We deserve joy in our lives.
We endure a constant barrage of negativity, from global health scares to the brutal horrors of war and the planet giving up on our nonsense. Between our obligations to do what’s right, we’re allowed to enjoy life, too, and that’s exactly why the 2022 Subaru BRZ exists: for old-fashioned motoring enjoyment.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
There are many excuses to avoid buying a Subaru BRZ, but driving feel is the number one reason to open your wallet for one. Parked in my driveway, the bright blue coupe drew a smile everytime I walked down the steps in its direction, and everyday I had somewhere — anywhere — to go, I was genuinely excited to drop down into the snug bucket seat, jab the starter button, and head out.
Cars have gotten bigger and heavier in recent years, but the BRZ remains defiantly small, raw, and engaging. At 1,277 kg (2,815 lb), it’s a featherweight in an age of automotive obesity, and the combo of its short wheelbase, minimal mass, and lightning-quick steering gives the BRZ a frisky character that’s unlike almost any other new car produced these days. The steering wheel communicates what the front tires are doing with remarkable clarity, and the quickness of it requires a driver to recalibrate their brain after driving pretty much anything else. Just think about changing lanes and it’s already happened.
Like most 12-year-olds, my son doesn’t pay much attention to anything except his phone, but a detour through a soon-to-be subdivision with its roundabouts already in place on the drive to school was enough to captivate him.
“Oh! I get it!” he exclaimed. “I get this car!”
I was making quick movements to the steering wheel and the Subuaru was responding sharply and with virtually no body roll. Where a similarly-priced Subaru WRX can be driven all ham-fisted, with all the finesse of a Hulk smash, the BRZ is a precision instrument that rewards a delicate touch and measured inputs. My Sport-tech tester came standard with 18-inch wheels wearing sticky Michelin summer tires that clung to the pavement in a way I can’t recall in any previous generation BRZ, making the most of the very low centre of gravity, while the strong brakes offer excellent bite and progressive stopping power.
Despite all the extra grip, there is enough poke to induce some power-on oversteer, creating the sort of tail-sliding antics that make driving enthusiasts grin, and responsible folks (and cops) wag their finger and cluck their tongues. Make no mistake — output certainly isn’t abundant, and the 2.4L four-cylinder needs plenty of revs to deliver its energy. Those who’ve grown accustomed to the instantaneous torque afforded by electrification or forced-induction engines will again need to recalibrate to appreciate this normally-aspirated offering. The peak of 228 hp requires 7,000 rpm to achieve, while the torque tops out at a modest 184 lb-ft — that’s 15 per cent more than the last car — with 3,700 revs.
It’s appreciably quicker than its predecessor, but nowadays there are some family crossovers that’ll beat a BRZ across the intersection. If you’re buying a BRZ for drag racing, you’ve completely missed the plot. It’s a momentum car, as they say, that rewards its driver when the curves are tight, carrying speed into corners rather than thrusting out of them. But it’s also rewarding to snick-snick through the short-throw six-speed manual transmission. It’s geared low enough that ripping through a succession of shifts doesn’t have to result in a road-side suspension and loss of licence. Clutch take-up was very abrupt on my tester, and there’s just the slightest hint of rev-hang between aggressive shifts, but with so few manual transmissions left these days, this one’s well worth enjoying. For those who must have a two-pedal version, a six-speed automatic is available.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
The shift from the old 2.0L to this year’s 2.4L brings more usable thrust, but it also brings a greater thirst for premium unleaded. Rated at 12.0 L/100 km in the city, 8.8 on the highway, and 10.5 combined, the new BRZ consumes roughly half a litre more for every 100 km driven than its predecessor. During my test week with an even split of city roads, suburban commuting, and some back-road shenanigans, the optimistic trip computer boasted an overall average of 8.7 L/100 km, but the 50-L tank was nearly empty at just over 400 km, suggesting the official average of 10.5 is likely more realistic.
Beyond slurping back more gasoline, the bigger engine makes a surprising amount of noise. Sadly, without unequal length headers there’s no characteristic rumble that’s so distinctive in older WRX and STI models, so it ends up sounding like a really ticked-off industrial vacuum. Worse, though, is that someone at Subaru thought it was a good idea to amplify this cacophony through a dedicated speaker in the lower dash.
Aside from the soundtrack, Subaru’s engineers did a good job with the suspension that, as stiff as it is, still manages to soften the blows of all but the nastiest potholes. There’s a level of sophistication here that’s unexpected in such a reasonably priced car.
It’s also slightly more spacious than before thanks to a longer wheelbase. Still, the car is low, and the bucket seats are comfortable but aggressively bolstered, and even with my relatively short legs there was virtually no legroom for a passenger to sit behind me. Instead, the space is best reserved for a pet, or fold the one-piece rear seatback and use it as an extension of the 178-L trunk that’s actually smaller than the old car’s.
Up front, there are bottle holders in the doors, but arm rest cup holders are precariously positioned behind the driver’s shifting elbow. The space is better relegated to carrying the odds and ends that normally reside in a console bin, like a sunglass case, toll road transponder, parking pass, and even a smartphone, since there’s nowhere else to put one.
Being Subaru’s only car without all-wheel drive, the rear-driven BRZ demands proper winter tires for buyers planning to use it in all four Canadian seasons, and even then, its low ride height and light weight will be prone to riding up and on to deep snow rather than through it. Still, there are heated seats and automated dual-zone climate control, but precious little else in the way of features or amenities. There’s no heated wheel, no cooled seats, no onboard navigation, no sunroof. This is a purist’s car, and extra features simply add mass, which is the enemy of driving dynamics.
User Friendliness: 8/10
For the most part, Subaru’s done a good job with setting up the BRZ’s interior. Outward visibility to the front and sides is quite good, and while the rear three-quarter view is compromised somewhat by the small windows, it’s a small car and is still easy to park.
Climate controls are simple and accessible, and the audio system has knobs for each volume and tuning. Mercifully, other essential controls receive physical buttons compared to more elaborate large screen layouts found in most contemporary cars. Still, the gauge pod features a seven-inch screen that’s laid out in such a way that crucial information is available at a glance, yet the design can change to an even sportier look when the track mode button is pushed.
The infotainment system features wired smartphone connectivity, with Subaru’s colourful icons helping the user navigate the system quickly and easily, even at speed. Apple CarPlay is integrated smoothly, and the redundant buttons flanking the eight-inch touchscreen help switch between features easily. The screen itself, however, leaves much to be desired, with a display that’s dull and lacking dynamic range, resulting in a nearly useless rear camera view that’s always woefully underexposed.
A manual transmission BRZ is a simple driver’s car and offers little in the way of modern active safety features as a result. There’s no automated braking, pedestrian detection or lane centring systems; not even automatic high-beam headlights, nor parking sensors to supplement the crummy back-up cam. Order a BRZ with the six-speed automatic and you’ll get most of those features.
The BRZ — and its Toyota twin, the GR86 — has always been an attractive compact sports car. This year, it’s grown into a more fluid and mature look that doesn’t translate as well in photos as it does in person. Finished in Subaru’s signature World Rally Blue paint, the little coupe appears far more upscale than the old model. Still, buyers looking for something more aggressive might prefer the Toyota version with its sharper chin spoiler and taller ducktail on the range-topping version.
Inside it’s handsome and sporty with plenty of grippy black faux suede trim accented with snazzy red stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and shifter.
Starting at just over $31,000 for a base model (with freight included), the BRZ is a heck of a performance bargain for the money. Stepping up to the Sport-tech version, the extra $3,000 is justified by the eight-speaker stereo (even if its sound quality is mediocre), heated seats, and, most importantly, handsome 18-inch wheels with their sticky Michelin tires. The similarly equipped Toyota version is priced within a couple thousand dollars, meaning buyers can pick the style they prefer without much financial impact. Mazda’s MX-5 is more still, but a turbocharged Ford Mustang can be had for less and offers significantly more power.
The 2022 Subaru BRZ isn’t for everyone. It’s too small and low to be practical for a lot of daily driving needs, but it’s a stylish car that improves upon the previous generation’s deficiencies to be an all-round better machine. It’s quick and its handling capabilities make it a legitimate performance car, but it’s the ever-playful personality that will keep drivers grinning from ear to ear. The Subaru BRZ simply makes life fun, and we all deserve a little more of that.
|Peak Horsepower||228 hp @ 7,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||184 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.0 / 8.8 / 10.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||178 L|
|Model Tested||2022 Subaru BRZ Sport-tech|
|Price as Tested||$34,320|