From £21,4859
With its fractionally sharper dynamics, well-appointed interior and keen price, the Subaru BRZ has never made a stronger case for itself

Our Verdict

Subaru BRZ

The Subaru BRZ 2+2 coupé is the marque's own product from its collaboration with Toyota, which also resulted in the GT86

  • First Drive

    Subaru BRZ SE Lux 2017 review

    With its fractionally sharper dynamics, well-appointed interior and keen price, the Subaru BRZ has never made a stronger case for itself
  • First Drive

    Subaru BRZ

    The Subaru BRZ is hugely appealing – a modern day version of the MX-5 or MR2
Neil Winn - Autocar
28 February 2017

What is it?

The Subaru BRZ is the other half of the now iconic joint venture that resulted in Toyota launching the GT86, and it’s the half that we unashamedly prefer.

Yoshio Hirakawa – the man responsible for the development, testing and production of both coupés – was adamant throughout development that the Subaru should be the more focused of the duo, so he ensured that the BRZ received slightly sharper steering, a keener front end and better high-speed damping than the more ‘luxurious’ GT86. And in our minds, it has always been the purest distillation of what the ‘Toyobaru’ should be.

But for the majority of buyers, superior dynamics will always come second to a better-equipped cabin, a longer warranty and increased refinement, so it came as little surprise that the plusher Toyota, with the added advantage of a widespread dealership network and a slick advertising campaign, outsold its more focused sibling by roughly five to one.

However, Subaru, not one to lie down without a fight (the company did win three World Rally Championship titles, after all), is back with a comprehensive mid-life facelift that promises to build on what we already love about the current car – namely, that great chassis and characterful engine – and to rectify the poor ride quality and a distinctly spartan interior that we're not so keen on.

Therefore, on the inside, a compact 4.2in screen has been added to the old-school instrument panel, there's a new, smaller-diameter steering wheel similar to that applied to the GT86 and the interior now features Alcantara throughout. And for the first time, all BRZs now receive a 6.1in touchscreen with a Bluetooth-compatible system that acts as the single interface for everything from sat-nav (optional) to smartphones.

On the outside, the changes are less obvious: new headlights now feature different day-time running lights, the front bumper gets redesigned side vents and the bootlid gets a tacked-on rear wing. Small changes no doubt, but to these eyes at least, the overall aesthetic is distinctly sharper and more cohesive than Toyota’s effort. 

What's it like?

Those craving improved straight-line performance are set to be disappointed, because Subaru, like Toyota, has not seen fit to add more power, so the 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine still produces 197bhp and 151lb ft. However, the strength of the engine block has been increased, the rocker arms have been lightened and friction has been reduced on the camshaft. All of these, Subaru claims, contribute to slightly lower emissions.

What hasn’t changed, however, is that the engine still needs to be revved hard to get the most from it. With peak torque arriving at a heady 6400rpm, quick progress demands fast gearchanges, clever footwork and high corner speed. Unfortunately the torque dip at 4100rpm still remains, but we found that when pushing on, you rarely find yourself dropping much below 5000rpm.

However, it’s in the corners where the BRZ really shines. For 2017 the front springs have been stiffened and the rears have been softened off, while the opposite has been done to the anti-roll bars. This makes the front end even pointier, so in slippery winter conditions you might expect this to make the car feel somewhat edgy, especially on its low-grip Michelin Primacy tyres. But combined with the remapped steering, which has been tuned to build weight more smoothly off-centre, the BRZ feels remarkably stable and confidence-inspiring at speed.

By tweaking the dampers and stiffening the suspension, the revised BRZ also feels noticeably more progressive up to, and over, the limit. Turn in to a quick corner and the car will push on initially, but trail the brakes or lift mid-corner and that push quickly transfers into easily controllable oversteer. The car’s new Track mode will also allow you to do all of this without risking getting too out of shape, and, rather impressively, if you do overstep the mark, the software now brings you back into line in a controlled manner, unlike the previous model's distinctly binary system.

The dampers have also been fettled to transmit fewer vibrations into the cabin than before, but without testing the cars back to back, it’s hard to decipher if there has been a noticeable improvement. What we can say, however, is that while the ride is firm, it’s not too harsh, and at higher speeds the BRZ feels impressively stable, thanks in part to a relatively long 2570mm wheelbase.

Where the Subaru does let the side down, however, is in the interior. Despite the fact that most of the cheap-feeling plastics have been replaced with leather and Alcantara, the overall aesthetic is still distinctly 1990s. And for all that the BRZ has been calling out for a standard-fit sat-nav, the system fitted to this 2017 model feels simply archaic alongside the units found in the Audi TT and significantly cheaper Mazda MX-5. Ultimately, for a car approaching £27,500 (the sat-nav is a £1250 option), it’s hard to not to feel somewhat short-changed. 

Should I buy one?

We said in our first drive of the BRZ way back in 2012 that "the hardest decision will not be whether to part with your money at all, but choosing between the Subaru and Toyota". Thankfully, Subaru has made this decision somewhat more straightforward in 2017.

Instead of offering two separate trim levels like Toyota, Subaru only offers one: the fully loaded £26,050 SE Lux. For that money, you get goodies such as heated Alcantara seats, a leather dashboard, Bluetooth compatibility, keyless entry and the new rear spoiler. A GT86 in the same specification would cost you more than £1500 extra.

Will it be enough to lure buyers into showrooms? It’s hard to say, but there’s no doubt that the decision to put a BRZ on your drive has never been easier.

Subaru BRZ SE Lux review

Location Gloucestershire; On Sale Now; Price £26,050; Engine 4 cyls horizontally opposed, 2000cc, petrol; Power 197bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 151lb ft at 6400rpm; 0-62mph 7.6sec; Top speed 140mph; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1275kg; Economy 36.2mpg (combined); CO2 180g/km, 33%; Rivals Toyota GT86, Nissan 370ZAudi TT

Join the debate

Comments
15

28 February 2017
Is it just me or does anyone else find it a bit 80's looking?

28 February 2017
I recall hearing that Subaru was only allowed to sell a tenth of these cars compared with the Toyota version in the UK. If they've managed to do 1:5 ratio they're doing something right! Which is surprising given how incompetent Subaru UK is. They stoped doing the WRC Blue Subaru and turned it in to a hatch-back. Claimed you couldn't get a saloon version, yet you could find them in every other Subaru website in Europe, or even the Japanese website.

1 March 2017
Part of the problem is that the Subaru dealer network is so small,my nearest dealer is forty miles away from my home. There's no way that they can compete with Toyota's extensive network.

1 March 2017
A car needed a Turbo this is it. 151lb ft of torque, peak torque comes in at a heady 6400rpm, "Unfortunately, the torque dip at 4,100rpm still remains" these are words you dont's want to hear in a £26,000. Add a Subaru Turbo, maybe lose some weight, keep below £29,000 and you won't be that far behind a 370Z or TT

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 March 2017
[quote=xxxx]A car needed a Turbo this is it. 151lb ft of torque, peak torque comes in at a heady 6400rpm, "Unfortunately, the torque dip at 4,100rpm still remains" these are words you dont's want to hear in a £26,000. Add a Subaru Turbo, maybe lose some weight, keep below £29,000 and you won't be that far behind a 370Z or TT[/quote] You are probably right, people are used to hi torque diesels and turbocharged hot hatches nowadays, personally I prefer naturally aspirated engines, though this torque dip doesn't sound great, using the full rev range and down changing to overtake is all part of the fun to me as opposed to just flooring it in top and riding the torque wave.

1 March 2017
The price for these is a joke. Its like something from 20 years ago, in terms of build and old hat everything. And they look so so bland. You can get a new discounted M140i for 26k (slightly different I know).

1 March 2017
The price is just about right for what you get,I'm afraid that your talking through your hat about build quality,Subaru build quality is second to none. I'veo had my BRZ for nearly a year and there's no way I'd swap it for any of the BMW range

1 March 2017
[quote=ianp55]The price is just about right for what you get,I'm afraid that your talking through your hat about build quality,Subaru build quality is second to none. I'veo had my BRZ for nearly a year and there's no way I'd swap it for any of the BMW range[/quote] Is it the stunning low rent interior you like? Or unrefined engine?

1 March 2017
I would've thought it will be the sublime handling that it has.

Where has all Japanese design went to?

1 March 2017
[quote=robhardyuk]The price for these is a joke. Its like something from 20 years ago, in terms of build and old hat everything. And they look so so bland. You can get a new discounted M140i for 26k (slightly different I know).[/quote] I'm interested, where?

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK