"The rear-wheel-drive Subaru BRZ is a true driver's car with brilliant handling and an attractive price-tag."
The Subaru BRZ is one of the best sports cars to go on sale in recent years. It's a rear-wheel drive coupe that doesn't cost the earth to buy and puts the driver at the centre of the action. It is the product of a joint venture with Toyota that has also produced the GT86 – and both cars are good looking, brilliant fun to drive and surprisingly economical. In many ways the BRZ sits in a sector of the market that used to be dominated in the Eighties by affordable coupes like the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri. These days, rivals include the rear-wheel drive Nissan 370Z and front-drive coupes like the Volkswagen Scirocco and Audi TT.
Engineers behind the BRZ project wanted to create an affordable rival to the Porsche Cayman – and that tells you a lot about the way the BRZ drives. It has great steering, brilliant agility and yet, thanks to relatively skinny tyres, just the right amount of grip. You can approach and exceed the tyres' limits on the public road at speeds that won't have you in fear of your licence – and will put a smile on your face in a way that an Audi TT won't. The engine is a 197bhp 2.0-litre flat-four-cylinder 'boxer' which is capable of accelerating the BRZ from 0-60mph in under seven seconds. It needs to be revved hard though – you have to keep it above 4,000rpm for it to deliver its best. But with a snappy six-speed manual gearbox, or a smooth and quick paddleshift automatic to choose from, making the most of the power available is easy. There are some really neat touches that encourage you to work the engine too, such as the change-up light on the rev counter that blinks at 7,000rpm. On the downside, it can feel a bit unresponsive at low revs and the engine doesn't have a particularly racy note – it always sounds a bit gruff.
The BRZ is not as comfortable as a VW Scirocco or an Audi TT – it has a ride that is a bit too firm for that. You will certainly feel (and hear) the thud as the stiff suspension hits a pothole. However, put the BRZ into sixth gear and it settles to a reasonably quiet cruise on the motorway; you could certainly drive 200 miles and not feel too tired. The driving position is very good as the chunky sports steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, while the seat itself has plenty of adjustment, some sporty bolstering and holds you in position even in hard cornering.
The BRZ is very new, so it is hard to predict just how reliable it will be – but put it this way, it is the result of a partnership between two companies who have brilliant reputations for making cars that run and run. Plus, there's the fact that the BRZ is made of parts from existing cars that have certainly been tried-and-tested – the engine is a development of a unit used in the Impreza WRX while the suspension comes from that car too. We wouldn't expect it to be anything less than faultless, and should there be a problem, we reckon Subaru dealers will fix it quickly.
The 243-litre boot is around 50-litres smaller than an Audi TT but has more than enough space for two people's weekend luggage. That said, it has quite a narrow opening so it will struggle to take anything larger than a single suitcase and some soft bags. The rear seats may have ISOFIX points but they are not even big enough for a very small child, though, so they are best thought of as extra loadspace. If you want to travel with rear passengers, then you'll have to go for the Volkswagen Scirocco, which has a higher roof. The slim windscreen pillars and good-sized mirrors mean the BRZ is a sports car that's easy to see out of though.
Value for money
The BRZ is all about the driving experience and that means you get things like 17-inch alloys and a limited slip differential as standard, which makes it more fun in corners. You'll have to pay around £1,500 extra for the automatic but that's not bad for the class. As for interior mod-cons, it actually comes with quite a lot of equipment too. The top-spec Premium model comes with heated sports seats, automatic headlights, keyless entry, climate control, cruise control, heated mirrors and a dock for iPods and other music players. The biggest problem, though, is that satellite navigation won't even be available as an option, so you might have to invest in a Tom Tom or another portable device.
These days, even sports cars have to be efficient and the BRZ should be quite cheap to run. Subaru claims 30mpg, which is not bad considering how highly tuned the engine is. It's pretty clean too with CO2 emissions of just 159g/km – although a 208bhp Audi TT 2.0 TFSI is even cleaner at 154g/km. The BRZ doesn't weigh much, so it should be relatively easy on its brakes and tyres, providing you don't drive it too hard. Insurance will be high as will servicing, but the BRZ will be a rarer sight on UK roads than its Toyota sister car, which will be brought in in greater numbers, so residual values should be strong.