Toyota's 86 might have been a huge surprise when it burst onto the world stage, but now it's difficult to imagine a world without it. Heralding a so-far slow and steady return to more interesting cars for the Japanese giant, the 86 has steadily clocked up the sales.
The tiny sports car picked up a few specification tweaks late last year as well as a longed-for 'Performance Pack' and the mildest of upgraded stereos.
Half a decade on and with the Mazda MX-5 (in both convertible and hardtop) as a strong price rival, with an army of hot hatches nipping at its heels, is the 86 still the bargain funster we'd been missing all those years?
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
There are still only two trim levels these days, if you discount the racing version. The Toyota website suggests the 'Apollo Blue' is a separate model, but you'll soon see that's a bit cheeky. Our brief comparison features RRP straight off the price list. The drive-away price is obviously between you and your dealer.
The GT opens the range at $31,440 for the manual and $33,740 for the auto. It's not the sub-$30k bargain it used to be, but remains cheaper than its Subaru BRZ sister car and the Mazda MX-5.
The second level of the road going range is the GTS, starting at $36,640 for the manual and $38,940 for the auto.
Standard features include 16-inch alloys, a limited-slip diff (manual only), LED headlights and daytime running lights, reversing camera, 6.1-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, power windows and mirrors, electric power steering, air-conditioning, floor mats, hill start assist, a sound system with six speakers, Bluetooth and USB, cruise control and cloth trim.
The second level of the road going range is the GTS, starting at $36,640 for the manual and $38,940 for the auto. To the base model you can add bigger rims at 17 inches, dual-zone climate control, an info display in the dashboard between the gauges, privacy glass, heated front seats, stereo controls on the steering wheel, keyless entry and push button start, fake leather seats with Alcantara trim inserts and GPS navigation system with SUNA traffic info.
The GTS's tyres are markedly better Michelins.
Standard features include LED headlights and daytime running lights.
The 86 has classic sports car proportions despite its diminutive dimensions.
16 and 17-inch wheels are available on the GT and GTS-specs, respectively.
For the GT and GTS you can choose from six colours: 'Tornado Grey', 'Storm Black', 'Ice Silver', 'White Liquid', 'Gravity Blue' and 'Ignition Red'. If you go all in on a GTS, you can also have Apollo Blue. Fans of orange and yellow are out of luck. Only Ignition Red is a freebie, the rest will stick you with a $450 bill.
The GT and GTS also offer the 'Dynamic Performance Pack' option. How much does it cost and what do you get? Sadly, no turbo or increase in engine size or improvement in engine specs for a bit more speed. I know many of you pine for more horsepower to improve the 86's stats, but Toyota won't help out.
So, the $2200 (GT)/$2900 (GTS) pack includes a darker set of alloy wheels, SACHS suspension and a set of Brembo brakes. GTS buyers can also specify Apollo Blue as the exterior colour, raising the price again to $39,950 for the manual and $41,890 for the auto.
The waiting time for your 86 is a thing of the past - stock levels appear solid around the country.
The 6.1-inch infotainment screen that runs the sound system is an ongoing disaster. Too small, terrible software, it's an afterthought. To add insult to injury, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto despite the Subaru version managing to fit a stereo with exactly that feature. It's a perplexingly bad decision to leave them out, especially when it's a basic double DIN unit that's easy to replace.
Accessories include interior lighting, rear parking sensors and a bootliner. Missing from the list are a towbar, HID headlights (the standard LEDs are excellent) and, unsurprisingly, air suspension.
Conspicuous by their absence are a roof rack and sunroof. Despite a soft top concept a few years back, there isn't a convertible either. If you want a subwoofer, you'll have to go aftermarket.
The waiting time for your 86 is a thing of the past - stock levels appear solid around the country.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
As ever, the 86 exterior design is tasteful - low-slung and with a mild body kit including side skirts, a modest front spoiler and a metal rear wing that nobody seems to like. The 86 has those classic sports car proportions despite its diminutive dimensions.
The rear diffuser looks good but is unlikely to do much other than house the fog light and reversing lights. The big twin exhausts look terrific, so if you want a quad exhaust, I will only ask why.
Inside is as minimally thoughtful as ever. There's nothing especially wrong with it but there is little to commend it with a mix of materials and various cop-outs to save money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, given the car's intentions, but if you're expecting a premium interior, you're of out luck. Having said that, the suede-like panel in the GTS looks pretty good.
How practical is the space inside? 6/10
Interior photos reveal a cosy space for driver and passenger. The rear seats are almost entirely pointless, although you can get small kids in. Like really small - I'm just on 180cm and drive closer to the wheel than most but I could still only slot a laptop computer in the 'legroom'.
There is no armrest, but that's for practical gear-shifting reasons.
The front seats are split by a narrow console with a moveable tray with two cupholders and a slot that holds a smaller iPhone or Android phone. There is no armrest, but that's for practical gear-shifting reasons. Those in the rear don't get a cup holder at all.
People always ask how many seats Toyota has crammed in, and the answer is four, but it's really a 2+2.
Boot space isn't terrible at 223 litres and if you fold down the rear seats, you've capacity for a set of four wheels and tyres. Which might be handy given there is no longer a spare tyre, so a tyre repair kit might be in order...
Boot space isn't terrible at 223 litres and if you fold down the rear seats, you've capacity for a set of four wheels and tyres.
There's no longer a spare tyre, so a tyre repair kit might be in order...
As you might imagine, ground clearance isn't off-road spectacular but the 86 does pass my driveway test. In other words, I can get it up my driveway - some SUVs don't even manage without that stomach churning scraaape.
Power figures for the 152kW/212Nm Subaru-sourced 2.0-litre 'boxer' engine drop when paired with the auto.
There are no known common issues with the 86's boxer four. As to whether the engine features a timing belt or chain, the good news is that it's a chain, meaning lower long-term ownership and servicing costs.
The manual transmission doesn't seem to suffer any widespread complaints or issues and the automatic gearbox seems similarly reliable. If you needed to settle the manual vs automatic argument, that's yet another reason to go with the manual gearbox. As well as the lighter weight. And better performance figures.
The 86 does the 0-100km/h dash in a swift seven-ish seconds.
There is no 4x4, front-wheel drive or AWD version, nor is there a diesel motor available. Although that would be interesting...
For some reason, the 86 comes in for criticism for its 0-100km per hour acceleration time, which is a swift seven-ish seconds.
Fuel consumption is quite different between the transmission types. The manual's claimed combined cycle figure is 8.4L/100km while the automatic's is 7.1L/100km. Usually mileage figures are closer between transmissions, so if fuel economy is at the top of your list, it's the automatic.
Fuel tank capacity is 50 litres and you have to fill it with 98RON premium unleaded.
The official figures, for once, aren't a bad guide - my most recent week with an 86 manual returned 9.3L/100km.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
Toyota still offers a three-year/100,000km warranty and roadside assist is an extra cost. Many customers understand that a key Toyota value proposition is reliability, but the three-year warranty club is almost as small as the full-term Prime Ministers club has been in the last decade.
Resale value appears strong, no doubt helped by a distinct lack of common problems, gearbox problems, issues, faults or complaints about the car. A second hand 86 should be easy to come by - since its launch in 2012, Toyota has shifted around 20,000 cars.
Service cost is capped at $180 per service and you're expected to visit the dealer every nine months or 15,000km, which is kind of odd.
The owners manual is packed with useful details like oil capacity and type.
Another question I'm often asked is "Where is the Toyota 86 built?" - the answer is Subaru's Gunma plant in Japan. Some also ask "Is the Toyota 86 discontinued?" - that's a firm no, although the US Scion sub-brand version, the FR-S, is no more.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
Every time I drive the 86, I am struck by the same things. The first is just how small it really is. Its road footprint is tiny, the Toyota dwarfed by just about everything. That means it's great in the city for ducking in and out of gaps and if you keep the left arm busy on the shifter, you'll be able to use its momentum to carve through the dawdling idiots infesting our roads.
The steering is always a delight - fast and direct, you know what's under those skinny front tyres and the weighting is near perfection. Coupled with the finely-tuned chassis, it's super-predictable and a huge laugh out of damp roundabouts.
When you strip it all back, ignore the rackety engine and plasticky interior, it really feels like a car twice the price.
Few cars put you in touch with the purity of driving like a manual 86.
The best bit is the balance - you can really feel the car underneath you. When you strip it all back, ignore the rackety engine and plasticky interior, it really feels like a car twice the price. The whole experience is centred around fun but without abandoning the needs of daily driving - the soft suspension allows for body roll which is both fun when you're thrashing but delivers a bearable ride on the school/work run.
It's a bit tinny, it's missing some obvious bits and pieces but few cars put you in touch with the purity of driving like a manual 86.
The automatic - largely ignored - is still fun, but it's not really what the 86 is all about. For me, I once had an auto 86 and it was an opportunity to show my manual-shy wife what she's been missing.
The overall score doesn't really reflect how good this car is. It's let down by silly things like the lack of a decent stereo head unit, a ho-hum warranty package and a lack of advanced safety features. Those things sort of miss the point for most 86 buyers as the sales figures suggest.
It's old school fun without all the reliability and usability issues. It's a better proposition than any bargain sportscar for decades and is never not a barrel of laughs. The best value - and most fun - is a manual GT with the Dynamic Performance Pack. It's still good value, has a bit more oomph in the brakes and suspension and adds just a little bit of spice to the 86.
Has the 86 withstood the test of time? Or have other, new options stolen your heart? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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