I get some strange looks each week from the new parents as I pull in to drop off or pick up my two little girls from kindergarten. One Dad got out of his SUV (looking a little depressed) and as we walked to drop our kids off he commented to me, "you realize that is not a family car don't you?" (gesturing to my orange 2+2 seater Toyota 86). I simply looked at him with a big smile on my face and said "it's my family car." Then my four year old add's "it's the fun car!"
So often I see young drivers loving this car, which is great, but I bought the car second hand 18 months ago because I needed to get something practical (at least more practical than my Mazda NB MX-5) to fit my young family in.
In case it is not clear yet, I am a bit of a car guy. So when I started my search I did what I had done for friends around me and formulated a list of what I really wanted and needed from my car. When I really broke it down, I wanted to recapture this magic of my small, rear wheel drive MX-5 in a slightly bigger, safer, as reliable and more practical package.
With a budget of around $25K my options get very limited very fast, with the Toyota 86 / BRZ twins being my stand out choice. Obviously I considered opening wider to front-wheel drives (Ford Fiesta ST or VW Golf GTI would have been my front runners) or just going into debt (BMW M235i or older Lotus Evora would be front runners) but my experience with the 86/BRZ was great and when I took my 3 year old with me for the test drive she loved it also, which was an added bonus.
So how has my ownership actually been?
With multiple trips to hardware stores, tight car parks, kids' dance concerts, track days and daily commuting, this car has been asked to be a jack of all trades. The reliability has been as bulletproof as the Toyota reputation would have you to believe. I have taken advantage of the capped price servicing and been really happy with the dealership experience.
If you are sensible with expectations you will be constantly surprised by the boot space and how much you can fit in the car, especially when the single fold down rear seats are laid down. Car parks can sometimes be a little difficult with very steep driveways, as you need to be sensible to not ruin the front guard, as well as being conscious of the large doors making ingress and egress difficult when cars are tightly parked.
The cabin has everything that I need for a good driving experience but not much extra. What the cabin does have is excellent seating position, quality major touch points (ie steering wheel, gear stick and door trim), effective climate control, reverse camera and clear gauges. The cabin misses out on a centre console arm rest, a decent entertainment unit, sensors front or rear and clever storage in the cabin.
After about 12 months of ownership I did decide to make some modification to the car. I am very happy with what I have done which is:
- Header and over pipe with a dyno tune. This tune was focused on eliminating the torque dip from the factory.
- Upgraded brakes. Standard brakes are great for road use but they did not stand up to repeated lapping on a track.
- Upgraded tyres. Again standard tyres are sufficient and help with good economy in everyday use but I was looking for some additional grip.
In short, I love my car, not because it is the most practical, technology laden, comfortable or most powerful, but because it has what I need (practicality) as well as what I want (fun factor). If you don't know what I mean by fun factor, I recommend find a wiggly line on a map and a 86 / BRZ, Ford Fiesta ST, Fiat 500 Abarth, Mazda MX-5 or Hyundai i30N…