From £21,485
The Subaru BRZ is hugely appealing – a modern day version of the MX-5 or MR2

Our Verdict

Subaru BRZ

The BRZ and the GT86 are two peas from the same pod, but we find out if the Subaru moniker makes it a different beast to the superb Toyota?

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    Subaru BRZ

    The Subaru BRZ is hugely appealing – a modern day version of the MX-5 or MR2
10 August 2011

What is it?

This is the Subaru BRZ, which is most easily introduced as Subaru’s take on the Toyota GT 86 – although that statement is factually contentious.

When, in 2008, Toyota chairman Katsuaki Watanabe decided he wanted an affordable 2+2 coupe, he found that his company was already at full capacity building cars it could sell, and its development engineers were flat out working on alternative powertrain projects. As a result, the Toyota GT 86 and Subaru BRZ rear-drive, front-engined coupes are, in fact, mostly a Subaru production. Oh, and there will likely be another spin-off, badged as a Scion FR-S, for the US market.

Read our Toyota FT-86 development car drive review

BRZ project leader Yoshio Hirakawa refers to the car as "ours" and confirms that Subaru was responsible for its development, testing and production, with Toyota – a 16.5 per cent share holder in Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries – taking the lead on project planning and design. To this end, Subaru has also built a new production facility for the car, near its main facility in Oizumi in Japan.

Hirakawa promotes Subaru’s version of the car as more focused at the enthusiast than the better-equipped Toyota. However, despite early reports that the Subaru may have more power, he also confirms that the differences between all three versions of the car are limited to wheel design, badges and interior trim, plus price.

He also confirms the BRZ was benchmarked against the Porsche Cayman R, eagerly pointing out that the Subaru is 100kg lighter than its rival at 1270kg, and has a centre of gravity 2.5cm lower. The more than 100bhp power deficit is not dwelled on so long, however.

See pics of the Subaru BRZ in action

What’s it like?

At its heart is the Subaru 2.0-litre flat-four front-mounted engine, codenamed FB20 and established already in the Impreza. However, it sits 12cm lower in the engine bay than in the Impreza, and 24cm further back. The result is a claimed 45:55 per cent weight distribution front to rear.

In the car we drove the result was a joy. Subaru is claiming 200bhp at 7000rpm and a redline than starts at 7500rpm, plus maximum torque of 151lb ft at 4000rpm. It felt quick enough, and, thanks to the Toyota-derived cylinder head and direct injection it speeds up faster than any other normally aspirated Subaru boxer engine. Only from 1800-3000rpm is the absence of boost slightly noticeable.

The Subaru BRZ feels agile and light-footed. Turn in to a fast corner and it understeers only very slightly, but trail the brakes or lift mid-corner and that quickly turns in to controllable oversteer. At high speeds it feels very stable – thanks in no small part to its relatively long 2570mm wheelbase.

The engine can be linked to manual or automatic six-speed gearboxes. The first three gear ratios of the manual are shorter than the steps of the automatic box in order to increase the low torque gap and sharpen the sporty handling. The automatic box, which image-wise probably fits better to the Toyota version, comes with the three modes 'Auto', 'Manual' and 'Temporary Manual', the latter allowing downshifting via paddles behind the steering wheel. Both work well, but the manual is more fun.

The only real note of caution concerns the interior, although bear in mind that we drove an early version. Subaru may describe the interior as pure, but some customers may regard it as spartan. No premium materials were visible in this car. However, that emphasis on basic functionality has its merits – from the driver’s seat you are confronted by a big rev counter, the speedometer sitting off to the left and the temperature and fuel gauges to the right. The design is clean but basic; if readability at speed was the only goal, then they are a success.

Should I buy one?

Yes. The growing conclusion is that the hardest decision will not be whether to part with your money, but choosing between the Subaru and Toyota.

Juergen Zoellter

Subaru BRZ

Price: TBC; 0-62mph: 7.0sec (est); Top speed: 130mph (est); Kerb weight: 1220kg; Economy: 35mpg (est, combined); CO2: 190g/km (est); Engine 4cys, horizontally opposed 2.0-litre petrol; Max power: 200bhp at 7500rpm (est); Max torque: 151lb ft at 4500rpm (est); Gearbox: Six speed manual/auto.

Join the debate


7 November 2011

This seems to be a good car both in Subaru and Toyota forms, not sure about the Halfords wing though.

7 November 2011

Unless the spec is considerably different, I can see Toyota being the biggest seller of this vehicle in the UK, purely because of the larger dealer network.



It's all about the twisties........

7 November 2011

My closest dealer is a Subaru one; providing I can get the sprogs in the back this will be a must for a test drive!

What else is there similar at £21k? Apart from the Toyota version of the same I can't think of anything...

7 November 2011

I really am looking forward to this car (and the FT-86). It takes me back to the 90s, when driver oriented and affordable Japanese cars were all the rage. Perhaps a modern day 200SX is on the cards. Right, Nissan?

7 November 2011

I see my and others' posts pointing out the appalling spelling and grammar in the article have now disappeared, and the article corrected.

An airbrushing of 'inconvenient' history that would make Stalin proud.


(This is a light-hearted joke, by the way. I'm hoping that you see the funny side, and don't delete this post too!)

7 November 2011

If either this or the Toyota can make it to the UK and go on sale for much under £30K I'll be surprised. Pleasantly surprised but surprised nevertheless! I know we'd all love it to be closer to that £21K figure but I just can't see it happening... It's still a step in the right direction and hopefully it'll be a success, inspiring others to reconsider a "budget" RWD car again...

7 November 2011

"The result is a claimed 45:55 per cent weight distribution front to rear."

It's incredible. And without a transaxle transmission?!

I've seen a repartition of 53:47 for the FT86 which seems more credible.

7 November 2011

Most new cars that launch make me despair a little it more, but this pair are intriguing. I've given up any hope of pretty cars any more now that aggressive-ugly is the new beautiful, but the idea and spec is great. And how nice to read [quote Autocar]No premium materials were visible in this car[/quote]. 'Bout time!

  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

8 November 2011

Why can't Subaru make a mechanically different (i.e. quicker) version? Then I'd buy one.

This is like BL badge engineering.

9 November 2011

A 21st Century Celica with the heart of a Subaru - sounds good to me, whichever badge it carries


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