I’ve never liked the outgoing Toyota 86. I don’t think I’ve ever published a positive comment on it. As a concept, it’s great. It’s (often) affordable, reliable, naturally aspirated, boxer engined, rear-wheel drive, given a good if not overwhelming amount of power, and it’s just a really good car for a lot of buyers looking for a sporty two-door with its heart in the right place. It caters to two kinds of Toyota enthusiasts: those who really liked the AE86 and want something like it, and those who really liked the Celica and want something like it.
And it looks awful. Underneath it is a certainly OK shape, but everything in the way it looks is wrong. The detailing looks like light clusters from another car have been thrown onto it from the other side of the design studio. The bumper makes the front look like a shark with a stomach complaint (especially with the facelift bumper). The two-tone stock wheels are terrible. The BRZ sibling has some moderate design changes done on it which alleviate the worst bits, but it’s not what I’d proudly wash and detail every Sunday, either. And because the original concept cars looked just as bad, it’s not about the design getting ruined in the process of making it production reality.
I guess if you tuned the heck out of the car, changed the wheels, and bolted on some obscure Japanese home market aero bits, it would look somewhat different, but that’s still applying dressing on something that’s simply not great to begin with. It’s too 2010 in the worst ways.
However, the curse has now been broken. The official role of the slightly off-looking coupe has now been bestowed on the Supra. (F1 noses do not belong on sports cars.) Not a minute too soon, the 86 has received a redesign that fixes everything I’ve disliked in one fell swoop. The nose and tail get light clusters that look like they belong on the car and are fitted correctly. The bumper is reshaped to gain an attractive air intake. The ridiculous little grille slits in the bumper corners are replaced with … aero something, which does suit it better. The fender tops are no longer forcedly curved to shrugs, as the sides get something J-shaped instead.
Does the car now look slightly more generic and from the rear, a little Honda-like? Maybe! It finally looks good to me, and even the wheels that now match the GR Yaris instead of the Toyota Avensis are better. Even the interior has received a little rearranging that makes it look less cynical than on the original car. It’s still the same car underneath, the dimensions and hardpoints are the same, but the redesign addresses so many pain points at the same time that the stuff that’s carried over is well and good.
It’s a sign of the times. Toyota has improved its design immensely. The Corolla now looks good, as does the Yaris (and the GR version certainly helps). The Camry? Still bad, but maybe that baleen front end is liveable. And it’s a good car from the front bumper onwards.
We probably won’t get that many new-shape 86s here. In Finland, the old car was originally given a preposterous near-50k price tag compared to what was deep down a 25k car. The BRZ was sometimes thousands cheaper than the GT86, but neither is a common sight here. It’s partly about taxation, it can be about average fleet emissions, it can be about Toyota not really envisioning it’d sell that many here no matter the price, but there won’t be a queue forming. This is the part in the column where I say that yes when the secondhand import examples eventually end up in here, I’ll do my best to consider owning one. But for the first time in 86’s history I see it as a car I’d actually want to buy with my own money. It’s not like I’d have to pay money for every car I wanted to criticize…
[Photos: Toyota / yes, I used Scion photos as well to be extra nostalgic]