Subaru BRZ coupe
Price £23,995 - £25,495
- Brilliant fun to drive
- Lots of performance at high revs
- Stylish and fuel efficient
- Gruff-sounding engine
- Average cabin quality
- Not much low down grunt
At a glance
"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 most fun-to-drive sports cars presently on sale. The car shares many of its parts with the Toyota GT86, and it competes with models such as the Nissan 370Z, Volkswagen Scirocco, and Audi TT. If you are looking for a car that is as fun to drive as the Subaru, the two-seater Mazda MX-5 and Lotus Elise are also worth a look.
The BRZ does without the sophisticated looks and classy interiors of the Audi and Volkswagen. Instead Subaru has focussed on the basics, so the car gets steering that gives bags of confidence in the bends, a sporty manual gearbox and a rear-wheel-drive setup that means you can slide the car in corners. Take the Subaru down a twisting back road and few cars can compete with its ability to put a smile on your face.
Just one engine is available: a 2.0-litre petrol that gives the BRZ a decent turn of speed but isn’t so quick that it is intimidating. The lack of a diesel option means the BRZ lags behind some of its rivals in terms of economy.
There's only one level of specification with the Subaru BRZ – SE LUX. That means all models come fitted with half leather seats, which are heated at the front, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Highly tuned engine returns around 36mpg
Excellent economy was not a priority when Subaru designed the BRZ, but 36mpg should be possible and is relatively good when you consider the performance on offer. By comparison a 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5 also gets 36mpg, while the lightweight 1.6-litre Lotus Elise (which offers similar performance) can get an impressive 45mpg.
CO2 emissions of 181g/km mean that road tax is quite pricy at £225 per year. A diesel Volkswagen Scirroco can manage 63mpg and CO2 emissions that mean it costs just £30 to tax annually. The BRZ can be fitted with an optional automatic gearbox that increases economy to 39.8 mpg, while CO2 emissions of 164g/km mean that road tax is cheaper at £180 per year.
With a low weight the Subaru should be easy on tyres and brakes, helping to keep maintenance bills in check. Although Subaru doesn’t offer fixed-price service plans, all cars come with a five-year/100,000 mile warranty. That's better than the warranty you would get with a Volkswagen or Audi, and matches the cover the Toyota GT86's cover.
The GT86 could prove wiser long-term buy, in fact. It should hold its value better than the Subaru and is also slightly cheaper to insure. It sits in group 30 rather than the Subaru's group 31.
Interior & comfort
Susupension is firm but BRZ is happy on the motorway
With stiff suspension and a relatively noisy interior, the Subaru is not as comfortable to drive on long distances as cars such as the Volkswagen Scirroco and Audi TT. Its small fuel tank also limits you to about 200 miles between fill ups.
The BRZ falls well behind the VW and Audi when it comes to interior quality. It can’t offer the quality soft-touch plastics and logical design that you will get in the VW and Audi. Although the interior could be made better, it does at least feel sporty with controls that feel perfectly placed. Visibility is decent, too, thanks to thin windscreen pillars and good-sized mirrors.
Getting comfortable in the driver's seat is easy, thanks to a good amount of adjustment for both the steering wheel and seat. The front seats also have plenty of bolstering to hold you in during high-speed cornering.
Practicality & boot space
The BRZ offers less cabin space than almost all premium hatchbacks
Getting comfortable in the front seats is easy thanks to plenty of leg and headroom. Getting in the back is another story and the two rear seats are only suitable for children, although they come with two ISOFIX child seat mounts. If you are going to carry rear-seat passengers on a regular basis the Volkswagen Scirroco makes much more sense.
With a 243-litre boot the Subaru has 50 litres less boot capacity than an Audi TT. The boot opening is also quite small and there is a tall boot lip that makes it hard to load heavy items. Opting for the optional Pioneer stereo amplifier also eats into boot space. Many people keep the rear seats empty and use them for useful extra luggage space.
Reliability & safety
Safety and reliability levels should be high
Our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey did not feature the Subaru BRZ, but the company did come 16th (one place ahead of Toyota) out of 33 manufacturers. The company scored well for both reliability and perceived build quality, but owners marked the marque down for having very high running costs. Reliability should also be helped thanks to many of the car's parts being tried and tested in other models from the Subaru range.
Euro NCAP has never tested the Subaru for safety, although the car comes with seven airbags, traction control and stability control.
Engines, drive & performance
Much more involving to drive than an Audi TT
The Subaru BRZ was designed to be lightweight and fun to drive. It has excellent steering that gives confidence in the corners, while relatively thin tyres mean there is just enough grip to easily find the car's limits. The skinny tyres mean you can slide the car in the corners, with relative ease. The result is that the BRZ is more fun to drive than the Audi TT or the Volkswagen Scirroco.
The Subaru's 2.0-litre engine gets it from 0-60mph in just 7.6 seconds. The BRZ's engine has to be worked hard and it can get noisy, but the six speed manual gearbox feels sporty and fun to use. Especially when combined with the change-up light that blinks in the rev counter when it's time to change gear.
The optional five-speed automatic gearbox features steering wheel mounted paddles so you don’t have to take your hand from the wheel to change gear. Fitting the auto does dent performance, so 0-60mph takes 8.2 seconds and top speed is reduced from 140mph to 130mph.
Price, value for money & options
Low asking price means the BRZ is brilliant value
Standard-fit equipment on the BRZ includes 17-inch alloy wheels, and a limited-slip differential for extra grip when coming out of corners. The only model available is the SE Lux and it comes with keyless entry and a push-button start, climate control, USB port, a 12v plug and cruise control. Buyers can also choose to fit a Pioneer sat-nav option, but it is expensive to buy and confusing to use, meaning it makes more sense to buy an aftermarket system.
What the others say
It’s a low-built, short-overhang, long-wheelbase rear-drive coupe. But the centre of mass is even lower than everyone else’s cars of that type, because it has a flat-four engine. And actually the flat-four is even lower and far further back than with other Subarus, because (since it’s RWD-only) there are no front driveshafts or diff in the way. There’s a limited-slip diff. It uses comparatively narrow tyres, so its 200bhp is enough.
Toyota and Subaru have unveiled the production versions of their jointly developed new sports cars at the Tokyo motor show. The Japanese car-makers boast that at 4.2 metres long, 1.3 metres tall and 1.8 metres wide the Toyota GT 86 and Subaru BRZ are the world’s most compact four-seaters. The new platform has been designed to allow drivers to return to the “fundamentals joys of motoring”, which means combining light weight and near-perfect 53:47 front-to-rear weight distribution with a high-revving engine, with power sent to the rear wheels via a limited-slip differential.
At low speed, though, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. The engine doesn't produce peak torque of 205Nm until a heady 6,400rpm and with anything less than 4,000rpm on the tacho, it feels rather flat. If you've been used to driving, say, a VW Golf GTI, this might come as a shock.
One of the engineering team’s core aims was to give the lowest possible centre of gravity – just 460mm. Toyota likes to point out that this is lower than the C-of-G of a Porsche Boxster, Subaru preferred to tell us that the figure was better than that of 458 Italia. Clever weight saving includes the use of high-strength in the roof and upper structure of the car, to reduce mass further, and even the use of thinner glass for windscreen and side windows.