Drive Car of the Year for 2012 winner: Toyota 86
This year's winner triumphed by delivering cheap thrills from an unlikely quarter. Who would have thought ultra-conservative Toyota would turn out such a great sports car?PT3M57S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2adm6 620 349 November 28, 2012
How much: $29,990 plus on-road and dealer costs
Vital statistics: 2.0-litre 4-cyl; 147kW/205Nm; 6-sp man; 7.8L/100km, 181g/km C02
She: Well, Toyota really took it to 11 with this car, starting with surely the best-looking Toyota body since the 2000GT. To see it is to love it, and to drive it … well, as we found during Drive Car of the Year (DCOTY) testing on the track and around Goulburn, the more you drive it, the better it gets. What's not to love?
He: The 86 certainly gets better the more you drive it. I didn't love the engine at first, and thought it lacked punch compared with turbocharged rivals. I took a while to gel with the little Toyota, but four days with the 86 made me very reluctant to give it back.
She: I have heard mutters about a lack of grunt, but I see this car as a continuation of the pure balance of an Alfa Romeo Duetto or original MX-5, though the aggressive styling does suggest it has more oomph. The handling is brilliant and I found the ride better than expected for a sub-$30,000 drive. Were you looking for stonk off go, or a bit more haul through corners?
He: The grunt deficiency is more noticeable between bends - there's nothing wrong with the way it corners. But I agree that the car is much more about balance and driving feel than outright speed. The 86 is unlike the hot-hatch brigade in that it asks you to trade everyday practicality for poise and outright pace for precision. It's a game-changer, and that's why the 86 won our awards, in its own category and outright.
She: It's particularly impressive as the Performance Car Under $60,000 category was a serious ripper! But I reckon it is practical. For most of the week I had the 86, it hosted four big adults all eager to see what it could do and, despite some major weight handicapping, it still performed. Speaking of which, I have a couple of drive gripes. It needs a digital speedo and bigger, BRZ-sized brakes. Oh, and an entirely rethought palette of interior finishes. The basic lines and ergonomics are fine, but that faux carbon fibre is nasty.
He: Were your friends still on speaking terms after being subjected to the back seat? It's pretty small back there; I certainly wouldn't want to jam into the back seat for longer than a couple of minutes. You're right, the interior isn't the classiest, but there is a minimalist retro charm to it. The digital speedo and bigger brakes would be nice, but the $5500 dearer 86 GTS addresses some of the base GT's shortcomings. That said, for $29,990, the entry-level 86 takes some beating.
She: The price offers outstanding value, and that's ultimately how the 86 clobbered its opposition at DCOTY. And the simplicity of design and engineering will help it hold that value, I think. It's on my list as my ideal affordable second car when I don't need to schlep hoards of teenagers around town. Where does it sit in your life?
He: It's certainly not a car for schlepping! As a twentysomething petrolhead with no kids, my demographic is right in Toyota's sights. I think it's a fun car with great dynamics, but probably not practical enough for a single-car household. I would buy it, but only if it shared the garage with a second vehicle capable of swallowing furniture from time to time.
She: I love a good thrash around a track, but it's not often I hanker for the same car as a daily drive. For me, the Toyota 86 is that rare exception - maybe because I can actually afford it. And it's an MX-5-slayer if they knock the top off.