Steve Sharpe drives the Subaru BRZ
Nowadays, the lines are being blurred between car manufacturers, as marques are taken over and joint ventures are undertaken..
The BRZ is a good example.
Subaru and Toyota joined forces to produce a rear-wheel drive, front-engined coupe, which resulted in the BRZ and Toyota’s GT86, its twin sibling.
Toyota’s designers were up to their ears with taking the company down their chosen route of hybrid power, so it was left to Subaru to do most of the work
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.
Over the last few years many of the major manufacturers have pooled resources to produce models which share platforms and parts, but such is the individual design of the BRZ that the two cars actually do appear almost identical.
But as they both look fantastic that’s no bad thing.
The BRZ has a powerful sports car look to it – low slung and flattened, with a roofline that sweeps into a blunt rear section, with muscular rear haunches and twin exhaust pipes.
Its narrow headlights squint menacingly between flared wheel-arches and over a bold front grille.
Subaru say the BRZ was born out of a desire for a back-to-basics sports car and while inside the cabin Subaru have kept things a minimum, this may or may not be to everyone’s taste.
The upright angle of the dash gives a real sports car feel to proceedings.
Your legs disappear straight out into the darkness of the footwell and the central console is tight up against your leg, enveloping you.
The steering wheel is chunky and free of controls, furthering the retro sports car feel.
This sports car ambience is furthered by red stitching splashed liberally around, but it’s let down by some cheap-looking, hard plastics here and there.
The black and red lighting scheme looks good, though, and the gauges are clear and easy to read. The satnav is a bit small and can be difficult to make out what’s going on.
It’s a compact interior –once you’re in there’s plenty of room for the front seat occupants, but it can be a bit of a job entering such a low-slung car, especially when parked close to other vehicles.
While there’s plenty of room in the front, the two rear seats are really only suitable for children.
Our nine-year-old and his friend were fine for 40 or so miles, but even they complained about the lack of legroom and especially foot space, and that was with the two adults in the front adopting a driving position much further forward than normal.
The boot, though, is a good size, accommodating shopping bags and a suitcase with ease.
While the BRZ possesses headturning, sports car looks, it’s best driven hard to get the performance that its appearance would suggest.
The BRZ line-up in the UK is offered with a 2.0-litre petrol Boxer engine with a choice of two transmissions, six-speed manual and six-speed automatic with paddle shift, and two trim levels, SE and SE Lux.
The BRZ is lighter than its Toyota sibling, and that, combined with nicely weighted steering and a tarmac-hugging body, makes it a hugely-enjoyable car to take around country roads.
The big wheels grip superbly around tight corners, there’s very little body lean and the steering allows a load of feedback from the tarmac.
While lacking breathtaking acceleration, the BRZ is quick off the mark, and with the revs kept high you can really pour on the power.
The clutch in my test car was on the fierce side and took some acclimatising to, as did the somewhat clunky gearbox.
But it’s all accompanied by the fantastic burbling engine noise of the two-litre engine, a throaty roar that rises with the revs.
While its practicality is compromised by those rear seats where only a munchkin could be happy, the BRZ can perform as a day to day car
Visibility is fine all around, allowing for easy manoeuvrability around town, and although the suspension has been focused on sporty handling, it’s comfortable enough at low speeds on all but the roughest surfaces.
There’s reasonable fuel economy too, but driven hard it’s likely the true figures would be less.
There’s a fair bit of road noise coming through inside, though, and you may get some looks in Morrison’s car park when that engine roars.
Subaru hope that part of the BRZ’s appeal will be as an affordable sports car with the two models costing around £25,000 and £28,000, depending on trim level and transmission.
And to ensure value the company have included a decent amount of standard equipment on the BRZ. Every model gets body-hugging black fabric sports seats and tilt-adjustable telescopic steering wheel and dual-zone automatic air conditioning, plus front, side, curtain and knee airbags, 17-inch alloys, CD player and six speakers, multi-function display, pop-up headlamp washers, remote central locking, cruise control, automatic on/off headlamps, aluminium pedals, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, power-folding heated door-mirrors, keyless smart entry, engine Start/Stop push button, USB and auxiliary audio input jack.
SE Lux models add on leather and Alcantara-trimmed sports seats and seat heaters.
Another incentive will be Subaru’s Everything Taken Care of (ETCo) aftercare package, a free bonus worth up to £7,000, covering minor dent and scratch repairs, alloy wheel repairs, monthly wash, annual valet, lost keys replacement, service collection and delivery, annual wheel alignment check, first MOT cover, and winter wheel and tyre storage.
The BRZ is a real retro sports car, which looks fantastic and is a real headturner.
When I apologised to the man delivering our takeaway for my misplaced wallet, he replied: “No rush, mate, I’ll just stand here and look at your car.”
While it’s got its work cut out keeping up with the likes of the Audi TT, its retro charm and handling makes it a contender in the long term.
It’s a real hoot to drive, the sort of car that encourages you to take the long way home, just for the hell of it.
It’s a really likeable little sports coupe, and if you want to make an impression and have fun then you’ll love it.
Engine: 2litre petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
0-62: 7.6 seconds.
Top Speed: 143mph.
Economy: Avg 40.9mpg