Sorry for the lateness of the review but I've come back with another review
Toyota’s AE86 chassis line-up started as a sort of middle-market econobox/sport compact type of hatchback and coupe range that got popular via the drift and tuning culture and even the manga & anime Initial D but is the car worth the reputation it got?
The AE86 models went into production in 1983 being a sportier RWD option to the FWD Corolla hatchbacks and sedans, the car had a few names, the Sprinter Trueno for the retractable headlights variant and Corolla Levin for the fixed headlamps variant but it only gained the Corolla name in North American and European markets. It was offered in GT, GT-APEX and GT-V trim models and available in 3-door liftback or 2-door coupe guise. It was facelifted in 1986 with changes to both the Trueno and Levin guises with the front bumper, grille and rear lights on the exterior and new gauges in the interior, it finished production the following year with the Black Limited edition with orange highlights and gauges. It has since then been replaced by it’s FF AE92 successors but it has been spiritually succeeded by the GT 86. It has had a place in the car culture with its usage in racing, drifting (via Keiichi Tsuchiya) and pop culture via manga/anime Initial D and a few video game franchises as well. While it has a lot of fans it also gained its fair share of detractors as well…
Nothing to praise a lot here but it’s simplistic, boxy 1980s look is fairly decent (somewhere along the lines of the German econoboxes at the time like the Ascona or the Golf) it’s not as chic as Renault’s Super-5 or as sexy as the supercars (like the F40 or the Countach) of that time. But it still has a nice appeal. The Euro model only got the fixed headlamp version while the US model got one with retractable headlights but with fatter 5mph bumpers (Which I kinda thought looked like crap for a while) and Levin rear lights, still since they all share the same platform, parts are always interchangeable (with exceptions like the coupe Zenki rear lights to a Kouki coupe body since the Kouki body uses a different rear fascia).
Let’s be honest, the 4A-GEU is not…. a quick engine, especially considering it’s more focused on low-end performance and maybe fuel economy as well. But the handling is nimble and agile due to the car weighing less than a hundred kilograms (998, though it’s 1,089 with the thicc bumpers from the US model) it has a raw RWD character (like the Miata after it) so most of the lack of power and speed is justified with it’s quick and nimble handling but it’s also not a car you would spend a lot of time drifting around corners since it’s light weight, suspension setup and lack of some driving aids like ABS and traction control means if you’re not careful or experienced enough you might almost certainly crash. There are multiple engine swaps for the AE86 if the original 4AGE Bluetop doesn’t satisfy like the Redtop (AE92 Corolla), Silvertop (AE101) or Blacktop (AE111) 4A-GEs, you want something different? How about the 4A-GZE (AE92 Trueno & Levin, AW11 MR2 SC) or the 3S-GE (Altezza) or 3S-GTE (Celica GT-FOUR, SW20 MR2) or go equally bonkers with an I6 1JZ-GTE (JZX100 Chaser/Cresta/Mark II) or 2JZ-GTE (JZA70/80 Supra) or how about a V8 like the 1UZ-FE (Celsior/Lexus LS400)? There are too many possibilities to list!
Versatility and practicality:
Pretty spacious and space in the back depends on model. If it’s the coupe then it has has some room for tofu and/or groceries but leave the dog at home or put him in backseat (provided you have a cover for his dog fur and maybe sick) but if it’s a hatchback then you’d have enough room for the groceries and/or tofu and the dog in the boot as well (actually don’t put the dog and groceries or tofu together it’s not a nice result).
It’s a tad expensive it’s pretty much skyrocketed in value thanks to Initial D (via tofu tax), but it’s not as expensive as say the RS2 as I covered before. It’s pretty difficult to get prices since it’s pretty sporadic but expect super clean models to cost around £16,500 to £30k and expect to cough up a lot more to get one imported from Japan as well.
The car is not an amazing car, it’s not the best, it doesn’t go ludicrously fast nor does it have any massive legendary status on its own. But it is a nice, nimble and agile little thing with a huge number of owners clubs behind it and it’s also a good canvas for a project car whether it be a race, rally or drift tune or just a daily driver. Despite what detractors might think of it, you cannot deny it isn’t a really bad Japanese sports compact even if it ain’t the best.
Final grade: B
Made popular by the Drift King and pop culture but it’s still your average sports compact but that ain’t a bad thing.
Would I buy it?: Definitely, as a daily driver.
Next up is the Opel Vectra A/Vauxhall Cavalier