Review: Subaru BRZ
PUBLISHED: 13:11 23 August 2015 | UPDATED: 13:15 23 August 2015
Japan's all-wheel drive star strayed from the rugged path to produce a sporting gem, a secret that's all too well-kept.
Subaru once seemed like a brand having its cake and eating it. On the one hand, it had well-established volumes selling smart yet rugged all-wheel drive estates like the Legacy, Outback, and the original Forester.
On the other was the snorting, turbocharged, all-wheel drive rally heritage Impreza series. Both sets of customers seemed happy to co-exist, until the former became a little too aware of the other’s chavvy penchant for Burberry baseball caps and gold alloy wheels.
With that – and a few rocky years of the Yen riding high against Sterling – Subaru lost ground. Which is a shame, when one of the brand’s current gems is the BRZ, a classic rear-driven sports coupe with oodles of entertainment but, seemingly, one of the motor market’s best kept secrets.
OK, it’s not typical of Japan’s all-wheel drive guru brand, but when the world’s No 1 carmaker, Toyota, holds a 16.5 per cent share in your parent company Fuji Heavy Industries and wants your help making a sports car, you do tend to nod and shout ‘Hai!’
You can see the benefit for Toyota: having lost its way after creating fast, affordable halo cars like the Celica, Supra and MR2. But it doesn’t really fit with what Subaru has produced before.
Toyota contributed design leadership and new direct petrol-injection technology, allowing the car’s high non-turbocharged 197bhp output from two litres.
Subaru supplied the platform and one of its trademark boxer (horizontally-opposed) engines, allowing an ultra-low profile and superb balance, encouraging keen drivers to gently drift the back end out when cornering with traction control off. The resulting car – launched in 2012 as the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ – offers the sort of affordable sporting fun previously owned by Mazda’s MX-5 roadster, especially after BMW axed its 1 Series Coupe last year.
Concentrating on the BRZ, there is one engine and effectively two models: the SE and slightly better specc’d SE Lux tested here, unless you crave either of those with a six-speed auto (add £1,500 to the list price) rather than the slick-flicking, six-speed manual ‘box.
Such a decision would seem bonkers, however, when you have one of the finest sports cars for the money and the auto wastes nearly a second on the 0-62mph sprint.
The cabin’s retro charm evokes those past Toyota heroes. Some might even say it’s cheap, but it feels robust and there are nice alloy finish pedals and a fashionable engine start/stop button. The only concession to the modern age is a central media/sat nav screen.
Cabin stowage is typically minimalist for a sports car, but there’s an uncharacteristically good boot, even if the aperture is narrow.
The front seats are well shaped, with two heavily bucketed ones in the back; you could carry four adults at a pinch, but the BRZ is more 2+2, if decidely more practical than most other, more expensive, sports cars I could mention.
There have been whinges that the engine is neither turbocharged nor sounds beefy, but it revs sweetly and distinctively once into its stride above 4,000 revs and hits 62mph in 7.6 seconds. Manoeuvrability is the key to the car’s appeal, however, helped by narrow wheels and tyres; scaling them up would surely lower the fun factor.
Price from: £22,495
Model featured: BRZ 2.0 SE Lux £23,995
Power: 200PS (197bhp) and 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds
Engine: 1,998cc flat four-cylinder petrol
Fuel consumption: 36.2mpg combined cycle
Road tax: £225/year
Best rival: Toyota GT86