It’s difficult enough choosing what new car to buy from the vast range of motors from basic runabouts to high-end luxury limousines.
Usually it comes down to the width of your wallet, the proportions of your purse or the breadth of your bank balance but some manufacturers make the job just that little bit more tricky.
Take the Japanese Subaru brand for example. Most of their seven-model range are gritty and very capable 4x4s but there’s one bearing the six-star Subaru badge which doesn’t fit the familiar family profile.
The BRZ Coupe may have the same Boxer-engine layout with a low centre of gravity as its brothers and sisters, but it is the only one to have two-wheel-drive with all the power going to the back end.
Subaru BRZ SE Lux
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Top speed: 130mph
0-62 mph: 8.2 secs
Economy: 39mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 164g/km
It’s been around for a handful of years but sales figures have been modest, although it has generally gone down well with those who’ve taken the plunge and handed over their hard-earned cash.
What’s confused things a touch is that like some other co-productions, it was created as a joint project with Toyota who called theirs the GT86.
So once you’ve decided you like the car’s looks and its appeal, you’re then faced with the choice of Subaru v Toyota and that’s not an easy one to make.
The cars are basically the same apart from badging, front and rear lighting and interior equipment although the Subaru is regarded as being more of an enthusiast’s car with sharper performance.
But the Toyota has proved to be the better seller, not least because it is a touch gentler in its handling and offers a longer warranty, even though it is marginally more expensive.
The story is that a few years ago Toyota wanted an affordable sports coupe but were fully committed to other projects, so Subaru took charge of development and production.
Just recently the Toyota was updated so it was inevitable that the Subaru should also be given a makeover.
The latest model has had tweaks to its exterior styling with a wider bumper and aerodynamic pedestal spoiler along with LED head and tail lights for the first time in a Subaru. It also now comes with very smart 10-spoke 17-inch alloys set deep into the four corners of the body to help with handling on the bends.
On the inside, there’s been quite an update with a 4.2-inch colour LCD screen built into the instrument panel with a G-force meter, steering angle gauge, lap timer and torque/power curves – all essential information for the enthusiastic driver but also serving to project a sporty feel.
In the centre of the dash is a 6.2-inch touchscreen to control all the other systems such as sat-nav (a £1,500 option), phones and audio.
The steering wheel is smaller with different leather to help the driver’s grip and the seats have been upgraded to Alcantra and leather with highlighting red stitching – and they’re heated.
Apparently, the BRZ name comes from its key components – the well-established low-lying Boxer engine; R for rear wheel drive and Z for Zenith, which according to Subaru, demonstrates their commitment to providing driving enthusiasts with the best tool for the job.
That is open to debate but it’s true that they have worked hard to create an affordable back-to-basics sports car which can bring some excitement back to everyday driving….in much the same way that Mazda have been hugely successful with their MX-5.
The test car came with a six-speed automatic gearbox with steering-wheel paddle shifts and was actually pretty good fun. It comes with Blipping Control which revs the engine in line with downshifts to increase engine speed and smooth out the changes to eliminate the ‘slur’ that can sometimes affect autos and reduce performance.
There’s a nice exhaust and engine note to accompany the changes and that does something to disguise the fact that there’s been no increase in power in the new model. It’s not slow by any means but you do get the sense that the effort has gone into keeping down emissions at the expense of extra oomph.
What is interesting in the new model is a track driving mode which can help bring a bit more excitement but should not be used on the public road. It enhances the car’s stability and brings faster upshifts in the gearbox to let you push the limits a bit further, in the knowledge that if it all goes wrong, the electronics will still kick in to get you out of trouble.
The new BRZ comes in only one SE Lux trim and the only decision after that is whether to go for manual or auto. Oh……and whether you should take a look at the Toyota GT86 as well.