Road Test: Subaru BRZ Lux
Sector: Coupe Price: £26,495 Fuel: 36.2mpg CO2: 181g/km
For the last two decades, Subaru has made a name for itself with its turbocharged four-wheel drive saloon cars, mixing high grip and plentiful power for high performance at a low price.
So the BRZ is a bit of a square peg in the round hole of Subaru’s sports heritage. There are only two driven wheels, at the back, and for now at least there’s no turbocharger under the bonnet.
It’s a legacy of an unusual upbringing. The BRZ is the result of a combined project with Toyota, which also spawned the GT86, and though they’re not identical the two cars are mechanically and visually very similar.
While the 198bhp 2.0-litre flat four engine under the bonnet sounds typically Subaru, there’s arguably more Toyota on show here. Its window line, the bulges on its front wings and the rear three quarter with muscular shoulder line all pay homage to the iconic Toyota 2000GT, and there’s even an engine link back to the Toyota Sports 800 supercar which also had a horizontally-opposed engine.
Nonetheless, Subaru has attempted to put a bit of distance between the BRZ and its Toyota cousin. The front bumper is entirely different, as are the grilles in the wings, and that famed Subaru WR Blue Mica paint isn’t available on the GT86
There are marked differences inside, too. Where the Toyota has a tessellated T pattern throughout the cabin, the BRZ has matte silver panels, simple black-on-red instruments and a fiddly Pioneer navigation system. That’s a tough sell for a car which is priced in line with the soft-touch interiors and usable rear seats found in European hot hatches and front-wheel drive coupes.
The rest is good news though. Slide into the cabin and you’re greeted by one of the best seating positions this side of the supercar sector, peering down a long and contoured bonnet from behind a perfectly sized steering wheel. The bucket seats are designed for people with a small frame, but strike a good balance between gripping occupants without causing aches on long trips.
Performance from the 2.0-litre engine is brisk, helped by a supermini-like 1,230kg kerb weight, and most its power arrives at the top end of the rev range. It’s stiffly sprung and the steering is heavy, but there’s never a point where you feel like it’s working against you. Rather exactly the opposite – there’s a good sense of how much grip you’ve got left and, though there was no opportunity to test this on track, the firm front suspension reduces roll at the nose and results in more neutral handling than in the tail-happy GT86. Whether that’s a plus point or not depends on the driver.
The soundtrack varies from a flat metallic engine note to a growl which amplifies exponentially as you put the engine under load. There’s not much drivetrain noise while cruising, and the suspension is fine for motorway trips where it’ll average around 40mpg without much effort.
But the BRZ comes into its own on Britain’s winding country roads, where the connected feeling it offers with the tarmac beneath makes it a joy to experience even without pushing the limits of grip or straying over the speed limit. In a market filled with 250bhp hot hatches, it’s a pleasing alternative.
Ideally the BRZ needs a turbocharged version to set it aside from its Toyota sibling, and if Subaru’s concepts are anything to go by then an STI model is almost definitely in the pipeline. In the meantime, this may have shed its Subaru stablemates’ recipe for high performance but it’s about as much fun as you can hope to have for £25,000 (in entry-level spec), without risking your licence.
The BRZ takes some beating as a driver’s car. It’s quick and sure-footed enough to be enormous fun, without needing to reach for its limits, yet it's reasonably fuel efficient and comes backed by a five-year warranty. Picking between this and the Toyota ultimately comes down to personal taste, and whether you value having the rarer of a thoroughly enjoyable pair.