Subaru BRZ (2012) Review

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Subaru BRZ (2012) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
As we’re ever more restricted by tighter speed limits and mute, uninvolving, nannying daily drivers the BRZ is a reminder that driving can be hugely entertaining, at sane, sensible speeds.

+Fine handling and enjoyable to drive, sweet-shifting manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, surprisingly practical for a sports car, gets Apple CarPlay which you don’t with the Toyota GT86.

-Interior plastics are a bit low rent, enjoyable as wringing the engine out is when you want to it’s a bit slow when you don’t, you’ll spend your life explaining what it is to people...

New prices start from £27,525
Insurance Groups are between 30–31
On average it achieves 108% of the official MPG figure

Light, compact and agile is everything sports car fans want, and Subaru delivers exactly that with its BRZ, so it should sell in huge numbers. It doesn’t, which is odd given it pretty much ticks every box in for those who like, no, love, driving. The BRZ is stymied for a couple of reasons, Subaru is a tiny part player in the UK market, and the BRZ is available from Toyota dealers wearing its T on the nose and the GT86 badge on the bootlid. Its specification underlines that Toyota’s pinched its sportscar from Subaru, as the BRZ features the company’s well-known boxer engine under the low bonnet, which helps keep things low and level in the corners. If you enjoy driving, it’s worth looking out for a BRZ.

Looking for a Subaru BRZ (2012 on)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

Subaru might be long associated with asymmetrical four-wheel drive and rugged utility, but the BRZ ditches some driveshafts, sends its meagre power to the rear and isn’t ever likely to cross a field – unless, of course, you get it spectacularly wrong going around a corner.

It does come with Subaru’s other notable technical quirk, a boxer engine. If that means nothing to you then it’s forgivable, but, simply, it’s got an engine that has two sets of pistons working opposite to each other. That means the engine is ‘flat’ – like those in a Porsche 911 - allowing it to sit low in the chassis, to the benefit of weight distribution. 

Unlike the Porsche’s boxer engine the one in the BRZ is naturally-aspirated, 2.0-litres in capacity and only has four-cylinders, all of which means it’s got a fairly modest 200PS, which is delivered pretty high up the rev range.

That’s not a complaint though, as the BRZ’s light, and part of the joy of driving it is the need to work with what you’ve got, maintaining speed via the BRZ’s accomplished dynamics. It’s on skinny little tyres, you sit low, right between the wheels and need to work the engine and either the sweet-shifting six-speed manual or the not as appealing, but easier day-to-day, paddle-shifted automatic, pretty hard to get the most from it.

Do that and the BRZ is a hugely rewarding, engaging, enjoyable driver’s car, that is a rare treat these days. There’s none of the meddling ‘driver aids’ you’ll find on more expensive rivals, the BRZ a pared, back-to-basics sports car for those who enjoy the journey as much as reaching their destination. 

It might be simple, but it’s not overly compromised. There are a pair of seats in the rear, which might not be able to fit adults but can accommodate small children if necessary, while the boot’s a decent size for a car that puts driver appeal at the top of the list of priorities.

It’s only offered in coupe form, too, which differentiates it from what’s arguably its key rival, and other driver-focussed small car from Japan, the Mazda MX-5. Buying a BRZ is a very deliberate choice, then, one that defines you as someone who enjoys their driving, that even more so if you pick the Subaru over its more common Toyota GT86 relation.  

That GT86 and the Mazda MX-5 might be its most obvious rivals, but if you’re in the market for a small hot hatch then the GT86 is likely to appeal.

It might lack their outright firepower, but the fine balance from the chassis and the joy you’ll have on the right road will see you forgive it that.

Ask Honest John

Buying a sports car - GT86, BRZ or S2000?
"I have been reading your reviews and was thinking what you would recommend out of the Subaru BRZ, Toyota GT86 and Honda S2000 in terms of resale value?"
The S2000 had a long production run, but is now out of production. Though a decent car it is not rare. The latest examples had better steering so are better to drive. The GT86 and BRZ are new models, basically the same car with different badging. There are a few trim options, such as leather and sat nav, which you need to have. Whether to go for the manual or automatic is a personal decision. In the USA, probably better to go automatic because that increases the number of potential buyers. In the UK probably better to go manual. Something you might not expect is the lack of torque in the higher gears, requiring downchanging if the speed of traffic drops on an incline. I can't tell you how well the GT86 and BRZ will hold their value. I can tell you that in the UK there are fewer BRZs.
Answered by Honest John
Which car to replace my Audi TT?
"I have owned a current shape Audi TT 2.0-litre turbo since new and it is now five years old. The car fits me very well but I am thinking now of replacing it. I need the load carrying capability and occasional rear seats. Is there anything else I should consider before buying another TT of the same shape a year before the new shape comes out? I have seen previews of the new shape and don't like it."
Toyota GT86, Subaru BRZ, Volkswagen Scirocco, KIA pro_cee’d GT, Hyundai Veloster Turbo.
Answered by Honest John
What should I replace my Porsche Cayman with?
"I received an unexpected text from my Porsche dealer asking if they could buy my 2006 34,800 mile Cayman. I responded and apparently they've had a run on used sales and are in need of stock, with a high demand for Caymans. My car has metallic black paint and has been a brilliant, trouble-free car (as was the Boxster that preceded it for three years). They are offering £17-18,000 subject to inspection and condition. As I approach my 59th birthday, I'm thinking that something more interesting, but more comfortable might take my fancy, and if I accept the Porsche offer, and add about £4-5,000, I'm comfortably into an 2008 BMW 630 Convertible. My wife and I have had several BMWs previously (she runs a 325i M Sport) and our local dealer give a truly fantastic service. I'm very tempted. What do you think?"
Possibly not to your taste, but the next hot thing will be the new Toyota GT86 and its Subaru clone (the car is a mix of Toyota and Subaru. Another possibility is a Nissan 350/370Z, but comfort is very tyre dependent. Then there's the BMW Z4. I like the old shape coupe, but would need to find someone who could sort it out and give a bit of feel to the steering.
Answered by Honest John
Two-seater sports car- Should I go for an Audi TT or Mercedes SLK?
"I am thinking of buying a nearly new two-seater and have narrowed it down to a Audi TT roadster or a Mercedes SLK 200 or 250. Which do you think is the better car? Is the SLK underpowered and noisy?"
The current SLK 200 and particularly the 250CFI are not very sporty. If you want a sportscar in the £25k - £30k bracket get a Toyota GT86 or Subaru BRZ.
Answered by Honest John

What does a Subaru BRZ (2012) cost?