We seem to spend much of our road testing time behind the wheels of SUVs nowadays. As much as we appreciate the functionality and convenience of these vehicles they do fall down in one respect … they’re not a lot of fun to drive.
So we’ve given ourselves a treat with this week’s road test, the Subaru BRZ, a delightful little 2.0-litre two-door coupe with six-speed manual transmission.
Subaru BRZ has been on sale in Australia since 2012 although it didn’t hit the dealers’ showroom floors until 2014 with supply restrictions seeing them sold exclusively over the internet in that interim period.
The BRZ is built as a joint venture with Subaru’s part-owner, Toyota, and it competes directly against its near-identical twin, the Toyota 86.
The division of labour between the two companies makes sense, with Toyota looking after the product planning and styling while Subaru is in charge of its engineering development and manufacture, the latter at Subaru’s Ota plant in Japan.
Topping of the package are price reductions with the manual BRZ now selling for $32,990 and the automatic for $34,990, down by $1230 and $1735 respectively on the preceding model. The 2012 model sold for $37,150 (manual) and $39,730 (automatic).
The BRZ certainly looks the part with its wide and low stance, short overhangs and flared wheel arches. The front features a large, hexagonal grille with sweeping headlights and the rear is tall and square with an additional brake light positioned between twin large tail pipes.
The cabin features a roofline in keeping with the car’s low profile and, although it’s necessary to hunker down into the driver’s seat, once settled in the seat is firm but comfortable and there’s plenty of leg and headroom.
Although technically a four-seater, the two rear seats are only there for emergency use and not for long-distance trips. At 218 litres the boot is relatively small although the rear seatbacks do fold flat for extra storage space. Surprisingly for a car where space is at a premium BRZ comes with a full-size spare wheel.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSIONS
Power for the BRZ comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontally-opposed petrol engine that generates 152 kW of power at 7000 rpm and 212 Nm of torque at 6400 revs (147 kW and 205 Nm with the auto). The engine also sounds great with the characteristic throaty sound of the Subaru ‘boxer’ engine.
With our fun focus we made sure that our test car had the six-speed manual, a superbly notchy short-throw unit that’s both fast and smooth and just asks to be used frequently. Both the manual and the six-speed automatic transmissions were specifically developed for the BRZ. The automatic gets paddle gear shifts.
BRZ breaks new ground for Subaru in Australia in having rear-wheel drive. All other models sold here have all-wheel drive (AWD).
The little Subie coupe gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating courtesy of seven airbags; stability and traction control; ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; Isofix child seat anchor points; LCD daytime running lights; front and rear fog lights; hill start assist; and reversing camera.
Also new for the MY17 BRZ is a Vehicle Dynamic Control ‘Track’ for extra performance.
Information display is through a 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen. Bluetooth pairing is fast and logical and the USB and auxiliary sockets are in the front of the central console. The audio system has six speakers but, having to compete against the combination of the engine burble and road noise means the sound quality isn’t great.
As expected in a car of this type, the ride is firm with plenty of feel for the road yet comfortable enough for an extended trip. Steering is precise and direct with excellent feedback to the driver. Ride comfort is up with the best in this class.
There’s no loss of driver confidence in the use of two-wheel rather than four-wheel drive, with the BRZ suspension producing plenty of grip and stability.
Driving height is lower than we would prefer but that’s a minor compromise for all the handling benefits of hugging the road.
The Subaru BRZ is a delight to drive especially the six-speed manual, with its short, sharp gearshifts at high revs enhanced by that reassuringly deep throated engine growl. It’s always offered excellent value never more so than now with a price cut and added equipment bringing the starting price down to $32,990 prior to on-road costs.
AT A GLANCE
BRZ 2.0-litre two-door coupe: $32,990 (manual), $34,990 (automatic)
BRZ Premium 2.0-litre two-door coupe: $34,490 (manual), $36,490 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru BRZ 2.0-litre two-door coupe)
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 147 kW @ 7000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 205 Nm @ 6600 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98ROM
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.0 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 181 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4240 mm
Wheelbase: 2570 mm
Width: 1775 mm
Height: 1245 mm
Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1238 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Three years / unlimited km