High-revving affordable fun
Following the collapse of the Scion brand three or so years ago, many were unsure what would happen to models in its portfolio like the zippy FR-S. Fortunately, the car was promptly reborn as an 86, a nod to the rear-wheel drive Corolla AE86 hatchback of old from which it draws inspiration. This fan-favourite returns for the 2019 model year, still as good as ever and with the announcement of a limited edition model.
“From its aggressive styling to its well-balanced performance, to the quality and safety that are part of Toyota’s DNA, the Toyota 86 is the unique sports car that Canadians have been waiting for,” says Cyril Dimitris, Toyota Canada vice president. “With a five-model line-up topped by an exclusive TRD Special Edition, the 2019 Toyota 86 is always ready for drifting, slaloming, and spirited driving.”
Not simply a name change, after the badge swap the sports car gained features like LED headlamps, turn signals and taillights. Stylized 86 badges sit on both fenders just ahead of the doors, and both bumpers are reshaped to look more aggressive, the front showcasing a large mesh grille and strakes overtop of the side air intakes. The standard stylized 17-inch wheels boast a unique thin split-spoke design.
Occupants sit low in the racy-feeling cockpit, but the performance-oriented seating positions didn’t seem to affect my road visibility at all as is sometimes the case in vehicles in the segment. Surfaces such as the door cards are covered in a suede-like material feeling pleasant to the touch, and the leather speaker surrounds lend an upscale touch to the interior. The steering wheel has just the right amount of girth when in hand.
An optional 4.2-inch multi-information display (MID) in the instrument cluster relays pertinent data such as a G meter, torque curve readout and lap times. A larger 6.1-inch Display Audio System screen in the centre stack controls the eight-speaker stereo with Bluetooth connectivity. All models also include air conditioning, aluminum pedals, heated side mirrors and passenger side rear walk-in assist for easier access to the back seats, although don’t expect anyone other than small kids to fit back there.
The enhancements aren’t just skin deep, either. Part of the evolution is the addition of slightly stiffer shocks and springs helping the 86 to really carve up the corners. Both a six- speed standard or automatic gearbox are offered, the former enjoying a gear ratio change improving off-the-line acceleration. Hill-start Assist Control prevents rollback when stopped on steep declines.
Running a 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant producing 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque (205 and 156 lb-ft, respectively, on manual gearbox variants thanks to different tuning) the car is not exactly a tarmac ripper. However low-end grunt is decent and the 7,000-plus rpm redline mill allows for some high-revving fun. Furthermore, lightweight components like an aluminum hood and resin fuel tank keep the curb weight to under 1,300 kilograms, and the horizontally-opposed boxer engine is flat and compact, contributing to a lower centre of gravity.
Three grades are available: the base manual that DARPAN tested starts at $29,990. Moving up to the GT ($33,260) bundles dual-zone air conditioning, upgraded seat upholstery, MID, push-button start, alarm and LED fog lamps. New for this year is the aforementioned TRD Special Edition ($38.220) adding Brembo brakes, SACHS dampers, TRD body kit and dual exit exhaust, 18-inch wheels shod in P215/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires and an exclusive “Raven” black exterior paint. Inside, there’s contrast red stitching and TRD trim and badging.
Highlights (as tested):
Motor: 2.0-litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 205 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 156 @ 6,400 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 8.9 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)