It's hard to believe it's been three years since the Toyota 86 first launched in Australia with a sub-$30k price tag and the promise of proper rear-wheel-drive dynamics.
Initially a consistent top-seller in the local sports car bracket, that same success has not been matched globally. And so far this year, sales are actually down more than 30 per cent.
So why has the love affair worn off? Was it all just hype?
Since it’s launch, the Toyota 86 has been offered in two trims: an entry-level GT and this, the flagship GTS.
Priced from $29,990 – the same price as a front-wheel-drive Kia Pro_cee’d GT or Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo – the GTS starts at $35,990. Owners can opt in a six-speed automatic transmission for $2500, or go with the six-speed manual as we have right here.
Standard kit on the 86 includes cruise control, a reversing camera and a six-speaker stereo with a 6.1-inch touchscreen featuring Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming.
The top-spec GTS also adds satellite navigation, part-leather heated seats, dual-zone climate control and a push-button start.
Prettying up the outside are fog lights, HID headlights, these 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and dual chrome exhausts.
Regardless of trim, all 86 variants get a three-year/100,000km warranty, as well as capped-price servicing for the first three years or 60,000km.
Inside, you get basic but clear climate controls, you get some faux-carbonfibre touches, this frameless rear-view mirror and, for the driver, a very cool white-faced central tacho.
These seats are also pretty awesome - the central fabric section really does keep you and passenger right where you need to be, rather than sliding all over the place like find in full-leather seats.
Back here is, well, it's a little bit snug. But I'm six-foot-tall and I've still got some headroom.
Obviously reserved for only two passengers, the back seats are probably best kept for storing bags and maybe, for emergencies only.
Tucked into this cute little rear you get a 218-litre boot. Now that can actually be expanded by simply dropping the one-piece rear seat backrest forward, giving you into enough space for four full-size wheels or two golf bags - which is pretty impressive.
Now to the source of debate on internet forums the world over: the engine.
Co-developed with Subaru, the 86 gets a 2.0-litre ‘Boxer’, spitting out a seemingly mild 147kW and 205Nm. For context, that’s little more power than is offered up by a Mazda 3 SP25 and the same torque output as a base-model Renault Megane.
Disappointingly for enthusiasts too, both the 86 and BRZ continue to be naturally aspirated, which means there is no turbocharging and no supercharging of any kind.
Speaking of performance, let’s get out of the city and into the hills…
On the road the 86 feels small and light, and well, that’s because it is.
It weighs a little over 1200kg but measures in slightly shorter than a Nissan Pulsar hatch.
Now, fuel consumption of 7.8 litres per 100km isn’t great, but that does drop to 7.1L/100km if you go for the six-speed automatic transmission.
But this is an 86. People don't buy this car for fuel consumption do they? They buy an 86 because it’s fun to drive… isn’t it?
Well out here, the first thing you notice is just how good this steering is. It is a little bit heavy, but it’s consistent and super sharp.
The brakes too aren't bad. They are a little bit bigger on the GTS than on the GT and you also get ventilated discs all round.
The pedal is not the most responsive around town but once you get out into the twisties, and give it a little bit more pressure, the stopping power is still more than reasonable.
The chassis is an absolute pearler. The car sits pretty flat and although it does actually have some roll, its compliance and comfort levels are actually quite good. The ride itself around town and around here, is more than liveable.
Ok, it's time. Let's talk about the engine.
Let's talk about the noise specifically. Yes, it’s piped into the cabin via some plastic piping and yes it does sound a little flat and tinny.
But, the noise does let you know what the revs are doing, which is very helpful and helps with the communication between car and driver.
There's also reasonable torque between 3000 and 4000rpm around town but if you have the chance to hunt down that 7400rpm redline – especially out here – then there's plenty more enjoyment to be had.
While the engine performance itself might not be quite what you'd expect in your normal sports car, the throttle response is absolutely sublime.
Every little input is just immediate and, whether it's on or off, the reaction's the same. And what that means is that you can do little cheeky lifts of the throttle to get the weight onto the front wheels and even boost that agility even further.
And you know what? The more you drive it like this, the more it makes sense.
I don't think it ever was hype with this car. I think it's good and I think it is properly good fun. And surely that’s what matters most.
It’s hard to know why Australians have started to fall out of love with poor little Toyota 86.
It’s the only new rear-wheel-drive sports car you can buy for the money, it’s smartly packaged and it's one hell of an entertaining drive. Perhaps, like a lot of love affairs, the thrill has just simply worn off. And if that’s the case, that's a shame.