Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Toyota 86 First Drive

With sharp looks, the Toyota 86 GT (a twin to the Subaru BRZ) is a whole lot of fun to drive, and affordable too, says Isaac Bober.

The Toyota 86 GT offers buyers an intoxicating blend of aggressive looks and razor-sharp handling at a price that won’t bust the budget. We’ve waited a long time for a sports car like this: rear wheel drive, low weight, compact, and at a decent everyman price.

While Toyota’s got a decent history at producing just such cars it’s steered clear of producing anything remotely exciting in the last few years. And the 86 wasn’t all Toyota’s idea, either, Subaru (Toyota owns 16 per cent of Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries) had a fair old hand in the development of this car. Besides some mild differences between damper settings, and some cosmetic flourishes there’s not a lot of difference between the two.

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With an entry price of just $29,990 (+ORC), the Toyota 86 GT manual represents astonishing value for money, indeed it’s the cheapest sports car on the market. Even the 86 GTS (auto) I tested, which lists from $37,990 (+ORC), undercuts its nearest (non-family) rival the Mazda MX-5 by a long shot (from $47,280+ORC).

So, what do you get for the coin? Quite a bit actually. All 86s are standard with air-con, reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel, cruise control, CD player with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, voice recognition and 16-inch alloys (and a full-size spare), and the manual offers a limited slip differential (LSD) to stop the driving wheels from spinning. The 86 GTS adds 17-inch alloys (and a full-size spare), plus LSD for both manual and auto variants, auto-levelling HID head-lights, leather accented seats with Alcantara inserts, dual-zone climate control, fog lights and keyless entry and start, sat-nav, and reversing camera. You also get steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters and a digital speedo.

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In terms of safety, the 86 GT gets a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating and seven airbags across the range. It also offers the usual suspects, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, traction control and vehicle stability control (and there are five modes to VSC: mode four turns off traction control, while five switches off both traction and stability control).

Under the bonnet of both the GT and GTS there’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine producing 147kW at 7000rpm and 205Nm from 6400-6600. This is mated to either a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic, and fuel claimed consumption is 7.1L/100km (auto) and 7.8L/100km for the manual.

The Toyota 86 is easily one of the best-value sports cars every built.

Having driven the auto too, I can say the manual is definitely the pick (as if there would have been any doubt), because the auto, which, unless you’re giving it regular prods, tends to short shift and feel a little dull. Take matters into your own hands, though, and shift via the paddles on the steering wheel and it becomes a lot livelier. But, while it might be more rewarding to drive with your foot buried deep in the carpet, the engine sounds terrible (think rattle and buzz). And that’s despite the inclusion of a ‘sound creator’. Toyota’s engineers should get behind the wheel of a Ford Focus ST to hear a proper sporting exhaust note. Driven normally, the 86 GT feels a lot less exciting than it looks.

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The low-centre of gravity and the near perfect weight distribution, coupled with a lively chassis and a decent ride make the Toyota 86 GT a real joy in the bends. The steering is sensational, offering a direct action with decent weight and good feedback. And while the brakes have plenty of stopping power there’s not a lot of feel or progression, and it takes time to get the hang of just how much force is enough, and just how much force is too much because you could have your passenger head-butting the dashboard.

The Toyota 86 GT is a strict 2+2 and while there are perches behind the front seats, for kids and child seats, you certainly wouldn’t try and put an adult in them. Not if you liked the person, anyway. The front seats, luckily, are nice and grippy with just enough padding to make long trips comfortable. In the boot, there’s 243 litres of luggage space.

The Toyota 86 is easily one of the best-value sports cars every built.

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS

Toyota is to be commended for the 86 GT. It offers fun, affordable motoring with looks that’ll have you going weak at the knees. Our pick would definitely be the entry-level 86 GT (manual); ignore the auto – it’s like buying a dog and then doing the barking for it, if you know what we mean.

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TOYOTA 86 GT

PRICE $29,990 (+ORC) WARRANTY three years, 100,000km SAFETY five-star ANCAP ENGINE 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine POWER/TORQUE 147kW/205Nm TRANSMISSION six-speed manual (standard); six-speed automatic BODY 4.24m (L) 1.75m (W) 1.28m (H) WEIGHT 1275kg  FUEL 7.1-7.4L/100km

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober