Published on June 29th, 2020 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ Used Car Review
In the early 2010s, there was nothing new on the market that catered to enthusiasts wanting a simple fun car.
Apart from the evergreen Mazda MX5, everything else on the market was gaining in weight, gaining in power and of course gaining in price. This dry spell was broken however when Toyota announced the GT86 in 2012.
A collaboration with Subaru, the Toyota GT86 (and its Subaru BRZ twin) was the simple sports car that car enthusiasts were craving for. This enthusiasm for it even reached the local market, with grey importers importing them by the boatload to satiate demand. The demand for it was so great even UMW Toyota officially imported it to try to grab a slice of that enthusiast pie.
So what made the GT86 an enthusiasts’ dream?
Engine and Performance
Under the hood of the 86/BRZ is 2.0 Subaru derived flat four boxer engine. Pushing out a decent 197 hp and 205 Nm of torque. Drive is channelled through a six speed auto or the (highly recommended) six speed manual to the rear wheels.
Acceleration times of 7.6 seconds to 100 km/h and a top speed of 226 km/h are healthy performance figures for a sports car. However, like its AE86 spiritual predecessor, it is on twisty roads where this simple sports car shines.
The primary aim of the Toyobaru twins is fun. Reviewers at the time say that it democratised rear wheel drive driving pleasure. With praise for its slick gear-change, sweet handling and sorted chassis. The inclusion of a standard Torsen limited slip differential, combined with modest grip from skinny tires and electronic nannies that can be completely switched off, lap records aren’t exactly GT86 territory. Instead, the driver would be be having so much fun hooning it to care about lap times.
It was designed to be an easy car to tame and enjoy, even for complete beginners. And if things did start to get out of hand, strong brakes courtesy of vented disks up front and solid disks behind is on call to prevent any major catastrophes.
Interior and Practicality
There are some downsides to the GT86 experience however. The leather wrapped steering wheel and semi bucket seats can’t disguise the fact that interior isn’t exactly sports car material. Even though it has all the bells and whistles: dual zone climate control, push start, bluetooth, infotainment etc; like any other Toyota of this generation, the interior design wasn’t the most exhilarating.
But then again, with two small seats behind and a reasonably sized boot, what more could you ask for in a bargain fun car? After all, you’ll be having so much fun driving it, a cheap interior isn’t too big a concern.
What was a common complaint amongst enthusiasts though was the lack of low end torque, with the full 205 Nm only available at 6400 rpm. Being a JDM tuner car however, this problem is easily remedied by turning to the huge aftermarket support. Need more power? Just slap a supercharger or turbo kit onto the flat four. There’s also a myriad of suspension, tuning and cosmetic parts to truly personalise your Japanese fastback.
Used prices today of either Toyobaru twins today starts at RM100k for automatics, with manuals commanding a 10k premium.
In terms of reliability, it’s a Toyota after all so not much goes wrong. Common faults are mainly trim related with rusty door pillars and water ingress in the rear lights. Do note however of two recalls that were made. One involved engine valve springs affecting some 2012-13 models and another was for loss of power steering due to faulty wiring harnesses that affected models from 2012-15.
The main thing to look out for when buying a used GT86/BRZ would be accident damage. As most of these have been bought to have fun, damage-repaired cars are common. Overly modified cars should also be treated with caution.
It’s also worth noting that the Toyobaru twins received a mid-cycle facelift in 2017, with mainly cosmetic and interior tweaks with some chassis improvements.
Grey Import Vs Official Import
There is not much to differentiate between the cars of a grey import and an official UMW import. However, if it a safer bet to seek out an official UMW car, even if it may cost slightly more. Even though the warranty for the car may be over, it would still be easier to verify the documentation of a car that has been local it whole life. These documents include the car’s service history, recall information and and most importantly, accident history.
Then again, going for a grey import is no bad thing either. It’s just carries greater risk to go through history files in a foreign language. Some information may also be conveniently forgotten during its passage over here, but to some this risk is worth the cheaper price. Besides, there are plenty of independent specialists around that will take good care of your 86 if anything does go wrong.
For the price of a base spec Civic, you get to experience the true joy of driving. If you really want to relieve your financial conscience, think of it as getting a car that’s nearly the same as the one still sold new today for half the price. Besides, with its smiling face staring up at you every time you walk away from it, the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ will just make you want to take it out again for another drive.
Text by Joshua Chin