2012 Toyota 86 First Drive Review

Tony O'Kane | 50 Comments

2012 TOYOTA 86 REVIEW

After what seems an eternity, Toyota’s much-hyped 86 is finally here.

We’ve driven it, we’ve drifted it and we declare it to be good - very good. What’s more, with a starting price of $29,990 it is without doubt the performance-bargain of the decade.

For less than the price of a high-grade Corolla, Toyota will sell you a bona-fide sports car. One that’s not just agile and responsive, but absolutely filled with character.

That Toyota was able to resist pricing the entry-grade 86 GT above the $30k mark is commendable, but the fact that the full-fruit 86 GTS starts from $35,490 is downright incredible.

2012 toyota 86 australia 02

Prior to the 86’s arrival, the cheapest car that could deliver the same kind of RWD thrills was the Mazda MX-5, which is hardly cheap, given its $44,265 starting price.

The 86 is just as enjoyable to drive as the Mazda - if not more so - has two more seats and a larger boot, yet is nearly $15k cheaper.

In that context, the word “bargain” is something of an understatement.

But the 86 isn’t just about compelling value, it’s about the drive. Toyota invited us to Canberra to spend a day behind the wheel of its newest sports car, and we came away thoroughly impressed.

The Interior

You sit low in the 86, real low.

Your legs stretch out ahead into the deep footwells, the steering wheel (Toyota’s smallest) points straight at your chest and the door trims are right at your shoulder.

It’s not a wide cabin, and the gear lever falls close to hand - as it should in a sports car. You don’t feel hemmed-in though, and there’s plenty of elbow room and headroom.

With reach and rake adjustment to the steering column, it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel.

Everything conveys a sense of sportiness, of inherent athleticism. The tachometer dominates the instrument cluster, there’s no elbow-impeding covered storage behind the gearlever and the short-throw handbrake is positioned close to the shifter.

In a nod to the 86’s sports car lineage, Toyota also brought a vintage 1967 2000GT to the 86 launch and, like the 86’s cockpit, the 2000GT’s driving position is low-slung, snug and very driver-focused.

Yes, in the 86 there are some horribly misaligned panel gaps in the dashboard and no buttons on the steering wheel. But Toyota will no doubt attend to the former, and the presence of the latter would just get in the way when spinning the wheel between its lock-stops.

2012 toyota 86 australia 14

There are other genuine negatives - depending on your plans for the car.

The back seats are cramped, and this 5’8” correspondent wasn’t able to straighten his neck, thanks to the slope of the rear glass. They’re strictly for occasional use by children and (very) small adults.

The wide door sills can also be a challenge to get over - perhaps not easily negotiated if wearing a skirt (or a kilt).

However, we suspect most enthusiasts would be happy enough to live with these shortcomings.

On The Road

For the road drive, we strapped ourselves into a base model 86 GT manual.

In our opinion, it’s the most appealing package. Besides its bargain-bin pricing, the car isn’t burdened by the extra weight of xenon headlamps, sat-nav and heated seats, yet it still comes with the same engine and driveline set up as the GTS.

That engine, by the way, is a free-spinning unit that begs to be wrung hard.

Derived from the Impreza’s FB20 2.0 litre boxer four, the 86’s FA20 four-pot has the same internal dimensions but kicks out more power (147kW) and more torque (205Nm) thanks to a set of Yamaha-designed heads with both port and direct injection.

It produces peak power at 7000rpm, 450rpm shy of the rev-cut, and peak torque only comes on stream at 6400rpm.

Around Canberra’s suburbs, the 86 feels sedate. Low-rpm response is not its strong suit, and it’s better to leave the six-speed manual in a lower gear than you normally would.

It’s fairly quiet though, with the characteristic boxer rumble being dialed out by some clever exhaust engineering.

Get clear of suburbia, and the 86 comes into its own. Use the short-throw shifter (one of the best around), drop back to second, then floor it.

Power builds in a linear fashion with a rising throaty note as revs climb. Keep more than 4000rpm on the dial and the boxer motor is in its sweet spot. Any less and progress is slow.

It’s no rocket ship in a straight line. The 86 needs a string of corners to show off its true capabilities, and Canberra’s geography was happy to provide several sinuous passes for us to sample.

The steering is wonderfully direct, and has an accuracy that’s hard to find in modern cars. For an electrically-assisted system, it transmits decent feedback with great on-centre feel. And the fast rack ratio (13:1) makes it easy to quickly wind on lock.

The 86’s nose tracks into corners with a minimum of bodyroll, and with stability control deactivated the tail can be provoked loose with a judicious squeeze of the throttle.

The standard Yokohama Db tyres don’t give much grip, but that actually makes the 86 a better drive. After all, it means you can have more fun at slower (and thus safer) speeds.

Most importantly though, the 86’s inherent chassis balance makes it easy to control a slide, and to feel the onset of traction loss.

The suspension tune is, in a word, brilliant. The base 86 GT is fitted with a set of anemic-looking 16-inch alloys, but we found the ride quality on those taller-sidewalled tyres to be near-on perfect.

2012 toyota 86 australia 04

Ride comfort on choppy roads is excellent, but it’s not to the detriment of cornering performance.

In fact, we felt the addition of 17-inch wheels would spoil the 86’s balance. If it were our money, we’d stick to the 16s.

The GT’s ventilated disc brakes are smaller, measuring 277mm at the front compared to the GTS’s 294mm rotors.

Brake feel is quite good though, with strong response, a linear increase in pedal pressure and no fade during our drive.

And the clutch, brake and accelerator pedals are all perfectly positioned for heel-toeing. Toyota has definitely paid much attention to detail with this one.

First Drive Verdict

It’s not just the pedal arrangement, nor the crisp handling, nor the slick and precise gearbox. With the Toyota 86, every component works in concert to do just one thing - excite the driver.

Tetsuya Tada, chief designer of the 86, is an enthusiast with intimate knowledge of how a sports car is meant to feel. After having driven the 86, his influence is obvious. This is a tremendously enjoyable car.

Toyota didn’t tell us the pricing before we embarked on our road drive - they saved that bombshell for later.

It was a shrewd move, for throughout the drive we speculated that a mid-$30k pricetag would be reasonable for the GT. To hear that $29,990 retail price was a very pleasant surprise.

The arrival of the Toyota 86 will have a profound effect on the performance car landscape. It’s bound to steal significant market share from the current crop of hot hatches.

When you can have a vehicle that’s more stylish and more fun to drive than a Golf GTI - for similar money to a Polo GTI - how could you go past the Toyota 86?

That’s right. You can’t.

Stay tuned for our on-track assessment of the Toyota 86’s dynamic capabilities. There’s handbrake turns, drifting, plenty of apex-kissing and loads of high-rpm action. If you’re an enthusiast, you won’t want to miss it.

Pricing

  • 2012 86 GT - manual - $29,990
  • 2012 86 GT - automatic - $32,490
  • 2012 86 GTS - manual - $35,490
  • 2012 86 GTS - automatic - $37,990

Note: pricing excludes on-road costs.

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Filed under: Featured, review, Toyota, petrol, coupe, 2012, rwd, automatic, Manual, sport, performance, 86, lifestyle, Advice, special-featured, enthusiast, 4cyl, 2door, 6m, 6a, toyota 86, 4seat, available, 2012 toyota 86

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  • David says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    Looks really impressive BUT I don't know that an engine that has to scream like a banshee to get anywhere [think Honda] will appeal to everyone.

    The same car with low down torque - maybe turbo charged - would be a screamer.
    • Lindsay says,
      2 years ago
      2 likes
      Peak torque may arrive at 6,400 RPM but that doesn't mean that it's worse than any other naturally aspirated 2L down low.

      Also consider that it weighs less than almost every modern 2L compact car.
      • MotorMouth says,
        2 years ago
        3 likes
        My Alfa had 230Nm peak torque, yet more than 200Nm of it was available from idle. I really can't see this engine being in the same class. As the review says, you get nothing at low revs. It seems like a philosophical difference between Japanese and European engines and I really don't see why the Japanese don't get how much better it is to have low down torque that gives way to high-end power.

        That said, I reckon this thing will be a real cracker. I just wish I was in the market for a new car but I couldn't imagine buying one of these and leaving it on the street every night.
        • Lindsay says,
          2 years ago
          The review doesn't say anything of the sort.

          I'm going to keep speculation to a minimum until power and torque curves are published, but suffice to say that almost every modern engine with direct injection can manage to deliver most of its peak torque at idle.
          • MotorMouth says,
            2 years ago
            1 like
            Really? Then how else would you interpret this - "Keep more than 4000rpm on the dial and the boxer motor is in its sweet spot. Any less and progress is slow." If most of this car's 205Nm was on tap from idle, they wouldn't be writing things like that, would they?
        • Matty says,
          2 years ago
          10 likes
          I can't beleive people are talking about turbo this and supercharge that. This car really needs a....nothing.
          This car is perfection. It dosnt need mods. You are not in Tokyo drift or playing need for speed.
          If you want a turbo rwd highly modded car get a skyline.
          If you want a race car. Buy a race car.
          This is a sports car that everyone can afford and enjoy driving. Its For drivers. Not hoons not the wealthy not a Holden head or a ford head. It's for people that love cars.
          Subaru make one of the best n/a flat four.
          Toyota make reliable cars.
          Balance and affordability make this the best car in the last twenty years. Deposit down.
    • woja53 says,
      2 years ago
      13 likes
      smile
      The idea of puting on a Turbo is really really dumb. These gorgeous motors are born to rev kinda like a superbike or yes, as you say, like a Honda Type "R". I am a sexagenarian and so just a little too geriatric for a superbike except now and then. ( It hurts too much these days when one takes a slight tumble as one is bound to do from time to time if one is to actually have fun riding. So this 86 will be perfect for me and my lost motorbiking days. A turbo would ruin the linear power delivery and prevent drifting on tight bends even for someone with my experience of very, very quick cars. There is another benefit with a car like this. I am somewhat of a woman fancier and the way I look at this car is like this: If a woman is fit enough to get into the car she is fit enough to take home for sport. I own a very low car right now and this is my way of using 'Natural Selection' to sort out sporting partners. My success rate now is better than any 18 to 25's that I know, so something is working rightly.
      Perfect car for the single male or female with a sporting attitude and who is not tied down to kidz and there is enough room in the boot for two for a long weekend or longer.
      • Heinz Straub says,
        2 years ago
        3 likes
        Could not have said it better myself, you're spot on with your comments on the mechanical properties. However, as for myself, touching just about seventy now, the girls you were talking about
        would most likely not smile at me any more but laugh if I made a pass at them.....but then, what the hell, I have ordered a GT in silver which fits the color of my hair and is more fitting than an orange one!!
        Can't wait to take delivery of it and have some sporting fun!
      • jonno says,
        2 years ago
        Matty, you are spot on - could not have said it better. 86 GT ordered last September, delivery end of January.
    • Mike says,
      2 years ago
      4 likes
      I'm getting my GT86 manual next week, and I test drove the demo car this afternoon... After the test drive, I never smiled like that since I lost my virginity!
    • cheekydonkey says,
      2 years ago
      4 likes
      Honestly, the test drive today made smile like a high school kid who lost his virginity to the best pornstar! Haha! And Im not kidding at all!
  • Lindsay says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    Looks like you got to take the car out west. Excellent roads out there.
  • Ward Paterson says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Nah, I just couldn't do it. If the GTS had a turbo maybe they could justify the 6 grand price difference.

    Straight line speed is something like 7.6 seconds to the 100...

    I wonder if it will have an ANCAP 5 star rating sitting that low.
  • Brendan says,
    2 years ago
    8 likes
    If you are complaining about the lack of power in a car like this, then you are looking at the wrong car.
  • Roger says,
    2 years ago
    I wonder if Sti will bring out a hot model of Subaru's BRZ variant? The rumours are they exist its just a question of making production. My guess is you will be looking at a $50K+ proposition though. It was interesting Wheels rated 86 better than the Cayman, albeit not in the same league in speed. I guess Porsche offer similar balance with much higher perfromance, thats the value proposition. I guess its going to be a trade off that if you power it up it will begin to lose its balance. A scalpel or a sledgehammer....take your pick smile
    • Lawrence says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      This is the first new car that I have considered in getting for a very long time!

      If I can fit in it (I'm 6'6 tall) I will get this or the Subaru version.
  • Smart us says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    toyota is doing great job... its not about the car... its what you feel/think... rolleyes u wanna feeling in the sport car cruising - there you go $30k and you have it... no matter its slow and u need to "LINEARY" build speed (would kill you when overtaking)... trash the engine to RED to have any decent speed... u riding a push bike but you feel Valentino Rossi laugh
    • Pieter says,
      2 years ago
      Awesome comment!! It is a very good looking car, and sure it would make you feel like a rockstar driving it, but unfortunately I drive a BMW M3 and to me the 86 feels lazy, compared to a Golf 6 Gti it is just a good looking car. I mean really 0-100 in over 7 seconds? Buy this car, but steer clear of real sports cars.
  • Godspeed says,
    2 years ago
    Good write-up guys.

    Didn't know much about the roads down in Canberra (outside the town centre anyway). Will have to check them out and go through the Snowy if I'm every down that way.
  • Omoclese says,
    2 years ago
    6 likes
    If you read tetsuya's comments on the car, "performance enhancements are being left to the aftermarket" it's obvious why there is a lack of power delivered standard.
    1. To keep the cost down, thankyou Toyota, and
    2. To give back to the Japanese aftermarket industry, arguably the biggest in the world and one that has struggled in recent years due to the lack of true Japanese sports cars compared to the 90's golden years.
    This car is SCREAMING for a turbo kit. 7.5k rev limit and no torque down low. A small frame garrett turbo will transform this car into a real performer and make it a viable track day option. A turbo would be a dumb idea? My friend you obviously have no experience with the aftermarket when it comes to turbo's. Modern turbo technology allows full boost to be achieved very early thus eliminating turbo lag and negating your linear power delivery argument. And turbo's stopping drifting? What sort of cars do you think began the drifting movement?
    I think this will be one of the most important cars to come out this decade and look forward to the enhancements brought on by the aftermarket. This car is a canvas..
    • Jason says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      Hit all sorts of nails on heads there mate.

      My deposit is paid, hoping for my orange GTS manual to arrive July/August, CANNOT wait. Will wait for the turbo(s) though, as it is it will do flat 1:13s around Wakefield without a doubt.

      I CANNOT farkin wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Daniel says,
    2 years ago
    We drove this car on the weekend and the engine could seriously do with a turbo to help with some mid range power, I don't think the current hot hatches will be threatened by this cars which looks great but is more show than go. There are quicker SUVs than this car. I would much prefer a GTI Golf. The interior of the 86 was a bit of a disappointment too. I am sure however that this car will sell well for those who don't mind driving an engine hard.
    • William says,
      2 years ago
      Lol, slower than some SUV's eh? would be interesting to here which ones. So which car company do you work for? obviously not the ones selling 86s. Deposit paid on a GTS btw.
      • Daniel says,
        2 years ago
        Audi and VW SUVs are a couple of examples. And I do NOT work for a car company and I am disappointed that my wife didn't like the 86 because it was a price I was happy with (we are looking for a car for her). My wife really loves the look of the car and she wants to replace her current car but wants something with a bit more oomph!
      • simo says,
        2 years ago
        like my Subaru forester s-edition
      • sneekyman says,
        1 year ago
        Which SUV'S would go faster.....my twin turbo V8 diesel Toyota Landcruiser would leave the 86 in its tracks.
        • Tony says,
          1 year ago
          Hahaha sneekyman, your twin turbo v8 diesel with 195kw with 650nm pulling 2700kg versus an 86 with 147kw with 205nm pulling 1250kg. Your crapbox would only leave the 86 in its tracks for the first 20 metres laugh
        • Tony says,
          1 year ago
          Which SUV'S would go faster.....my twin turbo V8 diesel Toyota Landcruiser would leave the 86 in its tracks.
          • Tony says,
            1 year ago
            sneekymean, your SUV will only leave the 86 in its tracks for the first twenty metres.
          • CAZZO says,
            1 year ago
            Which SUV'S would go faster.....my twin turbo V8 diesel Toyota Landcruiser would leave the 86 in its tracks.


            JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT8 laugh

            Same sort of price too rolleyes

  • Leigh says,
    2 years ago
    HKS drift spec 86 with supercharger has over 400nm of torque and is competing in the Japanese D1 the after market tuners will get this car running 11-12sec 1/4 miles in no time!!
    • Tony says,
      1 year ago
      They has already been BRZ's in the states that run 10 secs 1/4 mile...
  • Jose says,
    2 years ago
    Finally!

    I can't wait to test drive one of these, would make for a great little weekend car. If I could fit another car in my garage I'd get one in a heartbeat, I haven't been excited by a four cylinder car in a very long time.

    Now, all Toyota needs now is a coupe that's situated between this and the LFA, maybe something a bit larger and shoehorned with an inline six turbo or V6/V8 supercharged smile

    Just saw some photos of the Japanese TRD version and it looks like an awesome bit of kit... Toyota Australia, can you hear me? biggrin
    • Kermit says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      Its well on the way. BMW and Toyota signed an agreement to develop sports cars together. I think Supra will be back by 2015.
  • timothyD says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    well guys i will be waiting to see where this thing goes you think consumer demand will dictate in future models the addition of either turbo or supercharger the flat 4 set up loves both and personally i think a supercharger would be the better option for this kind of beast that said anyone who has paid attention would has picked up its called the 86 for a reason its concept is to rebirth the ae86 which is not a great race track legend its a drift track legend so what ever amount of power you think this car dosent have you wouldnt be able to use any way if you are using this car for its intended purpose which is getting completely freaking sideways,ill take one once i know its got no gremlins and time will tell that
  • Richard says,
    2 years ago
    Not sure who's idea the boxer engine was but Toyota, why isn't there a 2j under the bonnet? there would be double the sales.
    • Daniel says,
      2 years ago
      This car is not manufactured by Toyota, instead it has been built for Toyota by Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru)
      • Gherkinman says,
        2 years ago
        They worked with Subaru (read bought a share) to get at their boxer engine, becuase these engines have a low centre of gravity (= good cornering). i believe Toyota builds them. And as an engineer, a supercharger would suit better than a turbo, (linear & from down low) but I am happy with my GTS's power & torque. Handles!!!!!!
      • FrugalOne says,
        2 years ago
        This car is not manufactured by Toyota, instead it has been built for Toyota by Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru)


        BigT own a large % of subaru,[when they nearly went bust] they will buy it if they want too

  • Roger Morrison says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Hello boys and girls, I just bought an Auto GTS....I am in my 50's and have had a string of really fast ( $200K plus) cars and had a really good drive of a manual and an auto...and thought the manual really highlighted that the car needs more grunt to be a sports car, but the auto was just a well balanced daily driver for someone that enjoys corners.
    A track car....nope.( but I will have to take it out there )
    A fast car.....nope.
    Fun and rewarding....yep.
    Well appointed....yep.
    Well priced....hmmmm my car is about $42K on road with park assist....so sorta WRX money.
    My baby will be here in October.
    Cheers Roger
    • FrugalOne says,
      2 years ago

      A track car....nope.( but I will have to take it out there )
      A fast car.....nope.
      Fun and rewarding....yep.
      Well appointed....yep.
      Well priced....hmmmm my car is about $42K on road with park assist....so sorta WRX money.
      My baby will be here in October.
      Cheers Roger


      Its a modern day Celica, but without the WRC rally heritage laugh

      Frankly i dont see what all the fuss is about! rolleyes

      In USA for the same coin you can get a 300HP Mustang

      • Tony says,
        1 year ago
        Celica was 42k driveaway in 1999. Plus it was fwd.

        The 86 GT is 34k driveaway in 2013. Plus it is rwd. You can see the better value.

        If the Celica was rwd, it would have been the ultimate tuner's car.

        The 86 is everything the Celica should have been.
    • john plunkett says,
      1 month ago
      So you need park assist at your age? Why did you not buy a Corolla?
  • daniel says,
    2 years ago
    love how it looks.. regardless of the mods coming from the aftermarket a bit more power wouldnt have hurt.. i think most would pay a couple more $$$ grand if the kw's said like 180 + haha personally id love to see toyota make a twin turbo option super car with this cars design 300kw of pure death in a shell haha
  • andrew k says,
    2 years ago
    ALL Buyers BEWARE! Delivery time for new orders on GTS manual is 19 months as of 2/7//12, GT is available a little sooner. Anyone interested must buy the NOW!
  • Steven walker says,
    2 years ago
    Power and torque, don't forget to factor in the 7.1 liters / 100kM fuel consumption for the auto!!. It is a road car for transport - the whole car design is a good balance.
  • ken stevenson says,
    1 year ago
    I orded my 86 orange August 2 2012 and still can't get a delivery date 26/04/2013.
    • ricardo says,
      1 year ago
      I'm from the Philippines and can relate to the anxiety of waiting. I ordered my Toyota 86 about six months ago and am still on queue. I can't wait to drive my 86. the anticipation of finally getting my hands on the steering wheel is what's driving me nuts.
      • CAZZO says,
        1 year ago
        I'm from the Philippines and can relate to the anxiety of waiting. I ordered my Toyota 86 about six months ago and am still on queue. I can't wait to drive my 86. the anticipation of finally getting my hands on the steering wheel is what's driving me nuts.



        Got McKenzie!? smile

  • Paul says,
    4 months ago
    Nice car bro maybe you should make it $1,000 to see if people come running up to your house.
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