In 2012, Toyota released arguably one of the most important cars of the year. The Toyota 86 is a back-to-basics sports car with a 2.0lt 4 cylinder engine producing a reasonable 147kw and achieves the sprint to 100 in 7.6 seconds for the manual and 8.2 seconds for the automatic.
With a purchase price starting at a shade below $30,000 what more could you ask for?
After living with car for 18 months, I can tell you that there are a few aspects of the 86 that will leave you wanting more.
The suspension on Melbourne's freeways is comfortable enough, however on all but the smoothest suburban roads you'll find yourself jolting around the cabin if you hit a mid sized bump. The suspension works best on larger bumps, soaking them up without too much fuss.
The audio system is is an afterthought for the car, however bluetooth audio streaming and USB/AUX connectivity means that you will be able to connect any device you have to the audio system. A lack of creature comforts including automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers reminds you that this car is for driving pleasure and not a luxury cruiser.
Don't get me wrong, if you plan on using this car as a daily driver you will be the envy of your fellow road users. With a striking appearance and supportive bucket seats you can comfortably sit in traffic with powerful air-conditioning and a beautiful to hold leather-like wrapped steering wheel. Even during my 18 months of ownership I still look forward to the most mundane drives in snail paced traffic!
You won't be the most popular for a car pool to the office however. The front passenger seat offers the same supportive sporty seat as the driver, however the rear seats are fit for very short adults or kids with sublime flexibility.
Although if you buy a car like this to march up and down the same roads you've missed the point! The suspension, gear ratios and the steering setup have all been designed to provide you with the most engaging driving experience for $30,000.
The short and snappy gear shifter is an absolute gem to use, I often find myself changing between gears for pure pleasure of the change. The steering is even more involving, with perfect weighting and a superb feeling of the road at your finger-tips.
The 86 encourages to push the throttle down that centimetre more or push the brakes on at the last possible moment, a unique feeling that many modern cars struggle to capture.
It's an absolutely astonishing feeling that results in you wanting to drive the car whenever you can.
If we jump back to how sensible the car can actually be, Toyota offer capped price servicing and the option to extend your warranty to 6 years from a standard 3 years. At $189 a service and a full range of airbags including a knee airbag and safety technology like Stability Control and Traction Control even the most sensible drivers can have fun in a reasonably priced sports car.
There is a lack of low end torque and most of the power comes higher in the rev range. 10-15 more horsepower would be a treat to the experience, however the 86 rewards those drivers who prefer to drive through mountains than sprint to 100 km/h. This reward is communicated to you through the steering wheel and will leave you smiling after every drive.
To summarise, for $30,000 you're getting borderline engineering perfection and a beauty of a car. While the car does have its downfalls, if you're in the market for a rewarding car to drive which does not cost an arm and a leg to buy but also maintain, this is the car for you.
The GTS version has more creature comforts such as leather seats, keyless entry and a GPS/infotainment system so if you need gadgets over the base model, this is the version for you.
Key competitors include the Hyundai Veloster, Nissan 370z and the Mazda MX-5.