2018 Toyota 86 Range Review

The Toyota 86 is an affordable rear-wheel-drive sports coupe, with superb steering and handling. It was developed jointly with Subaru, which sells a very similar car as the BRZ.

Toyota 86 GTS 2017 Drive MAIN 2 Jpg
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Superb steering
  •   Terrific value
Not so much
  •   Most of the time, the engine doesn’t feel sporty

What stands out?

The Toyota 86 is an affordable rear-wheel drive sports coupe, with stylish looks and superb steering and handling. Toyota developed the 86 with Subaru, which sells a very similar car as the BRZ.

What might bug me?

How bumpy roads have got since you bought your 86. The ride is sports-car firm, and if you are used to a more utilitarian hatchback or sedan you will notice that.

If you option the no-cost spare wheel, how much space it takes up in the boot. (But that is because it is a full-sized spare, which could be handy if you get a flat when out of town.)

Paying more for fuel: The 86 requires expensive premium 98 petrol.

What body styles are there?

Two-door coupe. (It’s a two-plus-two, which means there are two very cramped rear seats.)

The Toyota 86 drives its rear wheels, and it is classed as a sports car, lower priced.

What features does every Toyota 86 have?

Air-conditioning, cruise control, satellite navigation and a reversing camera.

An AM/FM radio and CD audio system with a 6.1-inch colour touchscreen display. Bluetooth hands-free operation for phone calls and audio streaming.

An information display that presents data such as average fuel consumption.

Height and reach adjustment for the leather-clad steering wheel, which carries buttons for operating the sound system, the information display and your phone. Height adjustment for the driver’s seat.

Bright and extremely long-lived LED headlights, and LED daytime running lights (which make the car more visible).

Wheels made from an alloy of aluminium, and a tyre repair kit. A full-size alloy spare is available as a no-cost option.

A limited-slip differential, which inhibits wheelspin, improving handling and acceleration on low-grip road surfaces (and enhancing control when you’re drifting the car – on a racetrack, for example).

Hill-start assist. This helps you take off on uphill slopes, by controlling the brakes automatically.

Electronic stability control, which can help you avoid or control a slide. From late November 2016, stability control on the 86 has let you select an effective and subtle Track mode, which lets very good drivers enjoy some oversteer while retaining a safety net.

Seven airbags. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Toyota 86 safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Toyota 86 carries a three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Two engines are available in a Toyota 86, both 2.0-litre horizontally opposed petrol four-cylinders.

While in use they feel very similar, the engine driving manual-transmission cars (only) was revised in several small ways about December 2016 and is marginally more powerful, when revved hard, than the engine in automatic cars.

On the official test, the 86 uses a lot less fuel in auto form than as a manual, consuming 7.1 litres/100km (city and country combined).

The main reason you would not choose an 86 auto is that you want to control this very engaging car as precisely as possible, taking absolute command of gear selection with a manual shift.

In manual form, the 86 uses 8.4 litres/100km on the official test. In the real world it won’t use much more, however: expect to average about 9.0 litres/100km.

One reason the manual 86 uses more fuel than the auto is that it has more closely spaced gear ratios and shorter overall gearing – giving you easier access to the engine’s best power, but spinning it a bit harder.

The engine in any 86 differs from most four-cylinder engines in that it lies flat across the engine bay rather than standing up vertically. This places the weight of the engine lower in the car, which is one reason why it steers so responsively. The design also helps the engine run very smoothly. (Porsche four-cylinders use a similar layout.)

Auto and manual cars each have six ratios.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Toyota 86, the GT, comes with manually controlled air-conditioning, cloth-covered seats, 16-inch wheels, and the features in any 86. A manual gearbox is standard, with the auto an extra-cost option.

You can pay more for an 86 GTS, which brings you satellite navigation, keyless entry and start (you can unlock and start the car with your key kept safely in a pocket or bag), and dual-zone climate control (which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin). You also get leather and Alcantara seats, with heaters, and your headlights switch on by themselves when it’s dark.

Wheels on the GTS are an inch bigger, at 17 inches, and are fitted with slightly wider, lower profile tyres. The GTS also has slightly more powerful brakes (bigger discs, with ventilation at the rear as well as the front). And the boot-lid carries a small spoiler.

An 86 Limited Edition that went on sale about June 2017 had more effective brakes again, from specialist Brembo, and suspension dampers from another specialist component firm, Sachs. Other features matched the GTS.

These features became a permanently available in December 2017, as a performance pack, which also includes red interior trim highlights, and black-finish for the 17-inch alloy wheels, door mirrors and rear spoiler. The Toyota 86 with the performance pack added is referred to the GTS+ in the Cars Covered by this Review menu, which is just below the main picture at the top of the page.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Taking the no-cost option of a full-size spare wheel and tyre rather than the standard tyre-repair kit eats into boot volume. The hollow in the floor of the boot is not deep enough to house the whole spare, leaving it sticking up into the boot space with a moulded rubber cargo mat on top. As a result, the boot floor is not flat.

Premium paint colours come at an extra cost of about $450. Seven colours are available, including one, Moon Slate, that’s exclusive to the GTS+. Only one of them – Ignition Red – is standard at no extra cost.

How comfortable is the Toyota 86?

In keeping with its positioning as a sporty car, the Toyota 86 has quite firm suspension. However, overall comfort is good.

The suspension was retuned for the facelift of December 2016, but the car rides much the same as before.

Getting into the 86 is not quite as easy as it would be for a similar sized non-sporty car, because the seating position is a bit lower.

The front seats offer excellent side-support for cornering, and the major and minor controls are well sited. The steering column adjusts for tilt and reach, which lets you get the driving position just right.

The interior is well built, if not especially luxurious. Some of the plastics are hard, but the quality of the seat trim is good and the steering wheel and gear lever are nicely designed and finished. The instruments and centre touchscreen are attractively presented.

The Toyota 86 is reasonably quiet inside, with low levels of noise and vibration from the suspension and engine. The lower profile tyres worn by the GTS version make it less comfortable than the GT, but there isn’t much in it.

Because of the low seating position, forward vision is not as commanding as it is in a less sporty small car. As well, vision over the driver’s shoulders and to the rear is restricted due to the small side-rear and rear windows. The reversing camera helps address the parking difficulty this presents.

What about safety in a Toyota 86?

Every Toyota 86 has anti-lock brakes, a sophisticated stability control system, seven airbags, LED daytime running lamps, and a reversing camera. Its safety package emphasises your control of the car, your visibility to other drivers, and your protection in a crash.

Two airbags are placed directly in front of the driver and front passenger; airbags alongside each front occupant protect at pelvis and chest level from side impacts; curtain airbags on each side protect front and rear occupants at head level from side impacts; and a seventh airbag protects the driver’s knees.

You don’t see as far ahead in an 86 as you would in a normal passenger car, and vision to the rear is restricted, both of which present a small impediment to both occupant and pedestrian safety.

The 86 GTS brings you auto-on headlights, which make you visible more reliably in low light.

The Toyota 86 does not offer autonomous emergency braking, or other sensory active safety aids.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Toyota 86 its maximum five stars for safety, in April 2013.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Whether you’re a serious car enthusiast, or are simply attracted to the stylish look and appealing price of the Toyota 86, you will enjoy driving it very much.

The sense of precision and agility the steering imparts, and the level of feedback it gives the driver, is the greatest strength in the 86. Anyone can enjoy this, whether they’re driving to the shops or on a twisting country road.

The 86 feels about as good to steer as sports coupes that are far more expensive, such as the Porsche Cayman.

The rear-wheel drive 86 handles corners brilliantly. It turns in enthusiastically and responds to small changes in accelerator and brake pedal inputs, which makes for an involving driving experience. This kind of responsiveness is rare in a modern car.

Skilled drivers will love how controllably you can gently drift the rear tyres of the 86, which is great fun. Revised suspension tuning for a facelift of December 2016 appears to have improved it further in this respect.

“The new car feels more progressive in the way it loses grip,” Associate Editor Scott Newman reported in Motor magazine. “We’re not talking wild, smoking slides here – the 86 needs commitment, momentum and a racetrack to do those – rather a few degrees of oversteer from apex to corner exit.”

The bigger wheels and tyres on the GTS make it a slightly sharper handler and give it more grip than the GT has.

The ventilated rear discs on the GTS (in place of the GT’s solid discs) bring very slightly improved braking power and consistency.

The high level of handling ability in the 86 may make it feel a bit underpowered for particularly keen drivers. The 2.0-litre engine produces about 150kW, which is quite a lot for the weight of the car, but it feels soft in the mid-range. The flat-four is at its most responsive at high engine speeds – above about 5500rpm, where it also sounds much sportier. (Powertrain revisions for the manual facelifted cars made little difference to the seat-of-the-pants experience, Newman opined.)

Toyota says that historically, nearly 60 per cent of buyers have ordered the manual transmission in this car. But for those inclined to choose an automatic, the auto in the 86 is a good one. And you can control it from paddles on the steering wheel.

How is life in the rear seats?

Head and leg room are very limited for rear passengers in an 86. The back seat is intended only for short trips, or small children.

Nonetheless, many other sports cars – for example, the Mazda MX-5 and Nissan 370Z – do not have a back seat at all.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Toyota 86 has a small boot with quite a small opening. Toyota quotes luggage capacity as 223 litres. That is about as much as a light hatchback, but without its ease of loading. And because the 86 isn’t a hatchback, you cannot expand its cargo area into a van-like space by folding the rear seat flat.

The 86’s rear seatback folds in one piece, rather than the split/fold arrangement of most cars. With the seatback folded, you can fit four spare wheels with tyres in the back. That could be handy for the kind of 86 buyer who might take their car to the racing circuit on the weekend.

Where does Toyota make the 86?

The Toyota 86 is manufactured in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Perhaps a folding roof, so that you can enjoy top-down motoring in your sports car. The Mazda MX-5 offers this, for example – in both soft-top and hard-top versions. The MX-5 matches the rear-wheel-drive layout of the 86, and offers a similar level of driver involvement – and a more comfortable ride.

Perhaps some extra mid-range grunt from a turbocharged engine, which is available in the Fiat Abarth 124 Spider. The Spider, a soft-top convertible, is based on the MX-5. It is built at the same factory by Mazda, but uses a Fiat-supplied 1.4 turbo four-cylinder.

Rear-facing sensory safety aids, which help you keep track of other vehicles behind. A blind-spot monitor and a rear cross-traffic alert are available on the Mazda MX-5 and the 124 Spider.

You might also consider a sporty front-drive coupe, such as the Hyundai Veloster.

Are there plans to update the Toyota 86 soon?

The 86 was designed as a modern-day version of the classic Toyota AE86 from the 1980s, which was a hit with car enthusiasts. It went on sale in 2012 and was updated in 2014.

About December 2016 the 86 received a mid-life restyle that also brought retuned suspension, and in manual cars shorter gearing and a bit more power.

In December 2017 Toyota added a factory approved performance package which included improved Brembo brakes, Sachs dampers and 17-inch alloy wheels.

We may see a second-generation Toyota 86 about 2020, which will likely include an electrified powertrain.

I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?

Each version of the 86 is attractively priced, but we like the GTS. Many of its extras are very nice things to have.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Superb steering
  •   Terrific value
Not so much
  •   Most of the time, the engine doesn’t feel sporty


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