My Toyota 86 is four years old in age, but about sixty in car years.

THE AVERAGE AUSTRALIAN car mileage is around 14,000km, and my car has just ticked over 75,000km in four years. That’s over 18,000km per year, which is pretty remarkable considering I use my Ford Ranger for longer trips and spend a lot of time driving press cars. Sometimes my workload with review cars is such that the 86 sits there for a month without being driven, and when it is on the road it’s pretty much direct to one of Phillip Island, Sandown, Winton or Calder Park to be driven as fast as I know how.

But never any longer than a month. That’s because no matter what’s in my driveway I still look forwards to driving my own 86. Yes, the brand new press cars are interesting, many have their own allure and some I’ve wished I could keep – the MX-5, AMG 45, LC200, F-PACE and Everest to name a few.

But I still keep coming back to my 86, and this morning as the odo reached the milestone I thought about why. After all, many people have sold their 86s, losing interest. That happens with sports cars – you’ve heard of “dog years”, well car years are a similar concept and I reckon four real years is sixty “car years”. Yet I still love my 86, and I’m going to try and explain why.

I think it’s the combination of rawness and handling, mixed with reliability and practicality.

Sure, the 86 has the usual electronic aids, but the car feels old-school direct. Modern vehicles seem to filter everything the driver does – when you press the accelerator you aren’t increasing the revs, you’re sending a request to a computer which will deal with the request as it sees fit. When you turn a corner, unseen electronics help rotate the car. Tiny little noises are designed out. Everything is touchscreen, adding to the sense of disconnection.

You don’t feel any of that in the 86. It seems Toyota have taken an approach of driver-first, as opposed to just talking about it like most others. That means the aids there to step in when limits are reached, rather than help the driver before the limits are reached. This is the way sports cars should be, as never have I met an enthusiast who is excited about having a computer help them corner. And the 86 has an immediate throttle response, you can feel whether or not you’re smooth with the power delivery, the gears snick into place, the handling is direct, quick, sharp…choose your adjective. If you like involvement, the car is a challenge and reward.

There’s something else too. It’s not possible to love a car, no matter how great a drive it is or how beautiful it looks, unless it doesn’t cause you heartache. Well, I can’t anyway. So many people end up selling cars they love because they just can’t take another breakdown, another bill, another problem, but on this score the 86 is outstanding. It has never caused me a single problem, despite spending a lot of its life being driven very fast on racetracks. It’s utterly, utterly reliable, helped by very frequent servicing.

And, for its size and design, practical too. Two rear seats, sort of, a decent-sized boot, full-sized spare wheel, glovebox…I love the way the 86 can be a useful tool for everyday life instead of just a track toy like say a Caterham or Elise. It’s even safe, as unusually for a dedicated sports car design, there’s a 5-star safety rating too.

Do I have a criticism? Yes, the fit and finish is in some cases appalling. The paintjob is thin, and my bonnet looks like it’s been blasted with a shotgun. The steering wheel looks worse than other cars I owned for ten years. However, both can be fixed easily enough should I want to, but there’s a part of me that wants to leave everything as-is. Each mark and wear and tear is a little memory, and this car, like all truly great cars, is great to me because of what I’ve done with it, not because of what it is.




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  1. I bit the bullet and bought a manual 86 GT, 2017 build, brand new. Picked it up 7 weeks ago. As an enthusiast myself who’s owned a V8 Holden and WRX previously, I have to say that the 86 is what I have been looking for. It’s delightfully light, simple and chuckable. It’s like the souped up 70’s celica I wanted as a 17 year old but could never afford. Every time I drive it I smile. I own two other vehicles, and only drive my 86 about 3 times a week, but each time I find myself ready for work early and yearning to get back in. It’s not as fast as some other cars, but I just don’t care.

    It’s practical enough (just), but that’s not why we buy these sort of cars. It is a joy. Plain and simple.

      1. Glad to hear you’ve made it to 75K without any issues Robert. Mine’s on about 25K now and I love driving it. It’s a religious experience.

  2. Thats a decent effort! My Octavia has hit 275,000km and since moving to Sydney, is mainly a garage queen! (about 2 years)

  3. ah yes, they really are practical. Our 86 is our ‘everyday’ car and you’d be amazed what fits in it. My wife can squeeze her golf clubs and her Rovic buggy in the boot. And I kid you not, when we visited the in-laws in Canberra last Xmas we folded the back seat down (who knows it does that?) and proceeded to fit in 2 sets of golf clubs, 2 medium suit cases, a bag of pressies and some bottles of wine.
    but I’m with you Robert. I get a silly grin on my face just driving my 86 to the corner shop for milk. its truly awesome, and for the reason you say. It’s so engaging.

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