Small and dedicated sports cars that aren't saddled with excess size or complexity offer a certain intangible but intense purity that make them so adored by enthusiasts. A few years ago, if you wanted this type of machine, you bought a Miata (or perhaps a go-kart). Nowadays, however, there's another choice: the Toyota 86 (and the identical Subaru BRZ). More practical than the drop-top Miata but arguably as fun, the hatchback 86 is a compelling choice for those who need more seating, security, and space than a cloth-roofed roadster but don't want to sacrifice the subliminal joy of elemental driving.
What's New for 2019
A limited-edition TRD trim debuts for 2019. Besides an exclusive color and body kit, buyers get Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires wrapped around 18-inch wheels, Sachs dampers, and bigger brakes. Otherwise, the 2019 Toyota 86 carries on unchanged from last year.
Choosing Your Toyota 86
There are three trims to choose from on the 86, and all use the same 2.0-liter boxer-style four-cylinder engine. In what might be a happy coincidence – or perhaps an engineering edict – both the width of the cylinder itself and the length of the piston's total travel measures out to 86 mm. Most buyers and enthusiasts, however, probably still think of the cult favorite Initial D anime series, whose protagonist drove an 1980s-vintage Toyota AE86 Corolla, before the bore and stroke measurements.
Regardless of the etymology of 86, the boxer four-cylinder puts out 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque when paired with the standard-equipment manual transmission. Opting for the $720 six-speed automatic means losing five horsepower and five lb-ft; consider it another reason to go with the snappy short-throw stick shift. This doesn't mean the automatic doesn't have its perks, though. It offers paddle shifters and a sport mode, as well as automatic rev-matching on paddle-induced downshifts. The automatic also gets better gas mileage: 24 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 combined compared to 21/28/24 mpg (city/highway/combined) for the manual, according to the EPA.
All 86 models come with a seven-inch color touchscreen for infotainment duties. It offers location-based services, various apps, and the Aha internet radio service. There's also access to all the popular social media apps and a phonebook function that can store up to 2,500 contacts. Onboard navigation is available on all trims. The touchscreen also controls the standard-equipment eight-speaker sound system that offers Bluetooth, HD radio, hands-free capability, and both an auxiliary and USB port for additional connectivity.
Few options are available for the 86. There's the aforementioned navigation that costs $900, the $720 automatic transmission, no-charge all-season tires, and nothing else that isn't a typical dealer accessory. Otherwise, buying an 86 is simply a matter of picking a trim level and signing the paperwork.
Six exterior colors are available. All are no cost except Halo, which demands an extra $395. Interiors use the Henry Ford approach – any color, as long as it's black.
The GT is the sweet spot of the 2019 Toyota 86 lineup. It offers some extra creature comforts over the base model to make this sports car more livable on a day-to-day basis, yet doesn't crest the 30-grand mark. If you're looking for car that's fun and practical on a budget, the 86 GT is certainly worth taking a peek at.