2018 Toyota 86 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
May 21, 2018

The 2018 Toyota 86 is a thrilling entry sports car at an affordable price. We wholeheartedly appreciate its enthusiasm.

The 2018 Toyota 86 has a heritage look, inside and out. Its power output is a throwback too, but that doesn’t bother us much.

The 2018 86 earns a 6.3 on our overall scale thanks to its performance and features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, the 86 gets two new trim levels that add some creature comforts and exterior accents. The 86 GT and 86 GT Black continue from last year’s 860 Special Edition. The new GT variants offer synthetic suede seats that are grippier than the base cloth versions, and interior accents sprinkle style throughout the cabin without taking away from the driver-first orientation.

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The 86 wears its shape well, with a fairly uncluttered hood and decklid that don’t spoil its golden-ratio proportion of hood to the rest of the car. It’s a low-slung sports car in presentation and mentality—wide fenders, a small rear diffuser, and wider intakes complete the package.

Inside, the 86 is clean and uncluttered, prioritizing driver and passenger without leaving much room behind the front seats. The instrument display is basic and informative, lacking tech that much more expensive rivals boast.

The 86—like the mechanically related Subaru BRZ—is powered by a 2.0-liter flat-4 that makes 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Its power isn’t delivered until late in the rev-range and is best suited to a 6-speed manual that wrings out its power above 4,000 rpm. (A 6-speed automatic is optional, but reduces power output to 200 hp.) The 86 is rear-wheel drive only and predictable, not as tail-happy thanks to a revised suspension but willing to step out on fun canyon roads.

The 86 is nominally a four-seater, but we don’t recommend the practice. Up front, deep buckets hug driver and passenger; in back, passengers are treated to vestigial shelves. Tumble the rear seats forward and the 86 improves its cargo-carrying capacity to offer space for four tires and tools—a perfect excuse for a weekend at the track.

The 86 GT and 86 GT Black add a better interior and unique exterior shades, but all versions of the 86 are well-equipped with a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen.

7

2018 Toyota 86

Styling

The 2018 Toyota 86 doesn’t spoil the proportions it was given. That’s just fine by us.

The 2018 Toyota 86 is the archetypal sports car: long hood, sleek roofline, flared fenders, and compact cockpit. It’s nothing new, but that’s not a bad thing.

If it ain’t broke, and so on.

We give the 86 a point above average for keeping classic proportions and interior style that doesn’t get in the way. It earns a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 86 puts a contemporary spin on the classic sports car shape, with wider fenders and a twisted wheel design that was new last year. It’s been updated since it went on sale, notably in the front with a wider air intakes and the added diffuser to the rear.

The hood kicks up toward the front wheels, helping drivers better spot the front tires on turn in. The stubby tail rotates around the driver and doesn’t add much length behind the front seats. Only a roadster or go-kart feels shorter.

Inside, the 86 eschews complexity for the road ahead. The tachometer is front and center for drivers, flanked by easily readable gauges.

There are nice touches, such as badging that recalls the AE86 from Toyota’s history, but it’s an uncluttered cabin that’s devoted to driving. A modern-day TVR, perhaps?

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8

2018 Toyota 86

Performance

Not about straight-line speed, the 2018 Toyota 86 is a purist sports car built for corner carving.

Lightweight sports cars like the 2018 Toyota 86 focus balance and delivery, approachability and predictability. Above those, it should be fun.

You have one job, Toyota 86.

We think most will agree that it succeeds, very well. It’s not powerful, so our performance rating is based entirely on the Toyota’s 6-speed manual, steering, and drivability. It gets an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The only engine won’t win over spec hunters. It’s a 2.0-liter flat-4 that makes 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque in most versions. (When paired with an automatic the engine is slightly detuned to 200 hp—another reason to skip the autobox.)

Power doesn’t arrive until deep into the rev range, around 4,500 rpm. Reach toward the top shelf and the 86 delivers deeply satisfying and predictable twist from its rear end. The sharp 6-speed manual clicks through gears with relative ease, and is our pick to keep power in a full-nelson and right where we want it.

Firm steering communicates well what’s coming through the tires, and when combined with easy sight lines from pinches in the hood above the wheel wells, the 86 neatly tucks in and out of corners.

It’s not enough power to impress many at the drag strip, but it’s enough to keep our attentions on curvy roads, where the 86 shines anyhow.

The 86 has been revised over its lifetime to be less tail-happy, more buttoned down in the the corners. Some of that is due to stickier tires, some of it comes back with thicker sway bars. The 86 lacks a track-focused version—hardcore weekend warriors will find that in the Subaru BRZ tS, which we cover separately. The compromise is slightly better ride quality in the 86 that makes the small sports car a daily driver in smile states.

The manual is our pick for fun, but the automatic would make sense if stop-and-go traffic will be your 86’s natural habitat—not the track. The shift paddles will hold gears as long as you like, all the way into the red line, and we like that.

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5

2018 Toyota 86

Comfort & Quality

Be the life of the party with your new Toyota 86, just don’t offer to be the party’s chauffeur.

Consider the 2018 Toyota 86 like an ice cream cone: indulgent for one, acceptable for two. Bring a crowd, and someone’s getting squeezed.

The front seats are comfortable and snug for driver and passenger, but the back seats are just snug.

Starting from a base score of five, the 86 gets points for its front seat but loses one just as quickly for teasing us with claims of seating four. We land at a 5 out of 10 for comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Front-seat riders are more upright than we might have expected, but there’s plenty of head room for tall passengers. The 86 can adequately fit a helmeted driver, which we appreciate.

Base versions are shod in cloth upholstery that gets the job done, but we like the 86 GT’s grippy synthetic suede that holds on tighter in the corners.

For a low-slung sports car, the 86 asks compromises to climb aboard but you don’t have to be a contortionist to get in—we’ll just turn our heads for now.

The back seat has nearly 30 inches of leg room on paper, but it’s really much smaller than that. It can hold a child or pre-teen, briefly, but the back seat is best considered as an extension of the small 6.9 cubic-foot trunk. When folded down, the back seat and trunk can hold four tires, tools, and a helmet: all required hardware to make the most of a track day.

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5

2018 Toyota 86

Safety

The Toyota 86 lacks advanced safety equipment making its way into new cars.

The 2018 Toyota 86 skips the automaker’s advanced safety hardware that’s standard across most of the lineup. That’s because the 86 is produced with Subaru, who also makes many advanced safety features standard in many of their cars, but not the mechanically related BRZ.

Go fig.

Without forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, or adaptive cruise control, the 2018 Toyota 86 keeps pace with like-minded sports cars; they suppose that enthusiastic drivers will watch where they’re going in the first place.

Federal testing is incomplete and the IIHS has somewhat mixed reviews. It only gets a 5 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Toyota 86 hasn’t been comprehensively crashed by the feds since it was folded from Scion into the Toyota brand last year. This year’s coupe manages a four-star front crash rating and five stars for rollover safety.

The independent IIHS gives the 86 mostly “Good” scores on all its tests, but rated the coupe’s protection in the small overlap crash at “Acceptable.”

Six airbags, stability and traction control systems, and a rearview camera are standard safety equipment on all versions.

The 86 also has a safety feature that not many cars have: maneuverability to avoid crashes in the first place.

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2018 Toyota 86

Features

The 2018 Toyota 86 keeps things fairly basic, among sports cars at least. A new GT trim level adds a few more luxury items.

The 2018 Toyota 86 offers a few more creature comforts this year in a new trim level, but its best feature for many shoppers will be the way it drives.

This year, Toyota offers the 86 in GT and GT Black trim levels that add a few more appearance goodies to the car, and softer synthetic suede seats.

Base versions start at $27,150 and are equipped with cloth upholstery, LED taillights, 17-inch wheels, a rearview camera, manually adjustable front seats, power features, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment.

The base equipment list is above average for most new cars, and the touchscreen is impressive for a small car. We have issues with the way it operates, but not enough to dock it points. The 86 lacks some customization features found on other sports cars, so we land at a 7 out of 10 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, Toyota added 86 GT and 86 GT Black trim levels that cost the same and add a few more creature comforts such as softer synthetic suede seats, contrast stitching inside, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped gear shifter and steering wheel, and a 4.2-inch driver information screen. The 86 GT Black version adds black side mirror caps and other accents. The GT and GT Black trim levels are priced identically at $29,280.  

The 86 GT trim level may sound familiar, it’s largely based off of last year’s 860 Special Edition trim level but won’t offer the same color scheme outside.

A handful of accessories for the 86 are available at the dealership, including TRD performance parts. A vast number of aftermarket accessories are available for the 86 and Subaru BRZ, but some may void the factory warranties.

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6

2018 Toyota 86

Fuel Economy

The 2018 Toyota 86 isn’t as thirsty as others, but its first task is fun, not frugality.

Fuel-efficiency and sports cars go together like cement shoes and swimming.

The 2018 Toyota 86 isn’t fuel-efficient for a small car, but it is frugal considering its company.

Federal testers rate the 86 at 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined when equipped with a 6-speed manual. That’s good enough for a 6 out of 10 on our efficiency scale.  (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Go with the automatic instead and fuel economy improves to 24/32/27 mpg.

The mechanically related Subaru BRZ is rated roughly the same.

The 86 most directly competes with the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which is rated at 26/33/29 mpg with the manual. The Fiat 124 Spider is a cousin to the Miata, and is rated at 25/36/29 mpg with the manual.

There’s a common thread among all four cars: they require premium gasoline. That’s not unusual for high-strung engines, but it should be a consideration if you plan to drive the 86 every day.

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$26,455
MSRP based on Manual (SE)
 
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6.3
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 5
Safety 5
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
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