Toyota 86: A fun-to-drive, affordable coupe

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WASHINGTON — Looking at rear-wheel drive coupes under $30,000 doesn’t take very long; there aren’t many. But Toyota with the help of Subaru has such a ride.

Toyota and Subaru went in together a few years back making that rare, fun-to-drive, economical-to-operate coupe.  We’ll look at the Subaru version next time.

The Toyota 86 has been around a few years as a Scion model. So this year, it comes with a big power upgrade going from 200 horsepower all the way to … 205 horsepower (if you choose a manual transmission).

I know — it’s not much power, but this is a small car that doesn’t weigh much. The four-cylinder engine comes from Subaru and it has that distinct engine sound when you accelerate. The manual transmission is good with short, easy throws between gears but the clutch takes some getting used to. The engagement area is very small so it takes a few miles to be smooth especially when starting from a stop.

The Toyota 86 excels when it comes to the corners, and if you fancy drifting, the rear-wheel drive coupe will let its tail hangout when you push it. The car is very easy to steer and it goes where you point it.

This coupe would make a good starting point if you’re looking to get into doing track days. My car came with some options that help make this a better car for the track and maybe a bit more rough for the street. The Toyota Racing Development lowering springs and sway bar improves handling and keeps the car from leaning as much in turns but the ride is rough on city streets. I could live with it but I would forgo the $1,100 extra if this is just your everyday and only car.

Brakes are also up to the task with strong performance and the ability to quickly bring the small coupe to a stop. I managed 31 mpg easily beating the sticker in my week of driving. Premium fuel is recommended.

The interior is simple and everything is easy to reach for the driver. While not flushed with the latest technology, it’s more of a throwback to simple times. The large, easy-to-read analog gauges are a nice departure from the norm. A tachometer in the middle hints at its sporty demeanor. The leather-wrapped steering wheel, shifter knob and hand brake look and feel nice. The seats are a bit firm but passable for an hour or two at a time and they keep you place well in the turns. The climate control is a set of larger knobs that are simple to operate and understand.

The Pioneer sound system with a 7-inch touch screen responds quickly when you use your finger; there is also a volume knob and tuning with a button. The sound from the system is average.

Front seat passengers have good space for a small coupe. The back seats are better for extra storage rather than adults. I climbed back there but I would not want to ride there.

The sporty Toyota 86 stands out when it’s in a sea of trucks and crossovers, as it doesn’t look like much on the road today. The 86 sits low and has even less ground clearance with the optional lowering springs. The 17-inch wheels with low profile tires sit just right in the wheel wells. The front-end styling is pretty aggressive and those lines carry back with raised front fenders over those front wheel arches.

To spice it up, you can choose between some fun colors. The Hot Lava color my tester came with isn’t available anymore, which is a pity. You might search for a 2017 model if orange is a must-have color. I had the base $27,000 Toyota 86 model so there is no rear wing and it made for nice clean look. You can pay extra and add a small tasteful wing if you want.

The Toyota 86 is a small coupe that gets back to the basics of what makes driving so much fun. It doesn’t work well as a family car, but it rewards drivers with good, honest handling and a spirited back road partner.

With a price under $30,000 and a fuel efficient four-cylinder engine, the Toyota 86 is the anti-SUV that says you can join the “Save the Manuals” movement.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.


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