stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
A pair of all-weather sports cars
space
While the Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5 RF provide year-round fun, one reigns supreme if you can forgo rear seats
space
By BRENDAN MCALEER
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, February 15, 2019 – Page D10

VANCOUVER -- Sports cars are all about compromise, exchanging practicality for lightweight fun during the summer months. But winter is here, offering dark days and caked-on snow coprolites falling from wheel wells and muddying the garage. Time to park the feisty little four-cylinder? Not hardly. Let's have a look at which of these two little Japanese sportsters proves that sports-car season is year-round.

2019 Toyota 86 PRICE AS TESTED: $33,260

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 205 hp Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual/Rear-wheel Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.3 city/8.3 hwy 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF PRICE AS TESTED: $49,90 5 Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 181 hp Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual/Rear-wheel Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 9.0 city/7.0 hwy LOOKS TOYOTA 86: Originally launched in 2012 as a Scion product, the FR-S, the 86 has only been mildly updated over the years. The latest version has the kind of serpentine face the Sorting Hat would promptly drop in Slytherin. Stick to a neutral colour such as grey, black or dark blue to soften the effect.

Everything else about the 86 is classically proportioned, with a long, low hood and some zippy details including dual exhausts out back. 17-inch wheels are standard, although the top-spec TRD version offers 18 inchers. Stick with the smaller wheels for a more livable ride.

MAZDA MX-5 RF: Grafting a fastback look to the MX-5 roadster works beautifully. A detail-oriented eye might get hung up on the blacked-out panel just aft of the doors (it's not a window), but the rest of the RF's silhouette is endlessly pleasing.

It's smoother than the 86, a bit less fussy and more noticeably compact. At just 3.9 metres long and 1.2 metres high, the MX-5's diminutive sheet metal makes the RF's 17 inch wheels look huge.

One might even think about going one size smaller for your winter rims and tires - the Roadster's base set is a 16-inch wheel.

INTERIOR TOYOTA 86: As you might expect for a car that began life as a ScionSubaru project, the 86 is rubbery inside. Ergonomics are good, particularly the grippy, well-bolstered seats, but if you're looking for an upscale feel, the suede panel on the dash isn't fooling anyone. Mind you, a businesslike interior is no flaw for a sports car.

MAZDA MX-5 RF: Anyone moving from a previous-generation power-hardtop MX-5 into an RF will find the experience analogous to cave-diving. When Mazda hit their little two-seater with a shrink-ray, they also eliminated spaciousness. If you enjoy a cockpit-like feel, the RF's well-appointed cabin can be described as intimate. If you're above six feet tall, it's best described as claustrophobic. Also, the cupholders are clearly an afterthought.

PERFORMANCE TOYOTA 86: In wintertime, what's wanted is stability and security to plow through poor weather. The 86, on the other hand, wants its driver to go dashing through the snow sideways. This is one of the most tail-happy cars on the market: With traction control fully defeated, it'll happily step the rear end out with the mildest flex of a toe when the pavement is wet, at speeds of as low as 30 kilometres an hour. Happily, the traction system has a middle ground where safety systems are still in place, and the car's behaviour is entirely predictable. It's lively, but a tamed lively.

That the 86 is so willing to rotate is surprising given its rather torque-poor engine. Just 156 pound-feet are available at a lofty 6400 rpm, and the peak 205 horsepower must be squeezed from the 2.0-litre Subaru-derived boxer engine as though you were wringing your socks out after stepping in a puddle. At first go, a driver might wish for the greater flexibility of a turbocharged engine.

However, the longer you spend behind the wheel, the more likeable the 86 becomes. Pedal placement is perfect for heel-and-toe downshifting, the engine revs willingly and effort behind the wheel is rewarded. The 86 requires you to actually drive it rather than slurp coffee behind the wheel absent-mindedly. Presumably, that's why you wanted a sports car in the first place.

MAZDA MX-5 RF: At 53 kilograms heavier than the soft-top version, the RF's folding hardtop comes with a dynamic penalty. Trust me, anyone short of a racing development driver won't notice the difference. Mazda's two-seater remains one of the purest, most enjoyable driving experiences at its price point. Scratch that: at any price point.

Updates to the engine have lightened the rotating mass and raised the rev limit, as well as increasing peak power. This new engine sings all the way to the red line, yet is still more tractable around town than the 86, owing to the well-spaced gearing. It also now has ample power when needed, as when passing a large truck quickly.

The MX-5's communicative handling means that slippery conditions are easily managed, and there's plenty of grip with the correct winter tires. The hardtop is a little quieter than the Roadster, and the small cabin warms up very quickly. If Santa Claus tucked one of these under the tree for you, consider yourself very much on the Nice list.

TECHNOLOGY TOYOTA 86: Even when it was a new design, the 86's infotainment system looked like an aftermarket afterthought. Happily, the latest system is simple and intuitive, if not flashy. If you're looking for driving assists to ease the commute, you won't find many here.

Instead, the 86 relies on the oldest and most reliable driving assist of them all: paying attention.

MAZDA MX-5 RF: Mazda's infotainment is also getting a little aged, although at least the MX-5 benefits from the most recent updates.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now finally present, and the system isn't difficult to navigate.

The chief difference is in Mazda's use of a rotary knob controller versus the Toyota's touch screen.

CARGO TOYOTA 86: Aside from its 2+2 configuration, which is just large enough to accommodate child seats (if you're a parent, but not quite ready to grow up), the 86's rear seats fold flat. Alone, the shallow trunk is a livable 195 litres, but the flat-folding seats will fit four wheels with tires mounted. Perfect for when you pop over to get your winter rims fitted.

MAZDA MX-5 RF: With just 127 litres of space to work with, the RF is a bit of a daily compromise. However, at least the trunk has some depth to it, meaning that the weekly grocery shop should at least be doable.

VERDICT TOYOTA 86: As an engaging drive that rewards as much as it demands, the 86 is a delight. Its eagerness to shake a tail feather won't please every driver when the snow starts flying, but if this is your first step on the road to eventually flogging a Corvette around Mosport, this modestly powered Toyota provides a great introduction to rear-wheel-drive life. Or, if it's the sports car you've long wanted after years of minivans, it's just plain fun to drive all the time.

MAZDA MX-5 RF: If, however, you can live without vestigial rear seats and accept a smaller trunk volume, the RF is a purer choice.

It's quicker, lighter, nimbler and even more efficient. And, come springtime, you can power down that top and enjoy the feeling of the wind in your hair and the promise of a long summer ahead, with roads as yet untravelled.

Associated Graphic

The 2019 Toyota 86, top, is a car that loves to swing its tail around, but its traction control system has a middle ground that makes the vehicle's behaviour predictable. The communicative handling of the Mazda MX-5 RF, above, lets the car easily manage slippery conditions.

PHOTOS BY BRENDAN McALEER/ THE GLOBE AND MAIL


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Heather_Mallick Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page