Subaru BRZ

   I’m pretty sure that if you asked a teenage boy to draw you a sportscar the end result would bear a striking resemblance to a Subaru BRZ. Long bonnet, short tail, two doors, coupe roofline… and if the sketches were anything like the ones I used to scribble on the back of my exercise book during double biology, wheels that look a tad too small and struggle to fill the arches. I never could get those proportions just right.  No doubt there’d be a big boot- spoiler, a rear-splitter, and twin tail-pipes too. The BRZ has them all. Its styling, a combination of swooping curves and the kind of creases a master of origami would be proud of, is un-mistakably Japanese.

     BRZ - the B stands for boxer (as in flat-4, as in horizontally opposed cylinders, engine); the R for rear-wheel drive (naturally, it is a sports coupe after all) and the Z stands for Zenith (I’m really not sure why). It’s mechanically, and for the most-part visibly, identical to Toyota’s GT86 – y’know, the car they let the “celebrities” drive on the new series of Top Gear, and the one Winston White (Harvey Keitel) turns up in in the Direct Line adverts?  Apart from an ever-so slightly different suspension set-up, and of course different wheels and badging, the two cars are all but identical. Funny then that people still stop, walk slowly around it, and then ask, “Nice car mate. What is it?”  

    Judging by the amount of times I got asked that during my tenure-ship of Subaru’s press fleet BRZ, I’d say it’s probably not a car for shrinking violets. It garners attention; and if ever there was a car appeals to the Fast and Furious Brigade trust me this is it.

    The BRZ’s interior on the other hand isn’t worthy of anywhere near so much praise. The suede covered hip-hugging seats are fantastic, and superbly supportive; visibility is good in almost every direction thanks to the thin windscreen pillars; and the driving position, once you’ve slid aboard that is, is nigh-on perfect regardless of your size. But, the quality of the materials used really is a let-down. The plastics are hard, the switches feel cheap, and the overall look is very dated. You do get some nice clear dials, and those seats are super comfy, but as far as home comforts… well, that’s a about it. A very “aftermarket”, and optional, looking radio-cum-sat-nav unit sits centre stage - its sound and graphics are poor - and the overall look is one of a 1980’s arcade game. It’s all a bit kit-car. By comparison Mazda’s similarly priced and similarly sized MX-5 RF feels like luxury. 

   Press the starter button on the centre console and things improve. The BRZ has been built to be driven; every input you make is responded to immediately. The steering is beautifully direct and it tells you everything, the throttle response immediate. Thanks to the 2.0 litre flat-four being naturally aspirated there’s no waiting for a turbo to spool up.

    With only 197bhp Subaru’s little coupe doesn’t feel particularly rapid: 0-62 takes 8.2 seconds, and with peak power not arriving until 7000rpm it needs to be revved hard to make the best of what it’s got. But what it’s got is coupled to a chassis that makes the BRZ feel light and nimble. It flatters you as a driver.

   Carry little too much speed in to a corner and the front wheels will just scrub it off with a little predictable under-steer. Get your entry right though, and with the traction control set to Sport Mode and a liberal application of your right foot on the exit, you can indulge in the most controllable over-steer you’re ever likely to encounter in sports coupe costing the right side of £28,000…

    If that is you’ve bought the BRZ with a manual gearbox, which once warmed through is a delight. “My” BRZ on the other hand came with a 6-speed automatic. Why would Subaru do such a thing? Even with the column mounted shift paddles it does the BRZ no favours at all. It robs the driver of any real enjoyment – how can you heel-and-toe in an auto? It ups the already average fuel consumption, it blunts performance, and it raises CO2. It also makes what has the potential to be a wailing banshee of an engine note sound like an industrial hoover. Unless you really have to it, save your save yourself its extra cost and swap ratios yourself. You won’t regret it. The BRZ demands it.

    Don’t buy a BRZ either if you need to carry more than one passenger.  No-one will ever thank you for making them sit in the back. The rear seats are far too small for anything but the shortest of journeys. The boot isn’t very big either.

     But that’s not what the BRZ is about. It’s been built purely to offer good old fashioned front-engined, rear-wheel-drive fun.

  As long as you can live with its dated interior, you buy one with three pedals and a proper gearbox, and you can live with every teenage boy saying whoa! (Or words to that effect) every time you stop somewhere, the BRZ never fails to deliver just that.


Subaru BRZ SE Lux Auto

Engine: 1998cc flat 4Cyl 16V petrol

Transmission: 6 speed Manual, rear wheel drive.

Power:  197bhp @ 7000rpm

Torque: 151 lbft @6400 – 6600 rpm

0-62MPH: 8.2 Sec

Max Speed: 130mph

CO2: 164g/km

MPG: 39.8 combined

Price: From £27,995


Many thanks to Jade Wells at Subaru’s UK press office for the loan of the BRZ



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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