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Review: 2017 Toyota 86 GT's fun to drive

About Mark

Mark Holgate is the driving force behind Exhaust Notes Australia, one of this country's premier automotive websites, with in excess of 1 million visits every year, and literally hundreds of car reviews and motoring stories.

With more than 20 years experience as a journalist, and five years as a professional blogger, he brings a wealth of knowledge about cars, bikes and everything in between.

Changes, changes everywhere. That’s right, the Toyota 86 has had an upgrade, with improved looks, sharper steering, and a better ride giving the much-loved, low-cost sports car a lift for 2017.

Yes, we know it’s basic, but Toyota engineers have spent some time improving things on the Toyota 86 GT - and we like what we’ve found. New intake and exhaust manifolds have boosted power and torque for the manual transmission version, while design improvements have been made to the front end, with the addition of fins on the front bumper, LED headlights and new 86 badging.

The Toyota 86 GT is a barrel of fun - a true driver's car.

The Toyota 86 GT is a barrel of fun - a true driver's car. Picture: Exhaust Notes

At the rear, new LED tail lights and a wider rear bumper give an improved look and feel from behind, while our test vehicle rode on TRD black alloy wheels that make the white body paint look downright wicked. A new instrument cluster and smaller sports steering wheel complete changes inside.

As we said already, the Toyota 86 GT is basic, but let’s look at this from another angle. If you want a sports car that has all the bells and whistles like SatNav, L/100km displays, on board computers to show you G-force as you corner and graphs for torque vectoring, and all sorts of information that you don’t need to look at while driving, then this is not the car for you (buy the GTS version, instead).

If, however, you are after an honest, back-to-basics car to drive, which ticks all the fun buttons, then this may be it.

Now when we say basic, we mean basic. There is no onboard computer to play with or to give you driving stats, there is no SatNav in the entertainment system (on the vehicle tested), there are no seat warmers or dual-zone climate control and there are not even any steering wheel buttons except for the horn.

You do, however, get cruise control, a touchscreen entertainment system that has Bluetooth, airconditioning and, well, that’s about it.

There is something to be said for simplicity and the fun factor of this car is, however, well worth it.

Sadly, this is something that a lot of cars in a way higher price bracket have lost. The sheer joy of driving for driving’s sake and not concerning yourself about economy, torque or stats. This is a driver’s car.

Our test car even had a real manual six-speed gearbox with a clutch. Not one of those “manual” automatic gearboxes with flappy paddles.

At its heart is a 4-cylinder 2.0L horizontally opposed boxer engine that is quick and responsive. Once you get used to the feel of the clutch and the bite point, take-offs can be exhilarating.

The vital statistics include 152kW of power and 212Nm of torque, with a combined fuel economy of 8.4L/100km. There are seven airbags on board to keep you safe in an accident.

It will spin its wheels happily once traction control is turned off and the ride is brutal. That is the only word that fits. Rough roads will break you, but smooth roads will make you smile a lot. That’s what this car does – it makes you smile. The ride is stiff. That’s because it’s a proper sports car.

It handles corners like there is no tomorrow and remains level with no perceptible body roll. As a daily driver, it will make the commute to work a pleasure, but you will have to work for it and that is part of the fun of this car.

It can be quite civilised for a sports car as well, but unleash the beast and look out. Speeding fines aplenty will follow if you’re not careful.

For a car that is this much fun you would expect to pay a lot. The drive-away price for the manual is a reasonable $35,295 and the six-speed automatic is $37,664. Lots of bang for buck with this one.

The exterior finish of the car makes it look the part and it sits beautifully on the road. It looks like it’s going fast even when it’s parked. The paint finish is excellent. Just what you would expect from Toyota.

It’s available in a range of colours that includes White Liquid (Test vehicle), Ice Silver, Tornado Grey, Storm Black, Gravity Blue, Velocity Orange and Ignition Red. The wheels on the test vehicle are black TRD sports wheels and top it off nicely.

The interior is finished off well, too. The bucket seats are comfortable and hold you well in those tight corners. The dash is as previously stated – basic. But that again is a good thing. Nothing to distract you from the driving pleasure you experience with this car.

The carbon-fibre dash inserts are a nice touch and make it really feel like a proper sports car in the cabin. There are four seats and it is rated to seat four people, but only if those people have very short legs, or are in a car seat. Realistically, there are only two usable seats, but the rear seats make great bag holders.

Overall, we really liked the 2017 Toyota 86 GT. It’s lots of fun to drive and good value for money. Is it a family car? No. Is it meant to be? No.

At the risk of repeating ourselves, it’s honest no-frills fun. What can be better than that?

Our test vehicle was provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2017 Toyota 86 GT, contact your local Toyota dealer.

  • Read more from Exhaust Notes: Review: 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE
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