Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Subaru BRZ First Drive

Subaru might be best known in Australia for its all-wheel drive SUVs, but its rear drive BRZ sports car is destined to become a legend, says Isaac Bober.

Developed in conjunction with Toyota, the Subaru BRZ offers an intoxicating blend of aggressive looks and razor-sharp handling at a price that won’t bust the budget. Indeed, we’ve been waiting a long time for a car like this: a low weight, low price, compact sports car.

Under the bonnet of our BRZ S (sports pack) is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine, which produces 147kW at 7000rpm and 205Nm from 6400-6600, and that’s precisely the same output as its Toyota 86 sibling. And that’s because it’s the same engine, see – indeed, very nearly everything about these two cars is identical. But there’s one difference that elevates the BRZ above its Toyota sibling, and I’ll come back to that.

The ‘boxer’ is mated to either a six-speed manual (which the test car had) or a six-speed automatic, and fuel consumption is 7.1L/100km (auto) and 7.8L/100km for the manual. That said, in my week with the BRZ I averaged a little higher than that at 8.1L/100km and that involved plenty of city, highway and country road driving. In terms of emissions, the BRZ manual emits 181g/km CO2 while the auto cuts that back to 164g/km CO2.

Subaru BRZ S adds extra gear to the BRZ

The low-centre of gravity and the near perfect weight distribution, coupled with a lively chassis and excellent ride, make the Subaru BRZ a real joy in the bends. The same can be said of the Toyota 86, but thanks to a lowered coil spring set in this BRZ S it feels even more involving to drive across your favourite stretch of twisting bitumen. It also, indeed, feels better than the Toyota just about everywhere else too, and despite riding on sports suspension and 17-inch alloys it won’t rattle loose the fillings out of your teeth.

The steering is sensational, offering a direct action with decent weight and good feedback. And while the brakes have plenty of stopping power there’s not a lot of feel or progression, but it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of just how much pressure is enough to pull the BRZ up progressively.

The Subaru BRZ, like the Toyota 86, is a strict 2+2 and while there are perches behind the front seats, for kids and child seats, you certainly wouldn’t try and put an adult in them. Not if you liked the person, anyway. The front seats, luckily, are nice and grippy with just enough padding to make long trips comfortable. In the boot, there’s about 243 litres of luggage space.

The two-seat Subaru BRZ is comfortable for two people

With an entry price of just $37,150 (+ORC), the Subaru BRZ manual represents decent value for money, and it compares favourably to the Toyota 86 GTS. On top of the BRZ’s entry price, the S (for sports pack) adds another $7195 (for the auto) or $7995 for the manual, and is available for retro-fit for existing BRZ owners.

That extra coin gets you a front under spoiler: side under spoiler; rear side under spoiler; boot lip spoiler (crystal black mica); flexible tower bar; lowered coil spring set; 17-inch black STI alloy wheel; gear shift lever assembly (manual-only); duracon shift knob (manual-only); engine push-button start switch; rear under car diffuser. Even with the extra cost of the S pack, the BRZ S undercuts its nearest non-family rival the Mazda MX-5 (from $47,280+ORC) and is a whole lot better to drive, too.


Okay, so the Sports Pack on the BRZ S adds a hefty amount to the price tag, effectively ending its sub-$40k sticker price and reputation as a budget-beater. But, if you’ve got the money to spend, the lowered coil spring set in the Sports Pack is worth the price alone. It makes a good car great, and the fact that it can be retro-fitted is icing for existing owners.

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PRICE From $37,150 (+ORC) Sports Pack from $7195 (+ fitting) WARRANTY 3 years, unlimited kilometres SAFETY five stars ANCAP ENGINE 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine (petrol) POWER 147kW at 7000rpm TORQUE 205Nm from 6400-6600rpm TRANSMISSION six-speed manual; six-speed automatic BODY 4.24m (L) 1.77m (W) 1.28m (H) THIRST 7.1-7.8L/100km

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober