K F purchased this Toyota 86 used for $29,000 (including all on-road costs) in 2020. K F would buy this car again because: “Closest I can be to being Fujiwara Takumi.”
There are few things more reliable than this, such as a Nokia 3310…or gravity.
As cheap to run as a Corolla, but no limit to how much fun you can have.
Most smiles per gallon they say – and it’s true.
It’s got a steering wheel, some lights, and a manual transmission.
It’s your best excuse to use the motorway instead of Parramatta Road (Google Sydney’s worst roads).
Before clicking into this, you would have already seen many hours of footage, read many pages of reviews and listened to playlists of people talking about this car. Hence I am not here to give you facts about this car. If this is the first time you have read a car review, this will probably make very little sense to you, because if there is such a thing as a love letter to a car, this is as close as it will get.
Our eyes met during the last motor show in Sydney, when the motor show was still a thing. At a time when YouTube only had 30 hours of video, LinkedIn only had 100 accounts, I must have clicked on every photo of this car available on the internet. Its styling is simple but functional, new but familiar.
I love it.
Fast forward some time and I’m in the facelift model, ready to tackle some stop-start traffic, roundabouts, before arriving at the start of some nice twisty roads. With my 86 filled with premium 98, and the Initial D theme song filling my body and veins, I took off into wherever the roads would take me.
As the revs climbed, a quick stab of the clutch and a short throw up the gears, and I was (finally?) nearing the first corner. Lift off the throttle, turn in, and the whole experience was like poetry. Through every bend it was planted, every entry and exit precise, every gear change brought the corner of my lips to my ear. I paused smiling long enough to think about the spec sheet. On paper, it loses out in almost every numerical, measurable way. But on tarmac, this package brings nothing but joy to my heart.
I remembered some guy by the name of Clarkson once said, “if you’re going to develop a bond, it’s got to have human qualities, and if it’s got human qualities it’s got to have faults.” So, I started looking.
In stock form, it doesn’t sound particularly nice, the torque dip is steeper than the stock market during the GFC, the rear seats assume whoever is sitting there has no legs, and the stereo system is only slightly more advanced than my parent’s kettle.
It keeps getting better. On track, at the hands of an amateur, it loses out to cars like the MX-5 and Type Rs. Many people will tell you though with more money thrown in and more bums in seats, it will embarrass owners in Caymans and Lotuses. All I know is for the minute or so between the start and finish line, I am thoroughly enjoying the confidence at turn in, seeing the little bubble showing me what Gs I’m getting during cornering, and the responsiveness of the throttle at exit in Track mode.
Daily commute is much more exciting too. Often I would get to my destination and secretly hope I forgot to bring something, meaning I will be able to drive back to get it, allowing myself to experience the joy of driving for a bit longer. The occasional speed humps and potholes however, do remind me of how third-world our roads are (nothing to do with the car’s ride obviously).
Trying to rate my 86 on a scale then will be like trying to rate my dog. You can get better cars (or dogs) than my 86, but in every non-logical, non-measurable way, I would pick this in a heartbeat. It’s focused, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s energetic, but doesn’t cry itself to the dealers every 300kms. It is flawed, therefore it is perfect.