Subaru BRZ review 2021

Find out more about the Subaru BRZ in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

£20,347
Average price
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1
Out of 5

Pros

  • Great fun to drive
  • Attractively priced
  • Cheaper to run than you might expect

Cons

  • Low-rent interior
  • Not very refined
  • Showing its age
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    196 - 196 g/km

Model review

Subaru is a manufacturer really known for two things – its sporting models and its rugged 4x4s. It’s two areas that have worked well for the Japanese brand over the years, not least with the firm’s WRX rallying days, and the latest of Subaru’s sporting models is the BRZ

It’s a sports car that was built and developed alongside the Toyota GT86 – the two models are indeed more or less identical – and arrived in 2011 as an all-new sports car for the manufacturers. The BRZ is a fun two-door, four-seat coupe that came very well-equipped and offered a welcome boost to the Subaru range, though it never sold quite as well as Toyota’s effort. 

Latest model

The BRZ has only been updated on one occasion since its introduction and that came in 2017.

Changes include a wider-looking front end, new LED lighting and a new spoiler at the rear to give it a sportier look, while a new set of alloy wheels help to separate it from its predecessor. 

In the cabin, a small new LCD display was introduced to the instrument panel, while Subaru aimed to boost quality with higher-quality materials, including to the Alcantara and leather seats. 

Performance changes aren’t huge but included a new track mode and redesigned dampers that aim to improve body roll while cornering. 

In November 2020, Subaru unveiled a new second-generation BRZ, which features more power and a redesigned layout. Unfortunately, though, it won’t be introduced to the UK as the brand’s British arm has shifted its focus to new E-Boxer hybrids and seems to be distancing itself from sports models. 

Value for money

Prices for the BRZ start from £32,020, which might seem quite steep, but you do get a lot of car and thrills for the money – standard equipment including heated sports seats, LED lighting and keyless entry to name but a few features.

But if you want the best value, it’s best looking at the used market. Because the BRZ is quite a niche choice, and not as popular as its Toyota GT86 twin, there aren’t loads to choose from. However, prices start from around £11,000 for a low-mileage 2011 car, while updated 2017 models can be had for under £20,000, providing you can find one. 

Looks and image

The Subaru BRZ is what you’d call a traditional sports car, and it’s that that makes it appeal to a different kind of buyer – lacking the premium image and glamour you find on other coupes, an Audi TT for example. It’s still a cool-looking model, while many examples are painted in Subaru’s trademark ‘WR Blue’, which adds to the appeal. Updated 2017 cars also bring more modern styling into the mix. 

The interior doesn’t quite have the same appeal, though, feeling both budget and dated. Hard plastics are used throughout and while Subaru did improve things with the facelift, it’s certainly not up to scratch. On a more positive note, the Alcantara bucket seats are fantastic – feeling both comfortable and supportive and adding to the appeal behind the wheel. 

And it’s driving the BRZ where this Subaru stands out. On a back road, few things will be better than the BRZ. By modern sports car standards, it might not be bursting with power, but it feels light, nimble and rewarding, with brilliant steering and a well-tuned suspension. It’s not a great all-rounder, though, with disappointing refinement and heavy controls meaning it wouldn’t be the easiest car to live with. 

Space and practicality

If you’re considering a BRZ, practicality probably isn’t at the top of priorities, which is quite a good job. While it is a four-seater, Subaru labels it as a ‘2+2’, which gets around the problem of it having exceptionally impractical back seats. Getting in and out requires gymnast levels of flexibility, and they’re really best just kept for children. 

At 243 litres, the boot is a decent size for a sports car, though isn’t the roomiest of shapes. It does offer more room than a Mazda MX-5 or Audi TT, though. 

Engines 

Since its launch the BRZ has only been available with one engine – a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre petrol unit that produces 197bhp and 205Nm of torque. You can choose it with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an automatic, but our choice would be the former. 

The engine needs to be revved hard to get the best out of it, but do that and it’s an utter joy. The sprint from 0-60mph comes along in 7.4 seconds and it’ll reach a top speed of 140mph – meaning it’s not slow, but does require a lot of effort to get the best performance from it. 

Running costs

While the BRZ won’t exactly be cheap to run, it won’t be as expensive as you might expect. Subaru claims it will return 33.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 191g/km. Insurance premiums and road tax also shouldn’t be especially high. 

What to look for

Subaru is a manufacturer known for its cars’ reliability, but with the BRZ selling in such limited numbers, not a huge amount is known about it in this respect, it should prove dependable. With it being a performance model, look out for any signs of it being thrashed – excessive stone chips could be an indicator of heavy track use, for example. A five-year warranty is also offered, if you’re looking at newer models. 

Rivals

Without a doubt the BRZ’s closest competitor is the mechanically-identical Toyota GT86, which is worth considering, if not for the greater used availability. Other models worth considering include the Mazda MX-5, Nissan 370Z and Ford Mustang. The Alpine A110S is also a brilliant option if you’re looking for a lightweight performance car, though it will be noticeably more expensive than the BRZ. 

Depreciation

With limited models available, the Subaru BRZ has held its value relatively well, with seven-year-old examples still costing around £11,000. Welcome savings are on offer on nearly-new models, so it could be worth going down this route – especially with Subaru’s lengthy warranty. 

Which BRZ to pick

Cheapest to buy when new

2.0i SE Lux Ltd 2dr

Most MPG

2.0i SE Lux Ltd 2dr

Fastest model (0-60)

2.0i SE Lux Ltd 2dr

Trims explained

Just one trim is now available on the BRZ – SE Lux. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.

SE Lux

Standard equipment on the BRZ is generous and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, heated sports seats and keyless entry and start. Dual-zone climate control is also included, along with heated door mirrors and cruise control. You also get a seven-inch touchscreen that’s equipped with satellite navigation, DAB radio, voice control and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

From £32,020 (manual), £32,945 (automatic)

Summary

  1. Brilliant to drive
  2. Plenty of standard kit
  3. Relatively affordable to buy and own for a performance car
  4. Quite hard to find on the used market
  5. Manual and automatic gearbox options available
  6. Engine needs lots of work for the best performance
  7. Not very practical
  8. Low-rent interior
  9. Mechanically-identical to the Toyota GT86
  10. Great fun, but lacking in quality

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