Guardian Express - - DRIVEWAY - Bill Buys

IT doesn't look that dif­fer­ent from the ex­cel­lent orig­i­nal, but the lat­est BRZ from the house of Subaru has had quite a few im­prove­ments – and a de­cent price cut – to make it well worth an­other look.

The neat sports coupe, the sole model in Subaru's line-up with rear wheel drive, is now priced at $32,990 for the sixspeed man­ual and $2K more for the auto, with re­spec­tive trim­mings of $1230 and $1735.

Power and torque are slightly up by 5kW and 7Nm for new num­bers of 152kW and 212Nm, the sus­pen­sion has been tight­ened, there's a big touch­screen for the six-speaker au­dio sys­tem, and bet­ter and more com­pre­hen­sive in­stru­men­ta­tion, in­clud­ing a clear dig­i­tal speed read-out.

The lat­ter is pretty im­por­tant in our 'speed kills' men­tal­ity, be­cause the BRZ is a thor­oughly pleas­ant, al­most purist, sports coupe and it's very easy to creep up beyond the ever-so-safe 60km/h or what­ever other lo­cal limit, with­out notic­ing.

The car is more of a ca­pa­ble than red hot per­former, but it has the char­ac­ter and am­bi­ence that in­vites any driver with more than a drop of Av­gas in his or her veins to be­come one with it and re­ally en­joy the well-sorted car.

The driver sits low, but can still see over the bon­net, and un­like sports cars of yes­ter­year, which were al­most naked as far as com­forts and equip­ment went, the BRZ, de­spite its en­thu­si­ast-ori­en­ta­tion, has du­al­zone cli­mate con­trol, re­vers­ing cam­era, key­less en­try and start, cruise con­trol, LED fog, head and tail­lights, even power win­dows.

It has a boot as well, not very large, but ca­pa­ble of ac­com­mo­dat­ing a wee case and some soft stuff on top of and on ei­ther side of the flat-mounted spare wheel, and there's also a back seat of sorts, which is more for on­board stor­age than grown hu­mans.

The front seats are ex­cel­lent, the con­trols nicely placed and the steer­ing wheel and short­throw gearshift – we had the man­ual – have a good, qual­ity feel.

The cubby is of rea­son­able size and the car comes with the bot­tle and cuphold­ers de­manded of mod­ern con­veyances.

The four-cylin­der boxer en­gine's brain­box has been tweaked for a bit of ex­tra low down torque, which is nice in slo-mo sub­ur­bia.

But the BRZ is at its best on an open wind­ing road, where its pep, grip and bal­ance can be en­joyed.

The sound from the nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated en­gine is also pleas­ant in its chaff-cut­ter

way. We never both­ered with the au­dio sys­tem.

There's a touch of un­der­steer in fast cor­ners, which can eas­ily be turned into con­trol­lable over­steer by lift­ing off or trail­ing the brakes mid­way through, if that's your thing, and the elec­tric-as­sisted steer­ing, now with a slightly smaller steer­ing wheel, is im­pres­sive.

Its quite long wheel­base makes for su­per sta­bil­ity and there's a track mode you can se­lect if you want to hang the tail out on a cir­cuit or au­tokhana.

The nearly 1300kg car can run to 100km/h in 7.4sec­onds and re­turn an av­er­age 8.4litres/100km.

Of course it has all the safety guff du jour, but the sweet-han­dling BRZ should let any half de­cent driver steer away from trou­ble in the first place.

Ver­dict: A real qual­ity sports car at a bud­get price.

Subaru's BRZ has been given even more ap­peal.

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