86 / BRZ. At its best it's brilliant and an epic amount of fun, and at its worst it's a noisy car that can be tiresome. This is the trade off; the key is figuring out if it will work for you and if you will work for it.
Used buying tip: I know they don't line up exactly, but spec-for-spec the 86's are cheaper than the BRZ's for some reason. Maybe there's more of them.
Mine is the first of the updated Toyota 86 GTS cars from late 2016, a manual. I wanted something fun, affordable (we had a mortgage after all), yet still capable of commuting and road trips. Red was my third preference behind white or silver, but bonus find; red, 9 months old, 7000km on clock, unmarked and unmolested for $30,500. Bargain. Three and a half years later and I still love it and the colour has really grown on me.
Driving. On the right road I like wringing its neck and rowing through the gears, but once into 3rd or 4th gear in Victoria common sense prevails; 25km/h over the limit and there goes your license. In the real world being an idiot on public roads isn't an option.
What makes it worth it then? In the country and on winding roads the fun is working for it, knowing that if you want the best out of it then concentrate on your driving, enjoy the bends and plan the overtaking - it will always mean one, usually two gearchanges, sometimes three. On the peak hour commute it's just 1st and 2nd gears, on-ramps and roundabout type fun anyway. Driving notes - the Spirit of Tasmania is a wonderful thing as are the empty Tasmanian roads and a wife who likes taking a nap while I drive.
To the elephant in the room - power. Yeah I'd take more, and if I tracked it I'd probably want that, but mostly on the road I'd never get to use it. For highway driving it's not underpowered; you're just lazy and not on it like you should be!
It's fair to say the engine isn't an aural masterpiece, but it's willing to rev. The car is rear-wheel drive and has an LSD, the engine is set back and low slung, which is good for balance and weight distribution. The traction and stability control can be turned off - not that I do. The suspension is compliant for a sports car, and while you'll feel bumps in the road it's still well composed and doesn't dive under brakes or lean in corners. You will notice coarse chip bitumen, changes in surface, rough roads, tram tracks etc. If this is a turn off then look elsewhere.
Mine is the daily driver you have when you don't drive daily. I'm a desk bound worker and pre-COVID sometime bicycle commuter (everyone needs some exercise right?), but nowadays virtual working has taken off. I drove well under 10,000km per year previously and now that’s even lower. We use the wife's automatic runabout for shopping and domestic duties, and that doesn't see 10,000km annually either. Did I mention she's never been interested in driving my car?
Back to the 86. The interior is functional, comfortable for me - I'm not tall though - the seats are excellent and heated, there's airbags, keyless entry and start, a reverse camera, navigation, climate control (cooling works well), cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel but that's it. The stuff you regularly touch feels good, but the rest is basic. The Bluetooth works, there's no CarPlay or Android Auto, but a host of aftermarket head units will slot straight in. There is a kid size back seat that'll never be used. Fold that seat and my road bike will fit without trouble, albeit with the front wheel removed. Interior lighting is ordinary, and I use the digital speedo rather than the analogue one - it isn't in my field of vision when driving. That digital power read out, G-force thingo, and lap timer don't get used. The door bins take drink bottles while the sunglass case and phone sit in the open console. Adequate.
Exterior styling - I think it's fine, but you'll have your own opinion of course. Fuel economy on 98 Octane is about 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres for low speed inner Melbourne driving. Open country rounds and fast freeway driving returns 6.3 to 7.0L/100km, and fun on winding roads around say Tasmania 7.3 - 7.5L/100km. Boot storage is enough for a road trip for two. It will take a medium suitcase, a large overnight bag and another soft bag of odds and ends. Things to note - the LED headlights I find are pretty good. Rearward vision takes a little getting used to. The reverse camera really is required to be honest and over the shoulder vision isn't great either.
Problems? None mechanically, and it's only done 33,000km and isn't yet 5 years of age. The interior and body on mine is holding up well; it's rattle free actually and always has been, but I reckon the red paint chips away a bit too easily on the bonnet and roof.
Brakes and steering. Brakes are fine, I'm not Mark Webber and as I mentioned track days are non-existent. Steering is nicely weighted, responsive, really accurate and the steering wheel feels good in hand. One quirk is that after a cold start the second gear changes need 3km of driving to warm up then smooth out. Once warmed up quicker gear changes are better.
We do the odd country and interstate trip so I ditched the space saver in favour of a full size spare (don't buy a new one as there's plenty available quite cheaply second hand). My car still runs the original tyres.
In regard to breaking traction, with a combination of first and second gears, corners and wet roads, it doesn't need much provoking to get a reaction - beyond that the traction/stability control will gently step in. Any other conditions and you really need to be trying. Drifting? Not my thing.
Modifications - none really, the speakers were replaced because they were woeful, some sound deadening applied and the sound tube blocked off. Acceptable, but it isn't a quiet car.
Plans for it? None, keep it, enjoy the cheap thrills. I'll think about a swap to the GR86 in 3 or 4 years time, after they do a refresh. A few years after that is what I guess will be the end of the road for petrol powered sports cars.
I hope you enjoyed the read!