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April 9, 2013

Review: 2013 Toyota 86 M/T

Photos by Ulysses Ang
The Toyota 86 has become a tremendous success story for Toyota Motor Philippines since its launch mid last year. Not only has it hammered down the point that “fun is back” at Toyota, but it has successfully drawn car enthusiasts, myself included, who wouldn’t have considered owning a Toyota in the first place. Several people have offered varying suggestions on why it’s become such a sought-after car, but I’d like to offer my own reason: it’s a vehicle designed solely with precision in mind. Undoubtedly, it’s a wonderful piece of machinery designed to be one of the best handling sports car on the planet. Forget straight line speed or mind-boggling acceleration—the Toyota 86 isn’t about any of that. Instead, the 86 is about pure, unadulterated handling delight. It’s a sports car in the purest form. Show it a canyon course with dozens of switchbacks and hairpins, and it will put a smile on your face.

Having extensively driven the top-of-the-line Toyota 86 Aero before, it has already proven itself to be a very capable sports car. Though it’s officially the top-of-the-line model, there’s something about a 6-speed automatic that doesn’t seem to fit the design brief of the 86. Don’t get me wrong: most people would probably extract more performance from the Lexus IS-F transmission (one of the best automatics I’ve ever tried, mind you), but there’s something having a three-pedal layout; something about rocking the gears yourself. Thankfully, Toyota has answered my prayers and sent me the base P 1,550,000 Toyota 86 with a 6-speed manual, and this my dear readers, is automotive perfection.

Being the entry-level model, it doesn’t come with all the aerodynamic add-ons found on the Aero. And guess what, it looks all the more better. It’s simple yet powerful and inherently masculine. From the side, the long, powerful hood and arrow-shaped profile are much more inherent and from the top, the “bubble” or pagoda-style roof adds some design flair. At the back, the functional diffuser is flanked by dual exhaust tips serving to emphasize the 86’s sporty nature. The 86 looks deceptively low—almost European super car low, and yet it has a relatively comfortable ground clearance of 130 mm (it’s actually higher than the Hyundai Genesis Coupe for instance). The secret apparently, is how Toyota is able to package the entire interior line to fit at almost the same height as the wheels. Pretty impressive stuff.

The low placement of the interior means that getting in and out of the 86 requires some good wiggling, but once you’re settled inside, it’s surprisingly comfortable and roomy, if only for two. Like its exterior, the 86’s interior is designed and laid out in a very ergonomic, very straight-forward manner with all the instruments, controls, and switches all within easy reach. After making myself comfortable in the driver’s seat, the first thing I noticed is how good the visibility is. Normally, sports cars have tremendously bad blind spots, but the 86 is all good with a clear view of the road from every corner. Even the rear view mirror is frameless—expanding the rear visibility by a few precious millimeters. The “entry-level” moniker of the Toyota 86 M/T isn’t as bad as it sounds. Apart from the deletion of the Alcantara and leather trimming on the seats, the interior of the 86 M/T and the 86 A/T Aero is the same down to the carbon fiber-like pattern dotting the cabin as well as the forgettable audio head unit.

Complain all you want about the stereo, but remember that the Toyota 86 isn’t passing itself as the audiophile’s car of choice. Instead, it’s designed to be the purest form of a sports car, and in that regard, it’s absolutely perfect. First up, is the 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 205 Nm of torque. Though these figures seem pedestrian, considering the 86’s low curb weight of just 1,275 kilograms, it has good power-to-weight ratio. Second, and personally the most important thing, is that all this power is transferred to the ground via a proper 6-speed manual. I say it’s proper because of two things: one, because the clutch is light, easy to modulate, and quick to pick up, and second, because the “throw” between gears is small and the engagement is precise. The combination of these two aspects make the 86 a very engaging car to drive whatever the condition be it stuck in city traffic or letting loose on the highway.

On the road, the Toyota 86 is actually very habitable with a firm, but comfortable ride. The distinctive throaty note of the direct-injected boxer engine is always in the background but it’s never overbearing. The manual engages with a solid click and immediately pushes the 86 with a huge sense of urgency; there’s even a programmable shift indicator that shows the most economical shift point (indicated by an arrow) or when the engine’s bouncing at the redline (indicated by a red light and a beep). Although, you can drive the 86 in a very civilized, very comfortable way; mashing the throttle then shifting up results in some delightful wheel spin—even up to third gear! Whatever driving style you prefer, the 86 pretty much obliges.

Most people shy away from a manual transmission given our traffic situations, but the 86 is surprisingly civil. It’s never tiring. And yet, it’s playful but safe; it won’t bite you back when you’ve come into a bend too hot. Pretty much, the 86 feels like a foolproof drive with the best aspects being its quick steering and responsive chassis. Even on longer drives, such as those over 200 straight kilometers, the 86 never felt tiring or exhausting. Indeed, some so-called sports sedans are actually even more tiring to drive than the 86. Plus, even in the most traffic-filed situations, the 86 still manages 13.33 km/L putting most compact sedans to shame. Of course, it doesn’t change the fact that the 86 requires a diet of 98 RON octane.

Though some folks will go for the Toyota 86 Aero given that it’s the range-topping model, I personally find the P 310,000 additional fee for the aero kit and automatic gearbox a bit too steep. I’d rather save the money and head over to the Toyota 86 with a manual transmission. If there’s one solid case on why you should prefer a three-pedal set-up to a slush box, it’s this one. This is the Toyota 86 that best represents “fun to drive”. It’s a pure and simple sports car. It’s an unadulterated experience, perhaps reserved only for those who understand the joy of a manual gearbox.

2012 Toyota 86
Ownership 86 M/T
Year Introduced 2013
Vehicle Classification Sports Car
The Basics
Body Type 2-door Sports Car
Seating 2+2
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration NA
Layout / # of Cylinders Flat 4
BHP @ rpm 200 @ 7,000
Nm @ rpm 205 @ 6,400-6,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 98~
Transmission 6 MT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,240
Width (mm) 1,775
Height (mm) 1,425
Wheelbase (mm) 2,570
Curb Weight (kg) 1,253
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Tires 215/45R17
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Front
Auto Lights Yes
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Alcantara/Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls No


  1. Sir, do you think that the price difference of the subaru brz mt is worth it against the 86 mt? I'm planing to get one.

  2. this car, subaru brz, and scion frs are all the significant difference except for the TFLCar's review about this car...

  3. I purchased last September 2013 a 86 from Toyota Alabang, right from the time I took it from the showroom, I noticed a thud every time I shift gears particularly first and second gears, initially I thought it was only a break-in thing, but after 1200km of city driving I decided to return the unit on October 17, 2013 for evaluation. To date almost three months past Toyota Alabang is yet to fix the problem they blame Toyota Plant for the delays.

    I have been an avid Toyota users since the 1980s but today Toyota service sucks I will never recommend it, nor buy Toyota again.

    Actually we may just end up in court as Toyota continue to ignore my case.

  4. Actually, if you're after fuel economy, like me, the automatic is of desire. But that's you, sir. I'd take an automatic anytime without hesitation. Great review, by the way!


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