 at list price. We've heard of GT86 owners negotiating around £1,500 off the list price, but paying anywhere closer to £23K appears to be a real achievement. PHers with M135is are reporting far more generous discounts, further reducing the difference.
It's a tough first challenge for the M135i, but there are plenty more to follow!
For a sense of occasion and just excitement, the GT86 is hard to match at the price. But then the BMW is ludicrously fast, sounds mega and also has great Q-car appeal. However the money saved by taking the Toyota over the BMW could be spent on a turbo kit...
In a tight first battle, the M135i just nicks it. The M Performance hatch may lack the visual drama of the Toyobaru, but the noise, pace and usability of the M135i places it ahead. But a £30K, c. 250hp GT86 could well swing the verdict the other way, that's how close the decision was.
Engine: 1,998cc flat-4
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (6-speed auto optional)
Power (hp): 200@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 151@6,400-6,600rpm
0-62mph: 7.6 sec (auto 8.2 sec)
Top speed: 140mph (auto 130mph)
MPG: 36.2mpg (39.8mpg auto) (NEDC combined)
CO2: 181g/km (164g/km auto)
Price: £24,995 (before options) £27,995 (as tested inc. £750 for Touch&Go, £1,600 for leather/Alcantara seats and £650 for pearlescent paint)
Engine: 2,979cc six-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (8-speed auto optional)
Power (hp): 320@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,300-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.1 sec (auto 4.9 sec)
Top speed: 155mph
MPG: 35.3 (37.7 auto) (NEDC combined)
CO2: 188g/km (175g/km auto)
Price: £30,525 (before options) £37,680 (as tested inc. £515 for Adaptive M Sport suspension, aluminium trim, complimentary BMW Business Loudspeaker system, £295 for DAB, £360 for Driver Comfort Package comprising cruise and parking sensors, £90 for 'extended storage', £250 for dimming/folding mirrors, full black panel display, high-gloss black finish, £95 for 'internet', £200 for driver/passenger lumbar support, £1,995 for BMW Professional Multimedia, £515 for metallic paint, £235 for front/rear Park Distance Control, £265 for seat heating, £1,600 for Sport auto transmission, £290 for Sun Protection Package, £450 for Visibility Package inc. adaptive xenon lights)