I expected to be underwhelmed by the 2012 Toyota 86, the most talked about, hyped car possibly in the entire history of Toyota.
After living with it for a bit over a week, I can unreservedly say that if the Toyota 86 were a religion, I’d want to be an altar boy.
I know this might seem over the top, but I can honestly say that no matter how mundane the destination, the little 86 makes the journey a joy.
Sure, it’s not all that powerful, it’s just OK to look at, as opposed to being beautiful, and when it comes to being functional, her indoors was quick to point out the 86’s lack of space.
But that’s not what the Toyota is all about; it’s about engaging you as a driver, responding to every input exactly as you think it should; and when you think it shouldn’t, it still does.
The balance this car naturally possesses is overwhelming, so much so that within 15 minutes of being in the drivers seat, I was reaching to switch the traction and stability control off. I needed to be sure it wasn’t just technical wizardry keeping this car glued to the road, but instead good old mechanical grip.
And that is exactly what it is; mechanical grip through a lightweight body atop a rear drive chassis with a well-placed engine/gearbox combo.
There’s no doubt that formula can be found elsewhere, Porsche have a couple of examples, but nobody, apart from Subaru who co-developed this car, can even come close in terms of value.
With a list price of $29,990 (before on-roads) for the manual GT version, it’s cheap.
The Subaru flat four engine sounds great, particularly higher in the rev range.
There’s sufficient poke with 147 kilowatts on offer, and with a week of spirited driving on freeways, country roads and through town, I managed 9.2 litres per 100km. Not brilliant, but not terrible.
The shift action in the manual version of the Toyota 86 is akin to a rifle bolt action, while in the self-shifter, the automatic blip of the throttle on the way down through the gears is utterly addictive.
The automatic gearbox has been criticized, not completely without reason, and while I personally wouldn’t be ticking that box on the order form, it’s surprisingly spritely and will open up the joys of the 86 to those folk who can’t or wont use a clutch.
Inside things are pretty basic, architecturally it’s reminiscent of a Porsche. A brilliant driving position, meaty pedal feel and a steering wheel that provides as much feedback as, yep, you guessed it, a Porsche.
Not surprising considering Toyota bench-marked this car against a Porsche Cayman, at this point I need to again mention the asking price of $29,990.
The seats are supportive although the fabric covering them reminded me of the material used in flash Honda’s from the eighties.
Leather inserts come standard in higher spec GTS, along with SAT NAV, a stop-start button and bigger wheels.
The sound system in the base Toyota 86 GT is pretty good, the Bluetooth works a treat, but there is a lack of storage compartments.
And a lack of any type of digital screen, reversing camera, parking sensors, sunroof (even as an option); there’s a long list of omissions.
I missed none of them.
When a posse of grade 3 boys swarmed the car in the school car park with shouts of “Can we go for a ride?” I finally understood what I loved about this car so much.
The little 86 made me feel like one of those kids, and while my wife might agree that my maturity level could sometimes be rivaled by those boys, it took me back to the excitement that I felt at that age when I saw a cool car.
It reignited that excitement every time I turned the key.
The Toyota 86 is unashamedly a car about fun, and the fact that this car is within reach of most everyday Australians, means that this car is a game changer.
Even if for some strange reason you’re not a fan of this car, you can’t take away the fact that the Toyota 86 GT has put fun motoring back at the top of the agenda.
NUTS and BOLTS
- Engine: 2.0 litre petrol delivering 147kW and 205Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual
- Safety: Not tested
- Warranty: 3yrs/100,000Kms
- Origin: Japan
- Price: From $29,990
- For further information, please see Recalls and faults: Toyota ZN6 86.