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2019 Mazda MX-5 vs. 2019 Toyota 86


By: Brendan McAleer – Special to the Globe and Mail

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

Tech Specs

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

Tech Specs

Price, as tested: $49,905

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


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 like 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 like dual exhausts out back. 17” wheels are standard, though the top-spec TRD version offers 18”s. 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 3.9M long and 1.2M high, the MX-5 diminutive sheet metal makes the RF's 17” 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” wheel.


Toyota 86: As you might expect for a car that began life as a Scion-Subaru project, the 86 is quite 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 cockpitlike 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.

Click HERE to see the winner of the face-off


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