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Subaru BRZ 2.0i

Click to view picture gallery“For years, mention ‘Scooby and
  everyone knew you were talking
  about a fast, all-wheel drive four-door
  saloon with iconic blue paintwork,
  gold wheels and an awesome rear
  spoiler. Well the game
s changed.
  Totally. Now
Scooby refers to
s rear-wheel drive, two-door
  BRZ sports coupe

AND PROVING BEYOND DOUBT that it's a Subaru is the 2.0-litre, horizontally-opposed flat-four nestling under the bonnet actually, the first letter of the BRZ's name stands for 'boxer' engine.

The flat-four sits low in the engine bay, contributing to a sporting 45:55 front-to-rear weight distribution. Adding to the BRZ's on-paper sporting credentials is the fact that this compact powerplant is installed in a bodyshell that, even at its highest point, is pretty low to the ground...

Thumb the Start button and there's further confirmation when you hear the boxer's unmistakable signature throb while the BRZ idles. The gearbox is a six-speed manual and it comes with a deliciously close set of gates (if you really must, a six-speed auto is an option). The manual 'box isn't at all notchy but you can physically feel the contact as you snick between gears — and it feels good; connected.

“Check the small speedo
to the left of the
larger centrally-sited
rev-counter and you
ll be
likely to find yourself
moving at seventy when
you expected to see
Until you clear 4K revs, the engine note stays on the gruff side of rorty but be warned, it's somewhat deceptive. Combined with the distinctive and appealing flat-four thrum, it lulls you into a false sense of security because it doesn't sound 'fast' even when you're accelerating pretty hard.

Check the small speedo to the left of the larger centrally-sited rev-counter and you'll be likely to find yourself moving at seventy when you expected to see forty-five.

With 197bhp at your command close to the 7,600rpm red-line and peak torque of 151lb ft at 6,400rpm, it needs revs if you want to really make the most of its performance. The good news is that it's not turboed but naturally-aspirated, so when you do plant your right foot there's no lag and throttle response is crisp.

At lower rev change-ups the 2.0-litre is tractable enough — just no fireworks. As usual, it's a matter of horses for courses. In the BRZ that means changing down to keep the redline close and the flat-four on the boil — and in this particular Subaru that's the secret of happiness. More good news: it's mechanically smooth when revved to the limit and there's never any worries that you might be thrashing it…

Work the engine and you'll get to 62mph in 7.6 seconds from standstill — not what you'd describe as 'visceral' acceleration but top speed is a respectable 140mph.

For the record, a number of Subaru UK-approved BRZ performance, handling and styling modifications — courtesy of Pro-R — will soon be unveiled; the new parts will be available in the coming months through Subaru's UK dealer network.

Actually, power per se is not the be-all and end-all of the Subaru BRZ. The 'adequate' power level is not a problem because of the 'R' in BRZ — for 'rear-wheel drive'.

So put your hands together for Subaru — at a stroke they've built an affordable driving machine (Porsches are still too rich for too many keen drivers) in the much-missed traditional front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car format; one that's designed to be driven by those who take pleasure in not the arriving but in the getting from A to B.

“Line it up, pile on the
revs and the BRZ will
sit tight and tidy on your
chosen line as the
rear wheels push the
nose through.
And for drivers with gasoline in their veins, the BRZ is a brilliant alternative to the currently overwhelming rash of over-turboed, front-driven hot-hatches.

More good news — when it was launched in Spring 2012, the limited initial supply meant that the high level of demand from British buyers couldn't be met. However, the continued popularity of, and strong demand for, the BRZ has enabled Subaru UK to secure a larger annual BRZ allocation from the brand's Gunma factory in Ota-city, Japan.

But back to the BRZ's alluring rear-end bias: drive reaches the rear wheels via the six-speeder and a Torsen limited-slip diff. Handling-wise the BRZ feels faithfully grippy and very much in touch with the driver, with the bonus of tight body control; line it up, pile on the revs and it will sit tight and tidy on your chosen line as the rear wheels push the nose through.

Overcook it and the oversteer is of the no-sweat, no-fear variety. Don't worry; you'll get plenty of warning. Best of all it's not only easily catchable but, for those who know, also easily exploitable.

Even when not pressing on the BRZ feels refreshingly light on its 215/45 Michelin 'feet'. It's also happy — and nicely balanced — when changing direction. The steering is quick, direct and agreeably meaty; that good in fact that few will notice it's an electric system.

This is a well-fettled sports coupe so a firm-ish ride goes with the territory. However, Subaru have managed to settle on a likeable compromise and the BRZ is no trackday bone-shaker — on public roads, bumps are soaked up effectively and long trips don't take any toll on your body. Yes, you do feel irregularities — but you're never jarred or shaken.

The core elements of the cabin are spot on: you sit low with your legs well under the dash in a markedly 'legs forward' position. Keeping you and your front passenger very firmly and comfortably in place with their deep bolstering are shapely bucket-style sports seats finished in red-stitched leather with Alcantara centre panels.

“You can ignore the
traditional speedo
because there’s a much
more user-friendly and
instantly informative
digital speed readout
in the rev-counter.
A pop-on/off loop keeps the belt conveniently on the seat's shoulder (so no long reach back every time you climb aboard) and a hard and nicely 'all-business' perforated leather-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel completes the ensemble.

Dead ahead through the wheel, and reflecting the boxer engine's liking for revs, is a large rev-counter red-lined at 7,300rpm; off to the left is a smaller traditional speedometer and, to the right, fuel and temperature gauges.

All are easily read; you can ignore the traditional speedo because, helpfully, there's a much more user-friendly and instantly informative digital speed readout inset within the rev-counter. The short-throw gearlever is very close to hand, as is the push-button Starter.

After the promise of the exterior design the cabin can be a tad underwhelming visually. Blame Audi, who have spoiled us rotten with their oh-so-classy cabins in even their most basic models. But if you're there to drive then you'll forgive the BRZ's workmanlike fascia and be eager to get on with the job!

Not that you're that hard done by: for the record, you do get AirCon (manual), a touchscreen SatNav/multimedia player, cruise control, power windows, powerfold mirrors, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and two-stage heated seats.

On the move the cabin is an effectively functioning place to be: four large air vents ensure you have all the cold (or hot) air you desire, delivered precisely where you want it most. And, particularly when cruising on empty motorways, it's pretty hushed when you're alone with only the boxer engine for company.

A foot rest for your left hoof helps on longer journeys. And visibility is relaxingly good; the view over the bonnet is fine, with the slight crests where it flows over the front wheel arches and slim screen pillars ensuring easy and accurate placement of the BRZ on the road.

“The BRZ is one of
the few we test each year
that not only matches
their official consumption
figures but actually
betters them. Our overall
test average was
Look over your shoulder and you'll see two deep-dished back seats separated by a central ridge. Consider them window dressing unless you're planning or carrying small children.

Okay, so you can fit an adult in — just; but only if your front seat passenger is willing to compromise on legroom. But it could ruin a beautiful friendship! Besides, drive as Subaru's chassis engineers intended you to and you won't want the weight of unessential bodies handicapping your performance.

The boot is wide but shallow and offers 243 litres for your luggage; the full-width rear seatback folds down easily, creating a useful loadbay that takes as much as 1,270 litres. There's no room for a proper spare — you get a puncture repair kit and that's it.

Against? The horn definitely needs more power! About our only complaint was the lack of a range readout for the trip computer but given it's surprisingly good fuel consumption (see below) you're unlikely to run out before you reach a petrol station.

Officially the BRZ should average 36.2mpg. However, nobody really expects any car's real-world consumption to match up with the paper numbers. That said, the BRZ is one of the few we test each year that not only matches their official consumption figures but actually betters them. A week enjoying all 'our' BRZ (with a well run-in 21K on the clock) had to offer saw an overall test average of 39.2mpg. And yes, we checked it twice to be sure.

Deciding to buy a BRZ is easy: there's just one engine and two trim specs so it's really all down to what colour you like best. Stick with the metallic blue and you won't go far wrong. Oh yes, that last letter; we never did find out, but after driving it for an entertaining week we think it stands for something swashbuckling… like Zorro! —

Subaru BRZ 2.0i | £24,995
Top speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 7.6 seconds | Average Test MPG: 39.2mpg
Power: 197bhp | Torque: 151lb ft | CO2 181g/km