Maturity has a new measure — the time it takes to get into, and out of, a sports car. If you’re measuring it in minutes, not seconds, you may be more mature than you first thought.

There’s another sign: the belief it’s now OK to own a sports coupe with an automatic gearbox.

For all of you lining up to fall into that category, Toyota has an affordable, almost sexy, practical, fuel-efficient and automatic 86 that’s as civilised as the company’s Camry.

The 86 may share nothing visually with the Camry except a bootlid badge but there are some important similarities.

It’s cheap(ish) to buy at $39,290, really cheap to maintain at $680 for three years of servicing, and even has a strong resale value after three years, retaining 65 per cent of its purchase price.

There are sensible things such as cup holders, sat nav, heated seats, a red starter button, seven airbags and a reversing camera.

There are weak points — the rear seats are impractical and the boot has about half the capacity of a Golf’s and is only sufficient for a weekend away. There’s not even a spare wheel, though it’s optional.

Visibility is reasonable but the nose is invisible, so care is needed when parking.

Thankfully, a reversing camera was added to the GTS model this year, along with faux carbon-fibre dash trim, a sharper suspension tune and a shark’s fin antenna on the roof.

Origami is a practised art of folding paper. It’s no kindergarten pastime and actually much harder than it looks. Similarly, folding yourself into the 86 may not be an easy task. The doors are long so neighbouring obstacles can reduce their opening. The seats are low but wrap around you intimately. Thankfully, it’s not as claustrophobic inside as you may expect.

The almost vertical steering wheel is well weighted and the ratio is sufficient to give a precise feel.

On the road it is a clever balance between a sharp-edged coupe and a quality sedan. It’s not in the Euro sports-car class — where similar cars are two and three times the price — but is probably well above expectations and importantly delivers big doses of the fun factor.

The best news is you don’t have to drive fast to feel as though you’re in a sports car.

But while it’s neatly balanced for corners and is comfortable enough to keep the peace with your partner, the power delivery is a tad wanting.

I’ve driven this in manual and automatic and — this must be an age thing — I prefer the automatic. The GTS auto is $3300 more than the GTS manual, a mere 0.6 second slower to 100km/h, 41kg heavier and yet more economical. I rest my case.

The horizontally-opposed 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is a tweaked version of one in a Subaru Impreza but the saving grace is the extra oomph secured by changing the fuel delivery and the combustion chamber.

On paper it’s a commendable 147kW but it’s more about where that power lives. Peak torque doesn’t arrive until an impossibly high 6400rpm.

Importantly, a manual gearbox (the same as a Mazda MX-5’s) highlights the 86’s poor low-speed torque. There’s another torque dip at 3000rpm, meaning a manual- gearbox driver works hard to keep the engine on the boil.

But this is all masked in an automatic transmission model. There’s linear acceleration off the mark, no pronounced hiccup through the mid range and a clean exit up towards the tacho’s red line. The exhaust note is thin and raspy, unbecoming to the 86’s styling, but there’s a neat automatic throttle blip on gearbox downshifts.

Despite all the technology, its 8.2 second time for 0-100km/h is only average.

But WA traffic control is strict and there are few places where a true sports car can be opened up.

Toyota has sold about 11,000 of the two-door cars since June 2012 so as a means of finding yours in a carpark, Toyota WA dealers can supply an Aero Package — deep front spoiler, side skirts and a huge rear wing — for an extra $3000. It won’t go any faster.


Model GTS

Price $39,290 (as tested $42,290)

Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol

Outputs 147kW/205Nm

Transmission Six-speed automatic

Thirst 7.1L/100km

VERDICT C’mon — who’re you kidding? Act your age, buy the auto and relish its easy driving characteristics.


PHOTO: Toyota 86

© The West Australian

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