Peter Robinson tells: "I'm in love with a Toyota"

Last week, Wheels’ Peter Robinson was the first man to get behind the wheel of the first Toyota 86 coupe to arrive on Australian soil. “Not since first driving the Boxster in August, 1996, has any car left me as thrilled, or utterly excited, as the 86,” said Robbo.

The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ twins continue the renaissance of the affordable coupe. You can read about Robbo’s full verdict in the March 2012 issue, on sale February 15. His enthusiastic local drive has left us office coves salivating over the prospect of our own first steer.

With Subaru Australia deciding to import the BRZ after all, and Toyota announcing that its 86 will be priced under $40K, the question remains how each brand will price what is essentially the same car. Subaru Corporate Affairs Manager, David Rowley, likened each company’s decision to “a stare-off match … it’ll be a case of who blinks first”. Subaru must either match the Toyota’s pricetag (likely $39,990) or add equipment for a modest extra cost. Although the 86/BRZ is an engineering joint venture between the two Japanese manufacturers, neither will coerce on pricing and marketing their versions.

According to Robbo, and editor Bill Thomas, the 86/BRZ are an early tip for 2012 Car of the Year honours. If the twin coupes can pull it off, it will mark two straight years that a coupe has won Australia’s most prestigious award.

There’s more coupes to come this year, too.

Hyundai has announced pricing for its innovative ‘three plus one door’ coupe, the Veloster, which arrives in Australia this week priced from $23,990. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder Korean entrant is $11K cheaper than our COTY-winning Honda CR-Z. Where the Japanese product blends brilliant dynamics with an intelligent hybrid drivetrain, an overseas first drive indicates that the Veloster isn’t an involving steer like the CR-Z. Instead, Hyundai aims to woo young buyers with its sharp styling and unique bodystyle. In terms of price, only the three-year-old Kia Koup comes close.

Late this year, Opel returns to Australia with the swoopy, three-door Astra GTC likely to debut. It will use the same 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine seen in the Holden Cruze, matching the 103kW output of the 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated Veloster. Another European entrant to the segment will be the Mini Coupe, which will soon be available with a 90kW four-cylinder engine in addition to the just-released 1.6-litre turbocharged S variant.

But back to the start – the ones we’re really hanging out for are the 86 and BRZ. Welcome back, affordable coupes.

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