2019 Toyota 86 GT Review

Affordable two-door fun for the purist


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Excellent driving dynamics for serious fun, easy shifter and clutch, grippy and well-bolstered seats, only rear-wheel drive sports car at this price (along with the Subie BRZ).
Negatives: Needs about 20 more ponies, low-rent interior is from the '80s, some cheap styling elements.
Bottom Line: The Toyota 86 exists in a world that doesn't care much for underpowered two-seat sports cars, but that doesn't mean it's not worth looking at. It provides plenty of fun because it handles and turns like a dream. Too bad the interior is really cheap and unattractive, and the exterior needs some refinement. But for the enthusiast, it's almost as good as a Miata in terms of driving but a bit more juvenile it its appearance.
Toyota wants to build more exciting cars, and they're well underway thanks to the new Supra, the new Corolla, and the one that came before both of them, the 86, formerly the Scion FR-S. The 86 (and sister car, Subaru BRZ) are the only rear-wheel drive sports coupes that are affordable, so they're very much niche vehicles. And there's not much to them. No turbos, no usable back seats, no fancy technology, and not much trunk space. But for those who want to track a vehicle or don't want to spend much for a second vehicle they can toss around on the weekends, the 86 presents a great choice. We drove the GT trim level for a week. Read on for the detailed review.
 

Driving Experience

8.4

 

Despite the underpowered engine, the 86 is fun, balanced, and precise. It's one of the best cars to helm that won't put you in trouble with the law, and we're glad a vehicle like this exists in a world where most drivers don't care about driving fun.

Ride Quality: Though the ride is firm, and you can feel pavement irregularities, but it doesn't feel unsettled or uncomfortable.

Acceleration: The 205 hp and six-speed manual bring the 86 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. That's not especially fast compared to even the Honda Accord Sport (5.8 seconds), but at least the car is very connected to the road, which makes it feel faster than it is. The car could use about 20 more hp to make it more exciting.

Braking: The Brembo brakes are strong, and the pedal feel is very progressive. They're a perfect match for the chassis and handling.

Steering: The steering is precise and responsive with very good feedback.

Handling: There's some body roll, but it's all very manageable since the 86 is balanced and light.

Technology

5.3

 

Though everything with the in-car tech works just fine, it all looks terribly dated and cheap from the big orange digital readouts to the moderately sized infotainment screen, despite the fact that the interior has been refreshed slightly. The car is really about driving, but this setup still looks dated.

Infotainment System: The 7.0-inch screen is fine, and the on-screen menu is easy to understand. It just doesn't look all that great, and the responsiveness is just ok.

Controls: Toyota modified the center stack to make everything easier to control. The media buttons and audio knobs are small, but the HVAC controls and switchs are large and easy to operate and now sit in one row versus the old staggered setup. The start/stop button for the engine is in a weird spot low on the center console.

Styling

7.5

 

The 86 is distinct in a field of ubiquitous crossovers. That being said, there are some styling elements we'd like to see weeded out in the next-generation. The interior has been refreshed, but it's mostly just the center console, steering wheel, and gauges. After experiencing the 86's cabin, we can honestly say if feels like the car was named after the year for which it was styled.

Front: The tapered LED headlights look great, as does the creased and curved hood that swoop up to meet the bulging fenders.

Rear: The rear end is sporty with the LED taillights, twin round exhaust pipes, and the rear diffuser. We're not fans of the GT's overly busy spoiler that would likely be just as effective with something a little more muted.

Profile: The 86 is well-proportioned, but the body styling could use a bit more drama like sculpting or vents in the rear quarter panels, and we could do without those fake vents behind the front fender.

Cabin: It's frankly the worst part of the styling. The seats look great, but the rest of the car looks and feels cheap. Too many disparate shapes and afterthought styling make the interior seem a couple of grades lower than a Miata. Even with the refresh, which does improve the look, the inside of the 86 isn't even as nice as a Hyundai Elantra GT's, and that car costs way less and provides almost as much fun and power.

Comfort

7.3

 

Though the 86 is only really good for two people, the front sport buckets are comfortable despite their limited adjustability. The rear seats are pretty much useless.

Front Seats: Firm but comfortable, they're very well bolstered. The movement fore and aft is limited, and you can't alter the height. The GranLux suede material is grippy and soft. You can't even upgrade to leather if you wanted to.

Rear Seats: These might as well not be there since not even the smallest adult can fit. Throw your bags back here.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Sound insulation isn't the best, and you can hear the engine working hard. At least it's well built, and there were no squeaks or rattles.

Visibility: The forward and side visibility are good thanks to a beltline that's not overly high. Rearward sightlines are severly compromised by the raked rear glass and the big pillars. The rear camera is a must.

Climate: The system works fine, and the round vents blow plenty of cool air. In winter, the standard heated seats in the GT will be appreciated.

Safety

6.8

 

The 86 does a pretty good job when it comes to safety. It has a good level of standard safety equipment and receives respectable scores from the IIHS. The NHTSA hasn’t concluded its testing yet, but the tests that have been conducted look promising.

IIHS Rating: The 86 received good ratings in all crashworthiness tests except the “small overlap front” test. In that particular test, it got an “acceptable” rating. Also, it features no crash avoidance and mitigation technology. Its child seat anchor ease of use was rated “marginal.”

NHTSA Rating: The 86 does not have an overall crash test rating from the NHTSA. It received a four-star rating in the frontal crash test and a five-star rating in the roll over test. Side crash testing has not yet been conducted.

Standard Tech: It comes with the usual suite of features like stability control, traction control, ABS system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, smart stop technology, hill-start assist, airbags, tire pressure monitoring, and a backup camera. No automatic emergency features are even available.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

5

 

Don't road trip in the 86, unless you're by yourself. There's limited space, and the rear seats aren't split folding, so no big items will make it in.

Storage Space: There’s a small bin between the seats and a smartphone sized slot in the dash. There's a smalll glovebox and decently-sized door pockets. The moving cupholder piece is a little weird, too, and it takes up most of the bin space.

Cargo Room: There's a mere 6.9 cubic feet of space in the trunk, not even enough for a full grocery run. You can travel with a couple of pieces of medium-sized soft luggage bags, though.

Fuel Economy

7.1

 

The 86 is pretty good with gas mileage but by no means mindblowing. Its 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway rating is good for a sports car, though. We drove it pretty hard, hence our less than city rating results.

Observed: 19.1 mpg

Distance Driven: 156 miles

Audio

6.2

 

The stock audio system in the 86 is just ok, about on par with the interior as a whole. It had decent clarity but lacked bass and fullness of better systems.



Final Thoughts

As driving enthusiasts, we love the idea of the 86. It's fun, tossable, and within the reach of most buyers. The steering, chassis, brakes, and stick shift setup speak to those who love to control their vehicles in a sporting fashion. The power is just not enough, and the looks are on the cheap side, as is the interior. When cars like the VW GTI, Hyundai Veloster N, and the Civic Si present more potent options, it's hard to make a case for the 86 except for its great rear-wheel drive configuration. Let's just hope the next-gen 86 gets what it needs.
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