The Subaru BRZ is the twin brother of the Toyota GT86 and, like that car, it’s set up to provide a thrilling drive. It does that wonderfully well, but isn’t necessarily that easy to live with in everyday life.
The Subaru BRZ was developed alongside the Toyota GT86 and, like that car, it’s a back-to-basics sports coupe that you could consider as an alternative to models such as the Audi TT, BMW 2 Series and Mazda MX-5 RF.
Unsurprisingly, the Subaru looks very like the Toyota, but that’s no bad thing. It’s a neat, low-slung and relatively subtle coupe, whose small size reflects its back-to-basics mission.
The only trouble is that, sadly, that philosophy is also only too obvious in the cabin, where you won’t find anything as smart and high-quality as you would in an Audi TT, for example.
In many ways, the BRZ feels very dated inside, but on the other hand, everything is geared around the needs of the driver – and, arguably, that’s as it should be in a car like this Subaru. The driving position is excellent, the sports seats are suitably body-hugging and all the controls are angled towards the driver, while the high-ish centre console makes it feel a little like you’re sitting in a cockpit.
The Subaru BRZ is even moderately practical – for two. There’s plenty of room in the front seats and, although the rear seats are only suitable for kids, the same is true of plenty of the car’s rivals. Even the boot is a decent size for a sports coupe, although the opening itself is actually quite narrow.
Mind you, if you’re even considering something like a BRZ, the likelihood is that things like practicality will be well down your wishlist. You’ll be after a cracking drive – and that’s just what you get. In fact, the Subaru BRZ may be even better than the GT86 thanks to a slightly more focussed suspension set up.
This is fabulous fun and tremendously involving to hustle down a twisty B-road and – thanks to the skinny tyres – you can reach the car’s limits at speeds that won’t necessarily get you points on your licence. The wonderful balance of the chassis combined with the feel through the steering and the feeling of involvement guarantees a smile on your face when you’re driving.
The Subaru BRZ is four-wheeled proof that the simpler things in life are often the best. It’s no more than what you need to have a fantastic drive – and all the better for it.
Then, when you’re done lapping up the crisp agility and the quick steering response and settle down to a cruise, the Subaru BRZ is still a capable car. Naturally, the suspension is firm to ensure the sharp handling, but it’s never uncomfortable and a motorway run isn’t out of the question. The only trouble is that the engine’s lack of low-down pull means overtaking manoeuvres can require a lot of gear changes.
In that sense, this 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit is a classic sports car engine – powerful at the top end of the rev range, but not that strong at lower revs. If you’re a keen driver, that won’t be a problem, as making liberal use of the gearbox to keep the engine running at its best is arguably part of the thrill of driving a sports car. However, people used to more modern engines may find that lack of low-down pull a little frustrating.
It means the engine can feel a little slow to respond and, even when you’re flat out, the 0-60mph sprint time of 7.6 seconds isn’t that special. On the other hand, the BRZ is fairly economical by sports car standards: Subaru claims the car can return more than 35mpg.
That good-value feel is also part of the BRZ’s appeal and, as one of the most affordable sports coupes on the market, it looks like a pretty enticing proposition on paper – especially when you consider how much equipment it comes with.
The safety equipment includes seven airbags, Isofix seat anchoring points, brake force distribution, brake assist and whiplash-preventing headrests, while the luxuries extend to alloy wheels, dual-zone air con, cruise control and heated front leather seats. On top of that, the BRZ has a five-year/100,000-mile warranty and will be a less common sight than the GT86, which should make it feel more exclusive.
To cut a long story short, you should certainly take a look at the Subaru BRZ if you’re a keen driver who wants a top-notch sports car that doesn’t have a killer price tag or crippling running costs. Perhaps the biggest challenge is deciding between this and the Toyota.