The Subaru BRZ has the best attributes for a sports car in Britain, with a compact shape, just the right size for a B-roads blast. It has a low-slung stance which separates it from similarly priced hatchbacks. Form follows function too, especially the knee-grazing bonnet, made possible by the compact boxer-engine. Even the rising front wheelarches are designed to be seen from the driving seat, to aid confident positioning of the car along the road.
Subaru isn’t renowned for the aesthetics of its interiors, and the BRZ isn’t going to change that. Large swathes of silver and the old-school stereo certainly won’t win any design awards. But – and this is a big but – the BRZ’s driving position is superb, the steering wheel is small and tactile and the gearbox is a pleasure to use. Sit in the body-hugging standard seats and the BRZ instantly feels like a club racer with the luxuries left intact.
There are two ways of approaching this subject. Compared to a hot hatchback, the BRZ is undoubtedly compromised. For a start, the rear seats are just for kids and there’s no large hatchback opening for the boot. But, compare the BRZ to its direct rivals and it fares much better. Its 243-litre boot is significantly larger than an MX-5’s, and with the rear seats folded down for extra space this increases to 1,270 litres, easily dwarfing a MINI Coupe’s diminutive load space.
Ride and handling
It’s hard to drive the BRZ without a smile on your face, as it can make even a city commute entertaining. The steering is effortlessly direct and there’s no slack in the car’s responses as you dart from one corner to the next. It’s not all about speed – its tyres are shared with the Toyota Prius – but about interacting with the car within the speed limit. In fact, even at 30mph you can feel the inherent balance of the car and the balance of grip between the front and rear wheels. In an era of car design in which the majority of sports cars serve up big performance with minimal effort from the driver, the BRZ is a perfect antidote.
The 2.0-litre Boxer petrol engine fitted in the BRZ has 200bhp and gets you to 62mph in 7.4 seconds. It has proved somewhat controversial too; with the internet abuzz with claims it doesn’t offer enough power against some cars costing the same amount. Our observations are that this motor is quite sensitive to ‘running-in’ and feels more powerful as mileage increases. We also think it has plenty of power to make the BRZ thoroughly entertaining to drive. While it might not be as quick in a straight line as a 258bhp Mazda 3 MPS, it makes up for it all with driver involvement. We’d recommend the six-speed manual over the automatic, as everything about the BRZ screams interaction between driver and machine.
With no turbocharger to boost the efficiency of the rev-hungry 2.0-litre, fuel economy averages 36mpg (or a slightly thriftier 40mpg with the automatic gearbox) while emissions are 181g/km of CO2 (or 164g/km for the automatic). The 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5 also averages 36mpg and emits 181g/km, but has 40bhp less power.
Subaru has a great reputation for reliability and customer satisfaction. Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index places Subaru 12 th of 38 manufacturers. The BRZ is also sold with Subaru’s five-year, 100,000 mile warranty.
The BRZ is fitted with fog lights, LED daytime running lights, front, side, curtain and knee airbags, ABS and Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC). The last feature can be left on to help prevent skids, turned to a ‘Sport’ setting to allow some slip from the tyres before intervening, or switched off completely.
Standard equipment levels are good, with the SE version getting dual-zone air-con, black fabric bucket seats, 17-inch alloys, remote central locking, cruise control, auto lights, folding heated door mirrors, USB and Aux inputs and keyless entry with a start/stop button. SE Lux models get leather and Alcantara sports seats, which are also heated.
If you want to remember the joy of driving, without going at triple-digit speeds, the Subaru BRZ is a brilliant way to get your fix. It’s practical enough to be driven every day, but as much fun as something significantly more expensive.