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Will a turbocharger ruin the new Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ 2021?

The current Toyota 86 punches out up to 152kW/212Nm from a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

As any Spider-Man fan can tell you, with great power comes great responsibility.

Toyota should listen to that advice because if the rumours are true the new-generation 86 (and Subaru BRZ) coming in 2021 may spoil what makes the current car so special.

According to a recent report from Japan, the new 86 is set to be powered by a bigger, 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine making 162kW of power and 240Nm of torque. That’s a modest 10kW bump and 28Nm upgrade, which hopefully is true.

There are also persistent rumours that this new 86/BRZ duo will get a turbocharged version of the 2.4-litre engine and that could take its outputs closer to, or even above, 200kW and 300Nm - and that would ruin what makes the 86/BRZ so special.

In a country with a speed limit rooted in the 1974 conversion to metric units and a draconian focus on enforcing those limits by the police force, having more power in your sports coupe or hot hatch isn’t always necessary, or even a good thing.

The beauty of the 86/BRZ is that with its limited power and Prius-spec low-resistance tyres, it’s a car that can be enjoyed to its limits without breaking the speed limit; not something all modern performance cars can claim.

The focus on power and torque, boosted (pardon the pun) by modern turbocharged engines, has seen even hot hatches move into serious performance car territory.

Go back to 2000 and the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk4 made 110kW and the then-new HSV GTS pumped out 300kW from its 5.7-litre V8. Fast forward to 2020 and the Golf GTI makes 180kW while its chief rivals the Hyundai i30 N and Ford Focus ST both make more than 200kW.

Then there’s the premium hyper hatches like the Mercedes-AMG A45 S, which even has the old HSV covered thanks to its 310kW/500Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Just look at the way performance increases just over the course of city-car sized pocket rockets to the luxury brand hot hatches.

Hot hatchPower outputs
Ford Fiesta ST147kW
Volkswagen Polo GTI147kW
Toyota Yaris GR200KW
Volkswagen Golf GTI180kW
Hyundai i30 N202kW
Ford Focus ST206kW
Honda Civic Type R228kW
Audi RS3294kW
Mercedes-AMG A45 S310kW

There is good news for those who appreciate modest but acceptable performance cars. Hyundai recently confirmed the pint-sized i20 N will come to Australia in 2021 and is likely to be powered by the 1.6-litre turbo four from the Veloster Turbo. That engine makes 150kW/265Nm, which is more than adequate for a car of its size.

But that doesn’t mean the power war will slow down anytime soon. While Toyota may be keeping the 86 sensible, the upcoming Yaris GR will manage to extract 200kW of grunt from just a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine. Coupled with all-wheel drive and its compact body the Yaris GR will be a rally car for the road.

While we don’t know what to expect in terms of detailed performance from the inevitable new era of electric performance cars, it’s a safe bet they won’t be any less potent than what we have now.

Hopefully the 86/BRZ won’t be the last of their kind - modest in power but big on thrills - but it does look increasingly likely.