I’VE BEEN USHERED into a show hall at the local convention centre, pass a collection of Toyota dealers, big wigs and men in suits, through a dark foyer and into the abandoned presentation room behind it. There, on a lonely plinth is my unicorn, Toyota’s new Hachi Roku. It’s been almost exactly a year ago since I confirmed this car’s eventuality on South African roads, but we’re still not quite there. This is a test vehicle, used to wow Toyota’s dealer network and of course to haunt my dreams a bit more. This particular one, in its distinct wine red painted skin is the top model, which will ultimately go on sale as soon as June, with a price near as dammit to R340000 (my educated guess). That’s hot hatch money for… well just look at it! A sports coupe 2+2 that sits somewhere in concept and pricing between a Mazda MX5 and a Honda S2000 but with a fixed head similar to a Mazda RX8 or Nissan 370Z. Yes, 147kW is not a lot of power by today’s standards but that’s sort of not the point. You see, the 86, like the AE86 of old, is a return to bare bones sports car roots. The engine upfront drives the wheels at the rear and it’s all ensconced in a lightweight chassis with minimal electronic nannying and maximum driver involvement. Balance people, not power. So that’s only 147kW, all of which you can use around every corner on route to your local café. You know – the café that sits on the other side of your favourite mountain pass. This isn’t news. Topcar has been documenting this car’s gestation period since day one, but the fact that it’s going to be on showroom floors in 4 months is. Interestingly, the massive wing on the rear deck has sparked some controversy with pundits split down the middle on wether or not is should be smaller. Really? I see nothing wrong with it.
Also present, Toyota had its facelifted Aygo in a similar red to the 86. This neat little update will be in showrooms by May. The new Etios budget car was also on display, thankfully looking a lot more resolved in the flesh than it did on the web. Lexus also presented its new GS saloon car, complete with an aggressive F Sport body kit and trim. The new car gets a vastly upgraded interior, plus a revised (at last) graphical user interface to go with that clever haptic device.
Last year was a bumper year for Toyota, and 2012 promises to follow this trend with a new Avanza, more engines in the Hilux and Fortuner, plus the FJ will benefit from a tweak or two. More significantly than that however is an all new Auris, sharper and better than the one it replaces. That’s good news as the current model failed to capture the hearts of ex-gen Run X buyers, so perhaps this will hark a return to Toyota for enthusos. You have our attention, Toyota.
YOU CAN READ OUR INTERNATIONAL FIRST DRIVE OF THE 86 IN THE FEBRUARY ISSUE OF TOPCAR, GET IT HERE