Toyota 86 vs Golf MK VI GTi:Fab Or Fail?

2012 Toyota 86 GTS2012 Toyota 86 2012 Toyota 86

Golf mk vi GTi 2012 (3)Golf mk vi GTi 2012 (4)Golf mk vi GTi 2012 (1)Golf mk vi GTi 2012 (2)

Toyota 86 VS Golf GTi

This week the soon to be superseded Golf GTi has been in our garage. The full test will come in due course but as you all know I love a bit of a thrash down the Grand Pacific Drive. Today was especially rewarding for as I entered my favourite corners I spied the rear end of one of my new best friends disappearing into the distance, and in my current favourite colour too.

The tight switchback bends are sprinkled with straightaways to give just the right amount of run-up to test good brakes at the next corner and the light filters through giving an unworldly aura to the experience. The Golf is startlingly quick, especially with the DSG in the super-sexy Sports mode where its upper cogs are banished for the duration, and a good thing too. Around town the DSG spends almost all of its time trying to get to 6th as quickly as possible. The fabulous power plant is kept reigned in unless you mash your stellie into the carpet. That’s great for fuel consumption but very boring if you’re expecting a dynamic drive. No, out and about is where the GTi should be, and that’s where she enjoys stretching her legs the most. So in the interests of maximum reader enjoyment, we thought why not take the old girl for a workout.

As we sprinted through bend after bend, the 86 drew nearer and nearer. Clearly the VW had far more power than the Toyota/Subaru but this was the first time I had the chance to admire one doing what it was designed to do by a person it was designed to do it for. I know the road well and at this stage there is no hope of overtaking, but behind the 86 is where I wanted to be. It is utterly gorgeous with generous lashings of 60’s sports car mixed with a dollop of Italian super car, a smattering Japanese engineering then topped with an almost German-like attention to detail. It certainly looks good being pushed through winding turns with the dappled lied glinting off the pearlescent white finish. In the fastest of straights the Toyota kicked up traces of dust which let an eerie glow of light in its wake.

Despite the best efforts of the proud owner, the 86 just couldn’t get too away, which is just as well. We approached some very tight corners whose suggested speed limits should be treated more like gospel than loose guidelines. They need to be approached with respect. At one such corner, there is a gentle dip followed by a tight right-hand bend with a handy positive camber, and a 400 metre uphill straight. At the top is a tight left-hand bend then a downhill run, and all of it with light dappled by a rainforest canopy. It is here where my new friend failed to wash enough pace from his dial before entering the demanding maneuverer.My fears proved to be almost apocalyptically psychic in their accuracy as the 86’s rear end danced sideways towards the upward side of the hill. The front of the car followed until it was entirely off the road. Here is where the picture froze for what seemed an age in a faint cloud of dust and debris. The snap shot that will stay with me for life and it could have ended in disaster were it not for a smile from above. The little coupe danced some more before scrambling back onto the bitumen, waggling its tail and heading off up the hill.

It highlighted why we should leave our traction control switched firmly in the “on” position. Little men in white coats have spent a very long time trying to make sure things like that don’t happen. So, it is the TV shows that we have to thank for people turning off the electronic nannies and it is they to whom we shud direct our disapproving scowls. Most people, including myself, are average drivers and the ubiquitous electronic devices woven in to modern cars are there to help in emergencies. It isn’t an open invitation to be an idiot and drive like woman possessed. It behoves us all to heed the warnings lavished on us be the gods, and to read the limit warning on the huge signs at dangerous bends.

A little further on the road emerges from the forest to reveal a magnificent coastline with waves crashing onto the rocks far below. Still hot on the tail of the 86, the 86’s tail lights began to glow and its driver pulled into a lookout carpark. In an overly theatrical scene, I drew up alongside and powered down the passenger’s window. I smiled and made a pithy crack about having my finger on the 000 speed dial, and about how the 86 looked good in a dusty cloud of near Armageddon proportions. As if a nod to ancient rites, we circled each other’s cars nodding approvingly, and muttering, and making primeval hand gestures. A laugh and hand shake bumped us both into the present and we eagerly began talking in a kind of speak not yet relegated to the dim mists of the past.

My new friend, Michael, thought of his trusty steed as something to be admired and proudly displayed. Unusually, his interlocutor was equally enamoured. After many facts and figures, and my being told about the after-market stiffening which had been applied to existing mounting points, we set off in a triumphant lap of honour. First Michael displayed his plumage, then in the spirit of perestroika, we retired to the 86 for a jolly good thrashing. I’m happy to report it exceeded expectation so read on.

The 86 has a supple ride. Gone is the rock-hard suspension of some cars of the past and instead a ride that won’t ruin your kidneys. From inside the 86 rides as flat as a tack and as smooth as Barry White pre-decline. With the traction control off the rear end feels lively but in a way such is that expected a newly inducted Friend-Of-Dorothy. The cabin is cosy and comfy and has the feeling of being pulled on like a sports shoe. It’s not luxurious by any means but rather has the feeling of a world or the bygone sports tourers. The ones where the driver spoke in hushed tones to anyone who would listen about the infinite minutiae of the engine, gearbox, clutch and brake. Michael was still talking about his pride and joy in those very tones that sounded like Hastings telling Poirot about the Bentley and it’s little foibles.

Whether it’s the extensive after-market bracing or just a super-tight chassis, the 86 grips the road tenaciously with a rear end that taps you gently on the shoulder before stepping out. The tap comes far less often if you don’t fiddle with the traction control though, so you might want to think about that before driving like Nico Rosberg through the national park at a million KPH. The body is tight and has the feel of a more expensive car. You can feel everything through your hands and the seat of your pants so when that tap comes, you simple flick the wrist and bobs-your-uncle. The tap isn’t obtrusive but rather feels like a car designed with a lightness of touch so that the electronics don’t obscure mechanics from those at the wheel. From the ground up, Toyota and Subaru wanted a sporty coupe that could be sold at the right price but feel like the pricey Germans. They wanted an inexpensive, great handling, hot looking sports coupe, and that’s what they got.

The steering feels exceptionally sharp but the brakes are much more progressive than I’d have liked. Remember I’d just stepped from the Golf whose brakes are aggressive and take no prisoners. You really need to dig the right foot onto the poeddle but once they bite, the brakes are fabulous. With ojust a little familiarisation, an average driver is flicking the 86 around corners like a Icelandic rally driver. Is the rear-wheel-drive that I’ve once again fallen madly in love with?

The equipment on the $29k base model isn’t lacking but the car was so engaging that none of that matters. You simply don’t care that the cabin isn’t littered with useless gadgets that you pay for but know will never use. As you change down, that brilliant boxer engine develops a light throaty growl and as long as you keep the revs up, the power is there to tap whenever you feel the need. A factory turbo is coming to the Subaru BRZ so I hope Toyota will shoehorn a tiny blower under the bonnet of the 86. After all, it would be criminal for the 86’s sister to have all the fun. It’s what the people want and is what the people have the right to expect. There no attempt to hide the fact that both cars are the same. Openup the bonnet and you’ll see an engine with Subaru and Toyota proudly sitting one under the other on the engine cowling. I like that. The 86 is brialliantly PHABulous and PAHBulously brilliant.

The GTi is a different kettle of fish, not better or worse but rather a different class. Perhaps it’s because I never turn off the traction control or because it’s a front wheel drive, who can say. One thing is sure and that is the power of the Golf is vast. The delivery slow at first but like most turbos come in a burst. It’s one of the reasons p platers aren’t allowed to drive them. I’ve always thought it strange that a P plater can drive a 6 cylinder car of the same power, and considerably less safety gear. But to the golf: the seats are less comfy than those in the 86. VW have made the GTi accommodations more and more hardcore over the years and I’m not convinced it’s necessary. There is no doubt we need firm lateral support for heavy cornering but do we really need to sit on a small pile of bricks? I’m not so sure.

The MK 7 Golf is just around the corner so VW have made the current model more desirable by adding bluetooth and other goodies as standard. What isn’t standard is the Automatic parking and Satnav. The auto parking uses the bumper-mounted parking sensors coupled to a bit of computer whiz bangery to tell the electric steering what to do. You still control the brake and throttle so keeping an eye on the rearview camera comes in mighty handy. No matter how many times I do it, and in how many cars it appears, this gizmo still amazes me and it works most of the time without so much as an excuse me. The little LCD tells you what to do and you do it. The wheel goes back and forth like a psychotic donut but in record time the wheels are a few CMS from the footpath and it’s all over.

The Satnav does a good job, but does not give you street names in the spoken instruction. This is annoying and for some reason very common in factory systems so it’s high time they got with it and started to have street names. How annoying is it to whiz past a street when there are several streets close together? Apart from that, the interior is well laid out with attention to detail. The quality is obvious but there are small details are just wonderful. Open the centre console and find the dual cup holders, but wait there’s more. The divider is a bottle opener which can be removed and if you don’t want to use the cup holder the bottle opener can be stored at the base of the compartment. I know it’s a small thing but so thoughtful and for a change didn’t cost extra.

The Golf GTi is a top of the line family hatch, but this infers that it isn’t more than the sum of its parts. Somehow the Golf shines still, even near the end of the model life. The performance is extraordinary. Not only is the dramatic acceleration exhilarating, but the tenacious grip and supple ride make the pin-point steering the pinnacle of an experience you’d expect of a sports car from Italy not a humble hatch from Germany. Our test car had extras but none changed the basic driving dynamics. As I said before, the Golf will not come unglued even when pressed to the outer edge of its performance envelope. The tyres protesteth not when asked to corner at a speed above reason, and the engine says yes to accessing the extra in its reservoir of bliss. The GTi thoroughly deserves is near legendary status as Hot Hatch de Jour. In short, there is nothing , absolutely nothing that the golf wouldn’t do for you if you ask it nicely.

So, there is a dilemma. Both cars love being taken by the scruff of the neck to be treated mean. They both love being loud and loose but both can be stroked gently enough to purr like a kitty cat around town. Despite the miniscule boot., the 86 looks as though it would pass the “gaycarboys” two Bags test. The Golf would swallow a load worthy of, no never mind. There is a mere bee’s private-part between them and the choice of either would come down to personal choice.

I didn’t like the GTi in “sport” mode around town and the 86 brakes were dreadful.

I would only say that once a turbo comes to the 86, the story might be worth revisiting.


Golf GTi

Toyota 86


2.0 L petrol turbo 4cyl inline

2.0 L petrol flat 4 cyl


155 kw

147 kw


280 nm

205 nm


6.9 secs


Fuel cons

7.7 l/100k






*test car had: Park assist $1,400, SatNav $2,500, rearview camera $500


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