2022 Subaru BRZ first drive review

The 2022 Subaru BRZ is a stylish and affordable sports coupe

Craig Duff

Posted January 21, 2022


The Subaru BRZ was lauded as a fun and affordable sports coupe when it launched a decade ago. The second-generation car demonstrably improves on the formula.

Building a better mousetrap is never easy. Subaru acknowledges this, which is why the 2022 BRZ sports coupe doesn’t stray far from the initial formula.

The compact car is still driven by an ethos of entertaining engagement ahead of outright performance.

It is still powered by a compact boxer engine that drives the rear wheels, and Subaru hasn’t fallen for the trap of loading unnecessary features into the car which adds weight and detracts from the purist concept.

What it has done is add modern conveniences like a touchscreen and smartphone connectivity, while rectifying the minor concerns owners of the first-gen vehicle had.

Subaru BRZ | RACV

 

There’s around 20 per cent more power, a much stiffer chassis to improve cornering and better steering feedback. That’s enough to bait existing BRZ owners into showrooms while tempting prospective sports car owners to take a close look.

The caveat here is the original Australian allocation of 500 were sold before the first car had landed, and Subaru doesn’t expect another tranche until the second half of 2022, though it will take orders ahead of that.

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How much does the Subaru BRZ cost?

Prices for the Subaru BRZ start at $38,990 before on-road costs for the base version Coupe with a six-speed manual gearbox, rising to $40,190 for the higher-specified Coupe S.

According to the Subaru Australia website, that equates to $42,699 and $43,949 respectively for buyers in the Melbourne metro area.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen housing features such as digital radio, satellite navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity.

LED headlamps are standard across the range, along with dual-zone airconditioning, keyless entry, and push-button start.

Opting for the six-speed automatic transmission in either version adds a hefty $3800. That’s well over the price difference between the two transmissions in the US and UK.

Subaru says around 80 per cent of initial buyers opted for the Coupe S, given the price increase over the coupe is fairly minimal.

The warranty runs for five years and servicing costs over that period are set at $2390 for the manual and $2474 for the auto. The price increase for the latter is due to the auto’s transmission fluid being replaced at the four-year/60,000km mark.

How safe is the Subaru BRZ? 

ANCAP has yet to test the little Subaru but the manual version won’t qualify for a five-star rating because it doesn’t have autonomous emergency braking or a lane departure warning. Those features account for 10 of the 16-points in ANCAP’s “safety assist” criteria.

BRZs fitted with an auto do, courtesy of the dual-camera “EyeSight” system mounted at the top of the windscreen, that also endows the self-shifting versions with adaptive cruise control.

Assuming the structural rigidity withstands the physical crash tests (and Subaru prides itself on building five-star bodies), the auto is likely to be awarded a five-star rating.

All versions have blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, along with seven airbags.

What's it like inside the Subaru BRZ?

One of the criticisms of the original BRZ was its interior was too bland. Subaru has addressed that with a much more upmarket cockpit this time around. An 8.0-inch touchscreen, while not huge by modern car standards, looks good, as do the plastics on the facia and top of the doors.

There’s the obligatory alloy pedals and contrast stitching to reinforce the fact this is a sports car, along with well-bolstered bucket seats.

Those seats are the easiest way to differentiate the Coupe from the Coupe S, with the latter ditching the cloth upholstery for suede and a mix of real and faux leather on the bolsters. They’re also heated and have a fat red stripe running down the backrest and cushion.

The rear seats are there for looks - the average adult wouldn't want to squeeze into the back seat for much longer than a run down to the corner shop. There’s just not enough leg room.

 

The 2022 Subaru BRZ refines the look of the original to improve aerodynamnics.
The trear of the 2022 Subaru BRZ loses the protruding tail-lights.
It may share no panels with its predecessor but the 2022 Subaru version is unmistakably a BRZ.
Cheap rear-wheel-drive sports cars don't get much better than the 2022 Subaru BRZ.

What’s under the Subaru BRZ bonnet?

The original BRZ was intentionally set up to be playful, but a lack of power sometimes limited the entertainment value.

Consequently, the 2.0-litre boxer engine has been ditched for a 2.4-litre four-cylinder unit with 174kW and 250Nm, corresponding to a jump of 22kW/38Nm. More importantly, the peak torque now kicks in when the engine is only halfway to its 7500rpm peak.

Drivers needed to rev the previous generation to 6400rpm to achieve maximum torque.

Power is sent to the rear wheels and a limited-slip differential helps improve traction when cornering by distrusting torque to the wheel with the most grip.

The six-speed manual has revised synchros to improve the shift from second-to-third and third-to-fourth gear, while the auto's sports mode will hang onto a gear high into the rev range if it determines (via throttle inputs) the driver wants to get on with it.

The set-up is more than enough to make the Subaru a spirited drive and to give it an on-paper edge over its most obvious competitor, the Mazda MX-5.

The Subaru BRZ’s appeal to traditional enthusiasts is reflected in the fact around 60 per cent of buyers have opted for the manual.

Is the Subaru BRZ efficient?

Short answer is, no? Long answer is, few will care. The Subaru official combined fuel economy is 8.8 litres/100km for the auto and 9.5 litres for the manual. Premium 98RON fuel is also the BRZ’s preferred poison, pushing the running costs higher than its rivals.

Similar sports cars are more fuel-friendly.

The 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5 goes through 6.9 and 7.1 litres every 100km for the manual and auto respectivel, while the front-wheel-drive 1.6-litre turbocharged Hyundai i20N uses 6.9 litres/100km and the similarly motivated Ford Fiesta ST consumes 6.3 litres.

 

Red stripes down the seats denote the top-spec Subaru BRZ Coupe S.
An eight-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard across the BRZ range.
The seven-inch digital driver's display adjusts depending on the selected drive mode.

How does the Subaru BRZ drive? 

The Subaru BRZ behind me is going backwards at every bend. And the gent behind the wheel is a better driver than I am and has more experience of Sydney Motorsport Park’s short circuit.

The difference is he’s piloting the original car; I’m steering the 2022 model. The fact it is raining only compounds the improvements Subaru has made to its second-generation compact sports coupe.

Tail-out oversteer through wet corners is entertaining (at least on a track) but it isn’t quick. The new car can be balanced on the throttle far easier, letting the driver decide which option they’d prefer.

The traction control can be disabled or set to track mode, which provides a fair degree of sideways movement before the software intervenes.

On patched-up regular roads the front suspension can be a touch firm and road noise, while an improvement over the original, is still evident. Subaru could damp it … but only by fitting more insulation. That adds weight, thereby detracting from the formula that has made the BRZ so popular.

Should I buy one?

Purists will love the fact the BRZ has a manual gearbox and rear-drive layout. It's the traditional sports car approach and the price is impressive.

For now, it is the pick of the pack, but its twin-under-the-skin in the form of the Toyota 86 is due in Australia showrooms in the second half of 2022.

If the two marques follow a similar strategy to the first-gen vehicle, buyers can expect the Toyota to be around $3000 cheaper than the Subaru.

 

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.


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