Sunday, September 19, 2021
Reviews 2020 Toyota 86 Review: Pure and Simple

2020 Toyota 86 Review: Pure and Simple

This is a brief farewell tour of the 1st generation Toyota 86, a car everyone ends up loving.

  • The 2020 Toyota 86 was priced from $30,150 in Canada, $27,060 in the US.

  • The car launched back in 2012 and quickly became a driver’s and tuner’s favorite.

  • Fewer than a handful of cars are as purely dedicated to the art of driving.

I recall being at the 2010 edition of the Geneva Motor show and seeing the Toyota FT-86 concept. As a fan of all things small, hot, and Japanese with four wheels, I relished at the thought of driving the car. Everyone must have thought the same however when the Scion FR-S (Toyota GT86) launched as many complained.

2020 Toyota 86 GT | Photo: Olivier Delorme

I admit that my expectations at the time were too far-reaching. Here was a lightweight, front-engined, and rear-wheel-driven car that, despite its 197-horsepower naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre boxer 4-cylinder, had to be fast. But it wasn’t, and never really was. What the Toyota 86 (when Scion died for good in 2016) and Subaru BRZ were, were momentum cars. Essentially, they had just enough power to get the driver in trouble. But the real trick, the element that separates drivers from non-drivers, is maintaining that speed.

Built for maintaining speed

And this is where the Toyota 86 shined, and from what I can tell, will continue to be the small sports car’s calling card. Everything about the 86’s conception is dedicated to driving and handling. The powertrain’s layout, low center of gravity, sport-tuned suspension, and wide track (relative to the size) create handling characteristics that are among the most forgiving and entertaining, especially when pushed.

2020 Toyota 86 GT | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Creating the momentum thanks to the provided 205 horsepower (big power bump in 2016) means committing to holding the throttle as far down as possible for as long as possible. Because of the paltry 156 lb.-ft. of torque, available from 6,400-6,600 rpm, the process takes a little while. And this is part of the unmatched experience.

The 0-100km/h sprint requires all of 7.2 seconds. In other words, a Camry Hybrid may beat you to the next traffic light, but the moment the highway morphs into a sinuous mountain road or, better yet, your favorite local racetrack, the 86 comes alive. Steering communicates precisely the car’s intentions so that the driver may ward off unwanted behaviours while the chassis, complete with the multi-link rear suspension setup, does all it can to keep the contact patch as level with the tarmac as possible.

2020 Toyota 86 GT | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Albeit a serious driver’s car, the 86 does have a lighter side though with the 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires included with the GT trim, the rear end is slightly less inclined to go slideways as it can be when the Michelin Primacy are wrapped around the 17-inch wheels. Either way, the Toyota 86’s predictable conduct, when the car communicates with the driver, never makes it a complete handful. That is unless this is what is desired.

Your friendly neighborhood sports car

Another fact that explains why the Toyota 86 is so appreciated is because it’s entirely approachable physically. The most aggressive visual aspect is the GT’s rear spoiler and the aforementioned 18-inch wheels. The 86 is classically proportioned and thankfully, Subaru and Toyota designers opted to remain true to the concept however the new 2022 86 (and BRZ) does look chunkier.

2020 Toyota 86 GT | Photo: Olivier Delorme

As tested, the $34,450 GT also includes a 4.2-inch cluster display, dual-zone climate controls, and superb leather, and swede-covered high-bolstered sport seats. With the possible exception of the latter perches, the base $30,150 (if you find one) is the better avenue.

The remainder of the cabin is what gives the 2021 Toyota 86’s age away the most. Bulky and anything but refined, the dashboard is nevertheless purposeful. The 7-inch display is from a pre-infotainment era although its functionality is far more user-friendly than the original units.

2020 Toyota 86 GT | Photo: Olivier Delorme

A new 2020 Toyota 86?

Or an all-new 2022 Toyota GR 86? Or perhaps an all-new 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI? How about a 2022 Hyundai Veloster N? Being in the market for a $30,000-40,000 hot hatch reveals that choices abound. Before the end of the year, a new Subaru WRX will be ready for purchase and, by this time next year (or sooner), a new Honda Civic Si will join the mix.

The most difficult obstacle to overcome for the 2020 86 is that, for the base asking price, all of its competitors are better equipped and more powerful. But, if pure and simple driving is what’s desired, the 2020 will be hard to beat. Let’s be honest though: the 2022 GR 86 weighs the same and has far more power under its bonnet…

2020 Toyota 86 GT | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2020 Toyota 86 GT | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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