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Motoring: Buzzing around in the BRZ

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | November 5th, 2012

When I was in college, I drove around in a used Nissan 240SX. It was a front-engine, rear-wheel drive coupe that looked very good. It wasn't particularly fast, but it handled very well, so it was fun to drive.

I miss that car even now and often look into getting a used one again, just to re-live the old days.

If you, like me, have a thing for front-engine, rear-wheel drive coupes, then the topic of today's test will surely be of interest to you. I'm talking about the Subaru BRZ, which is the first sports coupe offered by the maker since the wonderful Giugaro-designed SVX bowed out in 1997.

Where the SVX was a high-end luxury sports tourer, the BRZ is all about youth and enthusiasm. This is not the type of car you'd pull up in if you were a senior executive for a major corporation, meeting new investors or clients (unless you work for Subaru). No, the BRZ is ideal for meeting up with your enthusiastic car-loving friends at a track or an autocross meet. This car is not for people who are always serious, so I'm guessing most accountants won't like it that much.

It is also not likely to attract those among us that are a bit on the heavy side, since this is a very low car and climbing in and out of it will give anyone a workout (which is a good thing).

I am much larger than I used to be in my college days and hence I also struggled to get in and out, but once seated, I found the seats to be reasonably comfortable and the driving position to be spot on.

The interior fit and finish does leave a lot to be desired. I don't like the quality of the materials used, and in my tester, a very large part didn't quite fit (I'm just going to hope the blame here goes to the fact that this was a worn-out tester and not something that is a norm for these cars).

While the BRZ is labelled as a 2+2 coupe, the back seats are quite small and only really useful for carrying groceries (since the trunk is quite small also, the back seat will come in handy for your trips to the shops).

I can live with a low vehicle with not much practicality. What I cannot live with is the awful Pioneer touchscreen infotainment system Subaru offers as an option (which was in my tester). This is by far the worst touchscreen system I have ever come across. I found fiddling with it so annoying that I just gave up and threw in a CD to listen to. If you want to buy a BRZ, I'd advise you to stay clear from this option.

I'd also suggest you steer clear of the automatic gearbox. Okay, to be fair, it's not a bad gearbox and when you use the paddle shifters in Sport mode, it does blip the throttle on downshifts, but it is just the wrong type of gearbox for a car like this.

I have not driven the BRZ with a manual gearbox, but those who have say it really makes the engine shine. Speaking of the engine, under the low hood lies a normally aspirated 2.0-litre, boxer four-cylinder motor that produces 200 hp and 151 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to the rear wheels, and with just 1,255 kg to push around, this motor does a very decent job of moving its mass along. Work this motor hard and you'll see the sprint from zero to 100 km/h takes just 6.5 seconds, and the car tops out at about 240 km/h. The performance is impressive, but I just wished the sounds the car made when being pushed were as pleasing as the numbers.

Where the BRZ absolutely shines is in the corners. Show it a twisty road and it will plant a smile on your face. Thanks to its fully independent suspension setup with MacPherson struts in the front and a double-wishbone setup in the rear, the car exhibits minimal lean in the bends and the chassis and steering communicates well with you to let you know how much grip is left.

Since the standard car runs on eco-minded tires (the same ones you'll find on a Toyota Prius hybrid), there is not a lot of grip, but the fact you can slide this car around at low-ish speeds adds to the thrills of this car. This car will be popular among the drifter crowd.

It will also be popular among anyone who is looking for an economical sports coupe, since it averaged just 7.6 litres/100km in my week's test.

It is not expensive to run, and as far as sports cars go, it is not expensive to buy, either — prices start at $27,295.

Is the BRZ the best sports car I drove all year? No, but that might be due to the fact I drove lots of very good high-performance machines this year. I love the looks, love the handling and love the fact that Subaru is offering a coupe again. For me, it needs more power (which I'm sure will eventually be offered with a turbo-charged motor) and needs more refinement (it is a bit too noisy on long drives). But if you're looking for a fun car, or are just younger and fitter than I am, then the BRZ might just be the car for you.
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