2012 Toyota 86 GT Manual Review Photo:
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What's Hot
An engine that loves a workout, a chassis that begs to be exploited.
What's Not
Small boot and back seat, no-frills interior plastics.
You?d gladly pay more to have this much fun behind the wheel - but you don?t have to.
Kez Casey | Aug, 03 2012 | 5 Comments


Vehicle Style: Two-door sports car
Price: $29,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.8 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 9.2 l/100km



This is the car Australia, and the world, has been waiting for.

Priced within reach of nearly everyone, with racy looks and a simply sublime RWD chassis, Toyota’s 86 is superb in nearly every way you choose to look at it.

But, with delivery times stretching out to 18 months for the top-spec 86 GTS, and three months for the lower-specced GT manual, “waiting” is the name of the game at the moment.

If you’re not inclined to wait for the GTS, you can jag the closely related Subaru BRZ a little sooner. But what about the 86 GT manual, that you could have in something like three months? Does it matter that it’s specced a little lower?

In short, no, simple as that. With this car, at this price, there is no wrong decision to be made; it’s just not possible.

For fun behind the wheel, or just as a base for building your own custom creation, the 86 GT is ready to play - straight out of the box.



Quality: There’s a funny sense of déjà vu in the 86, we’ve seen this before - not the style, but the quality and materials. This isn’t quite the work of Toyota, it feels more like a Nissan coupe of the 1990s with a modernised slant to it.

Don’t expect higher grade surfaces - there’s plenty of hard plastics across the dash centre and door cards, but you don’t touch them often so it doesn’t matter.

The steering wheel and gear knob are leather trimmed, the former with contrasting stitching, and both feel great.

Comfort: From outside you’d be forgiven for thinking space will be tight inside the 86. But that isn’t the case. Once you drop into the front seats (and they are very low) there’s actually decent head and legroom, albeit with your feet stretched out ahead of you.

With a rake and reach-adjustable steering wheel and generous seat travel, finding that just-so driving position is a cinch.

Those front buckets are really something else too - more than just grippy-looking, they grab your body like a sports-seat should when cornering hard. The shoulders are a wee bit tight, but they’re surprisingly comfortable even after a long stint behind the wheel.

There’s a two-place rear bench, but between a sloping roof and minimal legroom we’d probably suggest you keep it for your backpack. Adults won’t enjoy the experience of cramming in there, nor will all but the youngest kids.

Equipment: The equipment list for the 86 GT can look slightly spartan up against some feature-laden small cars.

But, of the important stuff, there’s little to want for; there’s cruise control, remote central-locking, power windows and mirrors, auto-off headlights, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, sports bucket seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel and air-con.

Some may find the 16-inch alloy wheels undersized and the six-speaker audio system anaemic, but as these are likely to be first to be ditched for aftermarket items, there’s no need for them to be any better than they are.

Storage: Toyota claims 217 litres of boot space, that area is long and wide, but very shallow which limits practicality.

With the single-piece backrest folded Toyota claims the 86 can fit four wheels and tyres (for a day at the track) but there’s no mention of how easy it will be to load and unload them.

There’s no cover for the centre console, but it offers a good amount of space, as does the glovebox and the door pockets, making for a surprisingly useful interior.



Driveability: There will always be calls for more power from the rev-happy 2.0 litre boxer engine, but to call for more straight-line speed misses the point of the technical nature of the 86 on winding roads.

With 147kW of power at 7000rpm, but just 205Nm of torque at a nose-bleeding 6600rpm, this is an engine that needs to be hustled to deliver its best.

And hustle? No problem there. From 3000rpm onwards the engine awakens - and from there on you just can’t help but wring it out. It’s so eager and so malleable the whole way through the rev range that there’s barely a dull point.

With a kerb weight of 1257kg, the 86 isn’t burdened with excess flab, and that helps to make Toyota’s coupe feel quicker than its 7.6 second 0-100km/h time suggests.

But what really makes the 86 special is its attitude to corners. Whether on a raking series of high-speed sweeping bends or a tight and winding forest pass, the 86 attacks corners with genuine verve. The steering has an alert ‘alive’ feel to it, with plenty of feedback and solid weighting.

From the rear there’s always a playful twitch, just enough to warn you when things are stepping across the threshold from tidy and precise to wild and lairy.

The same goes for unmade surfaces - there’s a terrific balance and security on gravel. If you want to play the rally ace, the 86 is keen to play along.

Refinement: If you’re looking for refinement you’ve come to the wrong place, the 86 is all about glorious noise. The rasping burble of the boxer engine is piped into the cabin via a resonance chamber and it sounds a treat when given a real workout.

For long stretches at the wheel there’s plenty of tyre noise, the engine and exhaust are constant companions and sound-deadening in general is a scarcity.

Suspension: Suspension marks one of the major points of difference between the 86 and Subaru’s BRZ. Both run the same MacPherson front and independent wishbone rear suspension, but the 86 runs a slightly softer front end, which in turn allows for the wilder rear-end feel.

There’s a lot of exploitable stability inherent in the suspension of the 86, but the playful nature of the rear-end is a constant companion. There’s also more comfort than we expected - the ride is still firm, but never bottomed out over damaged tarmac.

Braking: The 86 GT runs a slightly smaller brake-disc package compared to the GTS, but the 277mm diameter front vented-discs and solid-rotor rear discs have no trouble washing off speed.

Like everything else in the car, the feel is just as it should be. The brake pedal relays an incredible amount of feedback to the driver and is not over-assisted (as so many brake systems are).



ANCAP rating: 5 Stars

Safety features: Switchable stability and traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist, dual front, dual side, curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag, front seats feature adjustable headrests, reversible to allow a race helmet and front seatbelts feature force-limiting pretensioners.



Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Service costs: Under Toyota’s Service Advantage program the first four services up to four years or 60,000km are priced at $170 each with service intervals set every nine months of 15,000km, whichever occurs first.



Volkswagen Golf GTI ($38,990) - Until now the metric by which other hot-hatches have been judged.

With slightly more power but a whopping 75Nm of additional torque available from down low, the GTI feels more urgent, but in reality is only 0.4 seconds faster to 100km/h

There’s hatchback practicality and a useful rear seat, but the GTI is nowhere near as visceral to drive as the 86 and costs a lot more to boot. (see Golf reviews)

MINI Cooper S ($40,500) - Another offering with plenty of turbo torque, not to mention killer handling. The MINI Cooper S offers plenty of driving thrills, and, though tight inside, offers a usable rear seat.

But next to the 86, the price is a bitter pill to swallow. (see MINI reviews)

Kia Cerato Koup ($26,990) - The only other way to get yourself into a coupe for less than $30,000 is the Kia Cerato Koup. While it’s handsome in its own way, this one is a long way short of a sporting drive.

It’s no comparison really, genuine enthusiasts will find the Koup wanting in too many areas. (see Cerato reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



The 86 GT may not be the model that’s first on everyone’s wishlist, its safe to say that title belongs to the GTS, but the GT may be the more sensible option.

There’s every bit as much fun to be had behind the wheel. And you’ve got a saving on the bits you’d toss-out anyway - like the wheels, audio system, brake package and the like.

There’s also the promise of Toyota-backed reliability (even if it is Subaru built) and the peace of mind that comes with fixed-price servicing.

When you look at the pure driving thrills on offer in a package that’s accessible to just about any budget, you can’t make a wrong decision on whichever you choose.

Whether it’s the 86 GTS, 86 GT or Subaru BRZ, each delivers the kind of on-road excitement that has been missing from the automotive landscape for too long.

For the less-patient, the GT offers a short-cut into a car that has “future automotive legend” written all over it.



  • 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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