If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a car, but still want to have a ton of fun behind the wheel, the 2019 Toyota 86 is absolutely a must-drive. This lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, while also being pleasantly easy and forgiving to drive. It’s a great choice for driving pros and novices alike. Plus, with its reasonable fuel consumption and Toyota’s renowned reliability, it won’t cost you that much once you leave the dealership, either.
Now, the name Toyota 86 might date back only two years, but the car itself is older. Formerly known as the Scion FR-S, its name change also came with some slight nips here and tucks there, but for the most part, it’s the same car that’s been delighting driving enthusiasts since 2013. It also remains a twin of the Subaru BRZ, which offers a few features and performance upgrades not available on the 86. That gap has closed a bit thanks to last year’s addition of the GT trim level and this year’s TRD Special Edition, but the fact remains that you may prefer the Subaru version.
On the whole though, the 86 is one of our favorite performance cars. If you value handling verve more than straight-line go, there are few cars on the road that do it better.
What’s New for 2019?
A new TRD Special Edition debuts for 2019 that features a performance exhaust, Brembo brakes and SACHS performance dampers, plus a variety of appearance and equipment upgrades. There’s also a new Neptune blue paint color. See the 2019 Toyota 86 models for sale near you
What We Like
Easy and uproariously fun to drive; affordable price; simple model structure; good fuel economy for a sports car; Toyota reliability
What We Don’t
No engine upgrade available; intrusive road noise; cheap interior materials; barely usable back seat; no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Every Toyota 86 is powered by a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed "Boxer" 4-cylinder engine that produces 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque with the standard 6-speed manual transmission. It produces 200 hp and 151 lb-ft with the optional 6-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving with the manual. It is 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined with the automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Toyota 86 is available in base and GT trim levels.
The base 86 ($26,505) comes standard with 17-in wheels, summer tires, automatic LED headlights, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, suedeclothe interior trim, a one-piece folding back seat, a 7-in touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, HD radio and an 8-speaker sound system.
The GT ($28,635) adds aerodynamic enhancements, a rear spoiler, LED fog lights, proximity entry and push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and an enhanced instrument panel. Many of these features are available on the 86’s sister car, the Subaru BRZ. The GT’s Black package adds a variety of black trim pieces.
The 86 TRD Special Edition ($32,420) gets 18-in wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 performance tires, SACHS upgraded suspension dampers, Brembo upgrade brakes, a TRD exhaust, a TRD-branded body kit and extensive red interior trim elements.
There is no other equipment available apart from dealer-installed items, including a navigation system integrated into the standard touchscreen, and a variety of performance-enhancing parts.
The 86 comes standard with anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, a backup camera, front side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags. There are no accident avoidance technologies available.
The government has only tested the 86 for frontal crash worthiness — it got four out of five stars. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 86 the best-possible score of Good in all tests but the newer, more stringent small-overlap front test where it received the second-best Acceptable score.
Behind the Wheel
Call it an FR-S, or an 86 or even a Subaru BRZ, this is an uproariously fun car to drive. It’s lightweight and RWD, which has always been a recipe for fun, while its wonderfully responsive steering allows you to feel the road that you’re being adhered to by its ably tuned suspension. At the same time, its relatively skinny summer tires let you slide around a bit without grave fear of sending yourself butt-first into a ditch. As the old saying goes, sometimes it can be more fun to drive a slow car fast.
And yes, we’re calling the 86 slow — by modern sports car standards, at least. Its 205 or 200 hp, depending on the transmission, is just merely sufficient and its lack of midrange power could sure use a turbocharger to help even things out. Also, that power delivery greatly depends on the transmission you choose. We think the 6-speed manual remains the best choice. The 6-speed automatic gets better fuel economy and includes paddle shifters, but with it, the 86 is robbed of much of its driver involvement and just feels like a small, loud, underpowered, cramped coupe rather than a budget sports car. If you’re worried about driving a manual, don’t worry — the 86 makes it easy, with a forgiving clutch and a direct, pleasingly mechanical gearbox. We all had to learn some time.
Regardless of transmission, though, expect the 86 to deliver an abundance of road, wind and engine noise. It can get tiresome and since the interior is also dominated by hard plastic, the 86 isn’t exactly the most pleasant car to spend long highway journeys. Restrict it to the daily commute and weekend back road adventures and you should love it. The front seats are supremely comfortable and offer plenty of adjustment, while the controls are easy to reach.
Drawbacks include a lack of a center armrest and a back seat that’s all but useless. There’s also no good place to store your phone and the standard touchscreen is basically an aftermarket unit rather than the larger, more user-friendly ones found in other Toyotas.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Subaru BRZ — For all intents and purposes, the BRZ and the 86 are the same car. However, the BRZ can be had with features not available on the 86, including a suspension and brake performance upgrade package. The TRD Special Edition evens that out somewhat for 2019, but as it’s a limited edition car, you might find it hard to come by.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata — It’s even smaller than the 86 and a convertible, but there is no other car that comes close to matching its combination of RWD, lightweight and low price. Read Toyota 86 vs. Mazda MX-5 Miata: Which is Better?
2019 Honda Civic Si Coupe — The Civic Si might be front-wheel drive, which means it won’t treat you to the same tail-out fun. But the Si’s handling precession is exceptional, and not just for a FWD car. Its turbocharged engine is also more appealing than the 86’s, while interior space and noise quelling capabilities are superior. Watch what the Civic Si is like to drive.
Used Porsche Cayman — You’ll need to go back a few years to find a used Cayman in the 86’s price range, but they’re out there and Porsche’s certified pre-owned program allows for older cars than any other brand. Importantly, if you’re looking for a RWD sports car excellence, it doesn’t get better than the Cayman.
Get the manual transmission. The automatic robs the 86 of so much driver involvement that there’s not much reason to get the car at all. We would also consider the mechanically identical Subaru BRZ, since it can be had with features not offered on the 86. Find a Toyota 86 for sale