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Toyota's updated 86 in SA: Has the sports car been improved?

2017-04-18 11:46

Sean Parker

ALL-ROUND BETTER PACKAGE: Toyota has polished its 86 sports car to offer better driving comfort says Sean Parker. Image: Quickpic

Gauteng - “It’s not the fastest car in its segment”, says the Toyota’s PR manager in the Red Star Raceway pit lane just outside Pretoria, but oddly enough that’s what makes the 86 such a good car.  

The Japanese automaker says it has tweaked its little sports car but what exactly has been changed? Has the 86 improved or has the automaker ruined it? Sean Parker gives us the lowdown on the new model. 


In terms of design, it sports minor tweaks; the grille is wider and lower-set, with a pronounced lower lip at the front bumper with integrated fins and a lowering of the tip of the car's nose. You’ll notice new headlights and fog lights (all LEDs) that cut deep into the front end. It doesn’t look radically different but Toyota aficionados will be able to tell the difference. 

At the rear, it now features a two-tone (black and body-coloured) rear spoiler replaces the previous integrated component design, Toyota says it aids aerodynamics. There’s also new 17” wheel with 10-spoke design that is offered only on the High specification models. A 16” is offered on the Standard model. 

The 86’s dimensions remain the same with an overall length of 4.2m, a height of 1.3m (with shark fin antenna), 1.7m width and 2.5m wheelbase, its gross vehicle weight is quoted at 1670kg. 

Overall, it looks low, sleek and with its ‘pagoda’ roof emphasizing its sporty intentions.
Inside, you’ll find a new 10cm digital screen which looks rather aftermarket (Toyota please do something about this?), on upper specced derivatives it sports seats swathed in the leather and alcantara. There’s a suede-like material with '86' embossing on the dashboard. 

A nice touch is a digital speedometer that features a G-force monitor, power and torque curves, a stopwatch and lap times in addition to the usual vital information.

Have they fitted (finally) a turbo to the 2.0-litre engine? 

Sadly not, and it’s a damn shame since the 86’s chassis can handle more power, not Donald Trump-esque power but more akin to 'the queen'. 

Driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, the 2.0-litre unit produces a 147kW at 7000rpm and 205Nm of torque between 6400 and 6600rpm. A claimed 0 to 100km/h acceleration can be achieved in 7.6 seconds with manual transmission and 8.2 seconds for the automatic.

It felt languid on the Gauteng freeways and this can no doubt be attributed to the altitude. Let me put it this way, it’s a not a fast car, so don’t think even think taking on the hot hatch brigade in a straight line. 

Please tell me it’s still hilariously fun to drive? 

On the brief drive at the launch in Gauteng I can attest to it feeling very lively on track and great fun when I was drifting on the skidpan. 

I sampled the new Track Mode feature which via pressing a button on the centre console turns the Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control down for more enthusiastic driving. In theory it means there is more slip as the electronic nannies let create more oversteer and drifting. 

The 86 is arguably one of the most rewarding cars to drive, in fact we drove it at the tight and twisty Red Star Raceway which is usually used for bikes. 

The car pivots around you because your backside feels like it’s on the asphalt and the newer, lighter and smaller steering wheel is easy to turn from lock-to-lock. You can't come to close to the enjoyment of how vicseral a rear-drive, manual 'box and front-engine combo gives you. 

Toyota says its engineers have revised the coil springs and spring rates have been optimised for a more precise turn-in. 

It’s a pity I didn’t spend more time in it, but compared to the previous car this new one feels a lot more composed on public roads. It rides better, courtesy of reduced damping force, which is important, because that’s where it’ll spend most of its time. 

This car will make you grin like you’ve received a massive raise and to be honest you’ll need one to afford it. 

Of the three models, which one should you buy?  

I only sampled the manual High version, and the only car I’ve driven that comes close to this much fun is perhaps the Mazda MX-5 which is R441 700 but hopelessly impractical and is a genuine two-seater while the 86 is a two+two with lots more space. 

If you’re buying an 86 stick with the manual then you can’t go wrong with the Standard model, which is about close to R45 000 cheaper than the model with more features. 

The 86 exemplifies what a sports car should be: rear-wheel drive, engine in the front and a manual gearbox. The 86 is like a gateway drug: you’ll eventually move on to bigger and more powerful cars but you’ll struggle to find the first hit this car will give you. 


86 Standard - R449 600
86 High - R494 400
86 High automatic - R519 400

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Disclaimer: Sean Parker was hosted by Toyota South Africa for this event

Read more on:    toyota  |  gauteng  |  new models  |  sports car

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