Subaru BRZ coupe
Price £26,495 - £27,995
- 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 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.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Highly tuned engine returns around 36mpg
These days, even sports cars have to be efficient and the BRZ should be quite cheap to run. Subaru claims 36mpg, which is not bad considering how highly tuned the engine is. It's pretty clean too with CO2 emissions of 181g/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 bought in in greater numbers, so residual values should be strong.
Interior & comfort
Susupension is firm but BRZ is happy on the motorway
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.
Practicality & boot space
The BRZ offers less cabin space than almost all premium hatchbacks
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.
Reliability & safety
Safety and reliability levels should be high
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.
Engines, drive & performance
Much more involving to drive than an 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 eight 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.
Price, value for money & options
Low asking price means the BRZ is brilliant value
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 start, climate control, cruise control, heated mirrors and a dock for iPods and other music players. The optional sat-nav looks and feels a bit cheap, but that doesn't detract from the BRZ's brilliant overall value.
What the others say
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.
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.