Toyota has waved farewell to the current-generation GT86 as it leaves the range to make way for a new version, which is set to arrive later this year. The Japanese car company has paid tribute to the 2-litre, two-door coupe that earned rave reviews when it was launched in 2012.

With UK sales of almost 7,500 in the eight-and-a-half years the car was on sale, the GT86 was never quite the hit the Mazda MX-5 was. But the GT86 – or just ‘86’ in Japan – was still Toyota’s flagship driver’s car until the Supra came along, and it earned a reputation as a drift weapon. All of which gave it cult hero status among a number of car enthusiasts.

When the car was launched in the UK during the summer of 2012, it arrived promising plenty for automotive purists. The 2-litre ‘boxer’ engine was built by horizontally opposed engine specialists Subaru and was naturally aspirated – no room for turbochargers in Toyota’s small sports car. It had ordinary road tyres, too, borrowing its rubber from the Prius hybrid hatchback, and the power – all 197 bhp of it – went to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.

2017 Toyota GT86 Heritage Collection

The car was launched alongside Subaru’s BRZ, which shared pretty much everything but the badge with the GT86. However, a sales agreement between the two companies meant the Toyota could be sold in far greater numbers, making it a more common sight on British roads.

The name was derived from the AE86 Corolla coupe, and the trademark handling quality was also carried over. With limited grip and relatively low power, the GT86 was brisk and occasionally tail happy even at fairly low speeds, but it was docile, too. All of which were qualities that eventually earned the car a place on the new-look Top Gear, where it was used by celebrities to set lap times for the ‘Star in a Reasonably Fast Car’ segment of the show.

Toyota GT86 CS R3

But that wasn’t the car’s only motorsport-related appearance. The car was adapted to compete in GT4 circuit racing and it was even engineered for rallying, making it the first homologated rear-wheel drive rally car in years. And even those who didn’t get to drive one on the public road could do so virtually, as the car starred in a range of video games.

Yet for all its successes, Toyota has sold the last new current-generation GT86. A new model is expected this summer, and the existing car has made way for its successor.

In a statement, Toyota said: “Toyota has sold its last GT86 in the UK, setting the seal on almost nine years of unadulterated driving fun. The remarkable coupe has been the pathfinder for the company’s worldwide renaissance as a maker of pure-bred sports cars, blazing a trail for today’s GR Supra and GR Yaris – and for future models that will keep its spirit alive.

“In its time on sale in the UK, GT86 amassed almost 7,500 sales and established a popular reputation far beyond those fortunate enough to buy and drive one. Of course, this is not the end of the story: watch this space for the next chapter.”

Gallery: 2017 Toyota GT86 Europe Gallery