Thursday, 16 October 2014

REVIEW - Subaru BRZ SE Lux

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced a Subaru BRZ. I managed to get hold of one for a few days last year, but if truth be told it wasn’t really long enough to form a proper opinion on it. Thankfully the chaps at Subaru are rather generous, and arranged for me to spend a week with a BRZ once the initial hype died down and the press cars were less busy. My impressions last year were great, so how would this stack up against spending a full week with the car and performing a wider variety of tasks? Would the love affair continue, or would the BRZ give away some of its flaws? Read on to find out…

Looks – 10/10

As I’m sure you are probably aware, the Subaru BRZ shares a lot in common with the Toyota GT86. So some of you would probably find it hard to choose between the two; particularly in terms of looks. Well I will give you one great reason to choose the BRZ: “World Rally Blue”. This colour has been the choice of rally drivers (and dump valve enthusiasts) for years. Joking aside though, I think it’s fair to say that this is a rather iconic colour. And it complements the sporty image of the BRZ. The body is perfectly proportioned, with a large, low bonnet up front, to the pillar-less doors to the twin exhaust pipes and boot spoiler. It just looks like a ‘proper’ sports car. The alloys are only 17-inch but with the two-tone colouring they look superb. The BRZ is a rather small car too, and extremely low. It manages to look light and nimble at a time where cars are getting fatter and heavier, which makes a refreshing change.

Open the pillar-less doors (still the sign of a cool car) and the sportiness continues throughout the inside too. There’s plenty of red stitching, from the seats to the steering wheel, and it works well. The seats may not be a Recaro or other fancy brand but they look rather nice. I particularly like the seatbelt holders which save you looking daft trying to reach over your shoulder for your seatbelt. The materials in the BRZ are nice quality, and the ‘toggle’ switches make a good centre-piece for the centre console. The dials are also bright red, and they remind me very much of the Gran Turismo days, which is partly where the love of the Subaru came about, so it’s rather fitting really.

Handling/Performance – 8/10

The BRZ has a lot to live up to here, because the looks create a sense of sporting prowess. And on paper it does seem to fall a bit short. The engine is a 2.0-litre, normally-aspirated boxer engine; of Subaru design. It offers up 200PS and 205Nm which is sent to the rear wheels. The 0-62mph dash is dealt with in 7.6 seconds and the top speed is 143mph. And that’s slower than hot hatchbacks these days. But the paper figures don’t do justice to how the BRZ is to drive. The low-down driving position, flat steering wheel and short-throw gearstick create a sporty drive, and a heightened sense of speed. It’s a revvy engine too; despite sounding a bit harsh as you climb up the rev range the BRZ thrives on being taken up to the redline. The 6-speed gearbox means it’s quiet on the motorway, and helps the economy too. The downside of the sporty drive is that the BRZ has a rather difficult clutch, and that makes for awkward driving in traffic.

Being low down, with a low centre of gravity makes the BRZ A great car through the bends as well. The advantage of a boxer engine is that it can sit rather low down, and this helps the balance of the car as a whole. The steering is weighty and direct, with good feel from the road. The tyres grip relatively well, considering they are skinnier than you’d imagine – at 215/45R17s. There’s not really any understeer to be had, with a dab of oversteer if you are a bit enthusiastic through the corners. The suspension is firm, which makes for a great B-Road blast; the Subaru stays planted through the corners. But unfortunately on longer drives the firm suspension becomes more of an annoyance than anything else. It’s noticeably bouncy, and this becomes tiresome over long distances.

Economy – 8/10

Having a 2.0-litre, non-turbocharged engine, the BRZ is far more economical than you would expect of a Subaru. Combined fuel economy is 40.9mpg and CO2 emissions are 181g/km. This puts the BRZ in VED band I with road tax costing £225 (and £375 in the first year). Considering this is a sports car that’s not too bad, and the fuel bills won’t be too bad with economy figures like that. I still think there are faster, more economical cars out there, which is why the BRZ couldn’t score higher. But on a longer run- if you don’t break your back first- you will see a decent return from the Subaru and you can’t say fairer than that.

Practicality – 6/10

Okay, so it’s no great secret that 2-door sports cars are usually not the most practical of cars. But I didn’t find the BRZ too bad to live with. The boot is rather generous to fit your shopping in. There’s cruise control to make a long drive easier, and with keyless entry it’s easy to hop in and out. Visibility is good, and is better out of the back than you’d expect. But there are also some niggles. The rear seats are practically useless. Even children will struggle to be frank. I’m 5ft 7 and there was about 3 inches of leg room behind me, which says a lot. The clutch is a difficult one, and becomes a source of frustration in traffic. And finally the ride is noticeably firm after a certain period of time, making long journeys more tiresome. The SE Lux trim comes well equipped too, with heated seats, satellite navigation, bluetooth hands-free and dual-zone climate control.

Fun – 10/10

The 2 days I spent with the BRZ last year were a lot of fun. And that certainly didn’t dwindle the longer I spent with it. Every single time I drove the Subaru I as grinning from ear to ear. For starters the looks are so good that every time you see your reflection you are reminded what a stunner it is. And it’s often met with approval and neck-craning from other motorists or pedestrians, which is rather nice, too. And there’s a sense of “back-to-basics” with the BRZ. It’s a very simple formula for success; engine up front, manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive. But that translates into simple fun as well. It may not be the fastest, but the BRZ could certainly get you into some mischief. And although it may be exactly the same (to all intents and purposes) as its Toyota-badged sibling, people I spoke to preferred the rarity of the Subaru and the pedigree of its badge.

Concluding Remarks

So that’s my week with the Subaru BRZ. It’s a great car that may not be the quickest, but looks and feels like a proper sports car. The rear seats are pointless, but that aside it’s a rather practical car indeed. It’s an economical one too, meaning it won’t cost the earth to run. And it will never fail to put a smile on your face. But if truth be told I’d rather have a BRZ sat in the garage for weekend blasts, than to drive every day. That way I could get all the enjoyment, with none of the drawbacks. Prices for the BRZ start at £22,495 with the SE Lux as tested costing £23,995. For more information find your local dealer or log on to the Subaru website. So how best to sign off on the Subaru BRZ? That’s easy; it’s good, no-nonense fun.
Total Score – 42/50

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