The Toyota 86 has received a number of cosmetic changes to give it a more dynamic look
Image: Supplied The Toyota 86 has received a number of cosmetic changes to give it a more dynamic look

What is it that makes a driver’s car? Is it prestige? Is it heritage? Or is it Top Trumps stats? It’s none of those. What makes a true driver’s car is an engaging experience, a car that makes the drive feel like an enthralling dialogue, an honest engagement between an inanimate object and you, the driver; the focus being precision and light-footed certainty.

The updated Toyota 86 offers all of this in what is fast becoming a unique and sought after package. Engine in the front, all the horses going to the rear wheels, three pedals at your feet, the vital decision-making stick in your left hand and of course, a price tag that won’t cripple your bank balance.

The fresh-faced 86 represents the antithesis of the surreal world of the supercar. It’s the blue collar sports car of Japan, not dissimilar to what the American muscle car represents for the USA. You get loads of fun and performance without the enormous asking price. The 86 gives you all you’d want from a small sports coupe.

From the outside there are a few noticeable changes, the front grille sits a little lower and wider to not only gulp as much air as possible but also to enhance the overall stance of the vehicle. The rear spoiler is broader and more pronounced than before and there are LED lights all round.

These purely aesthetic changes improve on what was already a brilliantly executed small coupe design. The interior updates are really minor with the standout change being a smaller, more manageable steering wheel, and splashes of Alcantara throughout the cabin.

The real fun though happens where you can’t see it. A few minor but massively consequential changes have been made in the handling department. I was fortunate enough to drive both the outgoing model and the facelifted version back to back on track to really experience the changes. The updated car is noticeably more dialled in.

The interior is enhanced by revisions to the centre console
Image: Supplied The interior is enhanced by revisions to the centre console

Before everything became violently quick, before hot hatches were competing against 911s, there was an era where character and experience were the trump cards, where feel and nuance did the talking and not lap times and price tags.

Acceleration is far from head banging, but it’s linear and communicative and you could be fooled into thinking you were driving a car with carburettors and not fuel injection. What I mean by this is that you have to modulate the throttle, and in doing this understand the power band more roundly. The steering is most certainly the highlight, very accurate without feeling twitchy and lightness without numbness. It’s no surprise then that the Toyota 86 has a racing series dedicated to these marvellous little machines that takes place in Australia and Abu Dhabi.

The Toyota 86 is an excellent package. It’s a weekend car that can be used every day and it has more than adequate grunt. What’s more, it has power that you can actually exploit on the road. What would you rather have? A 500kW supercar where you can access and explore around 20-30 percent of the power day-to-day or a 147kW analogue coupe you can get the most out of in everyday driving situations?


Engine: 2.0 litre boxerTransmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automaticOutput: 147kW @ 7,000rpmMaximum Torque: 200Nm @ 6,400-6,600rpmAcceleration: 0-100km/h in 7.6 secondsFuel Consumption: 7.8l/100km

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