We loved the Automatic 86 but it was missing something so we recently picked up the base six speed manual model. Driving wise, we found that the manual is obviously much more engaging to drive than the automatic. The six speed manual squeezes the true essence and driving joy out of this car. It fits in the whole the whole formula quite well.
During the first day we spent many hours, behind the wheel, analyzing and studying the driving style of the manual 86. The car is bloody addictive to drive. The short-wheel base and the almost 50/50 weight ratio coupled with the smooth 6 speed manual with short throw shifts, this thing is almost like a giant go-kart (for the lack of a better example). The clutch is pretty smooth so driving in traffic was not much of a nightmare.
The base model interior, unlike the flashier top-range trim, is extremely toned down. You still get Bluetooth connectivity and the electric folding mirrors. The real let down is the plain black charcoal finish gauge cluster with no digital speedometer or shift light. The gauge cluster along with the primitive climate control knobs, really dull down the overall interior and emit a somehow retro 90s feel to the dashboard. Still, the real awkward bit about the interior is, once again, the lack of an arm-rest on center console, hence you need to develop a habit of either resting your arm on your thigh, simply keeping in on the steering wheel or keeping your hand on the gear knob.
Overall, the car is built to be a purely dedicated drivers’ car. The whole focus was on the solid chassis, driving dynamics with little consideration to complexity. Although the finish and feel of the base model 86 is almost that of a basic entry level Toyota; the driving experience render such flaws as insignificant.
Stay tuned as we go in-depth in part 2.