The small sport coupe is a small niche in the U.S. car market, but for shoppers who want nimble handling, peppy performance and good looks in a small package — and can’t abide the thought of four doors — the 2016 Subaru BRZ is one of the best choices available. It’s a back-to-basics, lightweight sports car with rear-wheel drive, excellent balance and an affordable price.
Roads like this are the 2016 Subaru BRZ’s natural habitat.
Tasked with propelling about 2,800 pounds, the 200 horses unleashed by the BRZ’s flat-4 “boxer” engine provide decent gallop. But this car is much more about straightening out curvy roads than clocking records for straight-line acceleration. The BRZ’s low center of gravity, ideal front/rear weight balance and wonderfully communicative steering make it an all-star athlete by any standard. As we discovered in our BRZ long-term road test a few years ago, it’s hard to beat this Subaru for the money if you’re looking for maximum driving enjoyment.
There’s not much in the market that competes directly with the BRZ. The Scion FR-S offers a different nameplate and slightly different feature availability but is mechanically the same (Subaru and Toyota developed the cars together). Ford’s Focus ST and Volkswagen’s Golf GTI offer quicker acceleration and more practicality, but neither can match the BRZ for handling precision. Alternately, the redesigned Mazda Miata roadster boasts lovely handling and steering but loses out on practicality. If you move up in regards to price, the new Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang will certainly be appealing. Or, if you’re a Subaru fan, you might also check out the BRZ’s stablemate, the four-door, all-wheel-drive 2016 Subaru WRX. Really, you won’t go wrong with any of these choices. But for an affordable and truly fun-to-drive sport coupe, the 2016 Subaru BRZ is the way to go.
We like the 2016 Subaru BRZ Limited, as it adds a lot of nice features for a modest price increase over the base Premium.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Subaru BRZ is a four-seat compact coupe available in two primary trim levels: Premium and Limited. There’s also a limited-production HyperBlue edition for 2016.
The Premium comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, a limited-slip rear differential, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-down rear seatback and a rearview camera. Electronic features include Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a navigation system, voice controls, smartphone app integration (including Aha Radio, Pandora, iHeartRadio and Stitcher, plus news, weather and calendar features), and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
Every 2016 BRZ comes equipped with a crisp-looking 6.2-inch touchscreen.
Stepping up to the Limited adds foglamps, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated suede and leather upholstery, upgraded interior trim and an All-Weather package that includes heated mirrors and heated front seats.
The limited-production (only 500 will be made) HyperBlue edition includes the Limited features and adds special light blue paint, aero body styling tweaks, black wheels and exterior badges, a frameless rearview mirror, blue interior accent stitching and a black-and-blue interior scheme with the BRZ logo embroidered on the front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2016 BRZ is rear-wheel drive and features a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic with shift paddles and rev-matched downshifts is optional.
The BRZ with a manual transmission is more than a second quicker to 60 mph than one with the optional automatic.
In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped BRZ went from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. An automatic BRZ did it in 7.9 seconds. These times are certainly on the slow side for a dedicated sports car, though at least the manual BRZ is within a half-second of the new MX-5 Miata.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway) with the manual and an excellent 28 mpg combined (25/34) with the automatic.
Standard safety equipment on the 2016 Subaru BRZ includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control (with selectable levels of calibration), front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In Edmunds brake testing, the BRZ came to a stop from 60 mph in 114 feet, a respectable result that’s nonetheless a few feet longer than the 2016 MX-5 Miata’s best stop.
In government crash tests, the BRZ earned a safety rating of five stars overall (out of a possible five), including four stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side impact safety. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the BRZ received the highest possible rating of “Good” in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. The BRZ’s seat/head restraint design was also rated “Good” for whiplash protection in rear impacts. In that agency’s small-overlap frontal offset test, the BRZ received a second-best “Acceptable” rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The BRZ has a simple, pleasantly styled cabin that features a blend of Toyota and Subaru switchgear and materials. It’s a bit bland compared with some other sporty cars in its price range, but then this is supposed to be a back-to-basics driver’s car. There’s no shortage of features, as even the base model is loaded with high-tech items like navigation, a rearview camera, HD radio and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. The standard touchscreen interface is updated for 2016 with an incrementally larger screen and new software.
The BRZ’s firm, well-shaped front seats are supportive enough for hard driving on curvy roads, yet remain comfortable on long-distance trips. People of just about any size should find the driving position quite agreeable, and thanks to the low-profile hood, there’s an expansive view of the road ahead.
Yes, there’s a backseat, but no adult would want to sit back there. Legroom is next to nil, your head will be either very close to or pressed against the rear window and the center tunnel impedes hiproom. Trunk space is also rather small at 6.9 cubic feet, but folding down the rear seatback expands cargo capacity considerably.
If you’re the sort of driver who must be able to hammer down freeway on-ramps with tires ablaze, the 2016 Subaru BRZ is not for you. Its power is sufficient but not thrilling, and there’s not much torque to launch you off the line. Instead, the BRZ is for those who get a kick out of going around corners with phenomenal communication and control. For that purpose, few cars can match it, even at twice the price.
The 2016 BRZ delivers a pure sports-car experience on a winding road.
The BRZ’s limits are approachable and easily controlled, which makes it a wonderfully engaging sports car. The steering practically telegraphs the front tires’ grip status right to the driver’s hands. What’s more, the brake pedal is firm and consistent in feel, and the chassis remains composed even when the road surface doesn’t. We’d go for the manual gearbox, which is a pleasure to shift, but even the available automatic transmission is programmed for enthusiastic driving, upshifting very rapidly and matching revs enthusiastically on downshifts.
Used for more mundane duties like the daily commute or a long road trip, this little Subaru is still rewarding. It’s surprisingly easy to drive, and the ride is sufficiently supple over broken pavement. The one demerit is that there’s a fair amount of road noise, which can detract from an otherwise reasonably refined experience.