I bought this car nearly 3 years ago as my trusty family XR8 had completed its family duties and it was time to buy Dad something that he’d coveted for a while now. Some might call it a mid-life crisis, but I’m now having more fun with my car in my late forties, than I ever did in my late teens.
For me, I have always enjoyed driving. The feeling of the car tipping into a fast corner, or the ordinary task of changing gears, I enjoy it all. So, I figured that my next car would have to be special, and would have to meet very specific criteria. It had to be affordable (less than $40k). Preferably rear wheel drive. Must have 3 pedals. And must be sort of practical, so no soft tops. Rear seat occupancy was not really needed. Top priority though was fun factor.
When you use the above criteria, the search becomes very limited. Once you factor in my height of 181cm, the MX-5 would be ruled out, leaving me with the Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ twins. I drove them both, and couldn’t really tell any difference. Sure, the Toyota does have slightly larger front discs, but the decision to select the Toyota was made from a purely financial position. Even with the optional spare fitted in the Toyota, it was still cheaper than the BRZ.
Let me be straight up. I love this car. No sitting on the fence here. This is the type of car you buy from your heart, not your head. It is small, not overly powerful, firm riding, only has two doors, your bum is mere centimeters from the ground and a loaf of bread and three litres of milk almost fills the boot. But you can’t get the smile off my face.
Let’s start with the fun factor. You can drive it like your grandma drives her Corolla, or you can try and enhance your driving by finessing your heel-toe gear changes while being amazed at just how damn fast this thing will go around corners. The term “She handles like she’s on rails” gets used a bit too often these days, but it definitely applies here. For me, this fun factor has now seen me do multiple track days and drift school. Don’t be put off by the big V8’s passing you on the main straight at Eastern Creek - you will have caught them by turn 3, and be looking for a way around them by turn 4, all the while with that smile on your face again. As for the power and torque, you’re not going to win any drag races, but who cares? Tipping into turn 1 at Eastern Creek at 180+ kilometres per hour, you’re not thinking, "Geez I could do with more power or torque." You’re thinking, "I need bigger balls."
Reliability for my Toyota 86 has been bulletproof. The capped service price of approximately $200 per service is quite cheap by today’s standards. Well done Toyota. Funnily enough, Subaru’s maintenance regime is both more frequent, and costly. I can’t figure that one.
As for the technology inside the car, it has everything I've ever needed: climate control, sat-nav, heated seats, and my phone hooks up so I can play my kind of music. No, it doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but I don’t care. On the comfort side, it’s fantastic. Those front seats are made for driving, and they are in the perfect position. And don’t whine to me about the rear seats either. You don’t buy one of these to put in rear seat passengers. I’ve had people back there on a couple of occasions, so I can confirm it is possible.
There are only a few changes I have made since owning it. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have nearly been run over by all those puddle jumpers (SUV’s) changing lanes. You are so low that your roof line is in line with their door handles. A trip to the wreckers, and I have fitted an old set of Fiamm trumpets, so at least they can now hear me. The other change was suspension and wheel/tyre upgrade. Nothing fancy, just the TRD springs with a nice set of 18’s to fill out those curvy guards. Tyres are the Michelin Pilot Sport 4’s which Subaru now fits to its special edition BRZ. A set of Toyo R888R’s fitted to my old 17’s just for those track days is not far off.
I don’t have anything bad to say about this car. It has met my brief perfectly and I’m glad there are people/companies still prepared to make such cars. There will be a lot of people nodding in agreement and smiling while reading this. Like me, you get it. It’s all about the fun factor