Review: 2017 Toyota 86 is loads of fun, without the price tag

The 2017 Toyota 86 is a car built partially as an homage to the AE86 Corolla...

The 2017 Toyota 86 takes over for the discontinued Scion FR-S as the brand’s entry-level sports coupe. Built in collaboration with Subaru, the 86 has the best of both brands jammed into one tiny, fun package.

The 2017 Toyota 86 becomes the new name for the Scion FR-S, transported over when the Scion brand was discontinued. The name 86 is better suited to this little sports car, which always held “86” symbology on its bodywork and badging. It is, after all, a car built partially as an homage to the AE86 Corolla sport coupe of the mid-1980s. In reality, all that this new 86 has in common with its namesake is a rear-wheel drive chassis.

Regardless, the Toyota 86 is an entry-level sports coupe that is meant to be a driver’s car in every way. Like those of this type that have come before, the 86 aims to be pure driving fun without distraction. On paper, the Toyota 86 is nothing special. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder opposed piston (“Boxer”) engine outputs only 205 horsepower (153 kW) and has no turbocharging. The 156 pound-feet (211 Nm) of torque delivered from the small engine is modest as well. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic (which reduces engine output) is optional.

The automatic transmission boosts fuel economy but, as mentioned, loses some power output in the process. The 205 hp of the manual transmission drops to 200 (149 kW) for the automatic and the 156 lb-ft becomes 151 (205 Nm). Fuel economy is the gain, however, with the EPA rating the automatic at 27 mpg combined compared to the 24 mpg combined of the manual (8.7, 9.8 l/100km). These are real-world derivative numbers, but require a very judicious right foot – something most of us probably aren’t capable of pulling off for long. Not in this car.

The 2017 Toyota 86 is both a good everyday driver with a fun demeanor as well...

What isn’t easily quantified on paper is the extremely fun nature of this car. For the entry-level price of about US$20,000 with a decent amount of no-nonsense amenities, the 2017 Toyota 86 offers superb driving, fun three-pedal operation, and a beautifully simple exterior look.

The powertrain of the Toyota 86 is made by Subaru, and its near-identical twin, the Subaru BRZ, has the same appeal. The manual transmission, in particular, is of exceptional quality with a solid shift that can be made with not much more than the flick of a wrist. The short throw and fast clutch action are hallmarks of Subaru’s sports car line, which includes the WRX and the STi.

The 2017 Toyota 86 is both a good everyday driver with a fun demeanor as well as a good first-timer’s sports coupe that can be built upon later for more dynamic track and road performance. The basis is there: solid handling, an excellent and stiff chassis, precision steering, and a robust build. Forums are full of FR-S and BRZ owners who’ve discovered that many of the WRX and STi turbocharging kits and other goodies are readily bolt-on for this little rear-drive sport coupe as well. These can be added without need of modification to the transmission or braking, which appear to have been slightly overbuilt for the car.

Everything about the 2017 Toyota 86 exudes fun times

Out of the box, though, the 2017 86 is a great little goer. Everyday 0-60 mph (0-92 km/h) times of about six seconds are readily available, and cornering at speeds beyond much larger vehicles with heavier powertrains is within the little 86’s purview. The former is due to Toyota having tweaked the manual transmission to add a bit more torque delivery in the lower end, and the latter is thanks to the ultra-tight Subaru chassis and the car’s low-to-the-ground design.

As it was with Scion, the Toyota 86 comes in one trim level with some optional equipment available from the factory and a few add-ons available from the dealership. The 7-inch touchscreen, for example, can be upgraded by the dealer to become a more useful infotainment system. Satellite radio is notably missing, for instance, and can be had from a dealership instead. Factory options include keyless ignition, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, and a more posh upholstery upgrade. There are otherwise few options for this car beyond its well-equipped base.

Everything about the 2017 Toyota 86 exudes fun times. It’s just a blast to get behind its steering wheel, sinking into the well-bolstered seating, and pilot this little car around. It may not win any checkered flags out of the box, but it sure won’t come in last. And for the price, you’ll have a tough time finding competitors with anything similar to offer.

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