2022 Subaru BRZ: What's It Like to Live With?
Just how practical can a BRZ be while having fun? Hang out with us for a year and 20,000 miles to find out!
|Miles Driven:||Average MPG:|
Latest Highlights (updated 09/08/23)
- Active Sound Control pumps in extra engine sounds — we're not the car needs it.
- This car makes mundane errands fun.
- The BRZ delivers attainable power without getting over your head.
- With an average-height driver behind the wheel, this is a three-passenger car at best.
What We Got And Why
• Our test vehicle: 2022 Subaru BRZ Limited
• Base MSRP: $31,455
• MSRP as tested: $31,455
A 2022 Subaru BRZ joins our long-term fleet for a yearlong evaluation. We look forward to exploring its capabilities and practicality in everyday life. But we have another motive for adding a well-balanced, rear-wheel-drive sports car to the Edmunds fleet: driver training. We're always looking for a good rear-drive vehicle to teach those new to our team, as well as remind the old-timers, how the dynamics of a car like the BRZ compare to competitors. Even when those competitors are of the front-wheel-drive variety. It's going to be fun, er, educational.
What Did We Get?
Edmunds suggests the best version of the 2022 BRZ is in Limited trim with a six-speed manual. So that's what we got. For $31,455, it has grippier higher-performance summer tires on 18-inch wheels plus features like blind-spot warning, heated front seats, a nicer upholstery and adaptive headlights. This car may spend a lot of days as a training car, but we still want some comfort — we're not savages. There are no other options.
Why Did We Get It?
We got the BRZ both to use as a driver training vehicle and to explore its day-to-day livability. This may not be an only-car choice for a young family. But the BRZ appeals to two target markets that we happen to have on Edmunds editorial staff right now: 1) younger, enthusiastic buyers who want to have fun while driving and 2) older buyers who don't have young children and want a fun car. See the common thread? "Fun." A couple of staffers have also owned BRZs. They are eager to know how much better the redesigned car is. Let's see how it fares for 12 months and 20,000 miles.
The BRZ is on loan from Subaru for the purpose of evaluation.
Average lifetime mpg: 25.0
EPA mpg rating: 22 combined ( 20 city / 27 highway )
Best fill mpg: 30.6
Best range (miles): 321.2
Current odometer: 14,660
So what's the fuel economy really like?
The odometer in the BRZ just turned 10,000 miles. So far we've found this Subaru can reach or beat the EPA highway estimate of 22 mpg, easily. We've done it numerous times already. We've also seen that on the fun end of the spectrum, it can dip as low as 18 mpg. Wait, 18 mpg? We can do better than that. There are untapped smiles still inside this thing. We'll need to do some closed-course track day research and get back to you on the lowest mpg stat later.
Our first impressions with the BRZ
"The clutch lets out near the top of the pedal, which I'm not a fan of. It'll take some getting used to. It is definitely fun to drive, and while the suspension rides firm, it doesn't beat you up either. Looking back on the 2013 Scion FR-S we once had in our fleet, I remember it being too firm for my taste, so it's nice that the comfort has improved.
"Another minor complaint I have is the Active Sound Control feature, which Subaru says 'enhances engine sound within the cabin for a more engaging driving experience.' Not for me. The sounds coming from this thing often sound louder than the engine and make me feel like I'm revving higher than I actually am. These devices are fairly common these days, as modern cars do such a good job of isolating engine sounds from the cabin. But more often than not, they don't quite have the proper sound figured out and tend to make things more annoying than 'engaging.'" — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
"I love our BRZ's balanced and lightweight feel. It's easy to feel how much grip it has as you're cornering, giving you confidence to get it up near its limits of adhesion without worrying about being over your head. So many of today's performance cars are overkill for public roads, but the BRZ is perfect for having fun as part of a daily drive, even if it's just around town." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
What do we think of the BRZ's personality?
"Hey, check this out: a super-smooth naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that redlines at 7,500 rpm! Did I just time warp back to 1999 and into some sort of Honda product? Actually, it's kind of sad. Our long-term Honda Civic Si's turbocharged four-cylinder provides similar horsepower but is a no-show for character. The BRZ's flat-four encourages you to row through the gears and wing it up to redline just for the heck of it." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"Buying a new Subaru BRZ? Excellent. Just be warned: you might find yourself doing YouTube searches for "BRZ exhaust" after about a week of ownership. Heck, I don't own this car and even I was doing this. Subaru built an awesome car and then seemingly removed all personality from the engine and exhaust and placed into the witness protection program (they are now living in Seattle under the name Mr. and Mrs. Fuji). I like revving this car out, but I sorely miss that warbling sound that Subaru used to have for its flat-four engines. Hopefully it's fixable with an aftermarket exhaust that won't void the car's warranty." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"The BRZ is never not fun. That doesn't mean it's always raring to go. Around town it's smooth and easy. The clutch is light enough to make L.A. traffic tolerable, and the short gearing means it feels quick all of the time. The engine's output might not be hugely impressive on paper, but 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque feels plenty pokey in a car that weighs 2,829 pounds on our scales. The small footprint makes it zippy too. There's rarely a gap too small to take, and the improved power curve relative to the last BRZ means less shifting as each gear has a bit more grunt on tap.
"There are a handful of genuinely fun and sporty cars for under $40,000, but most are front-wheel-drive vehicles like the Volkswagen GTI and Hyundai Elantra N. Those are fantastic cars that offer more utility than the BRZ, but they lack the traditional rear-wheel-drive layout found in the Subaru. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is probably the most direct comparison, but I'm not sure it's any more entertaining to drive." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
We're a big fan of the latest BRZ generation
"This new BRZ is one of the most dramatic generational improvements I can think of. The original (2013-2021) looked dorky and the engine had that weird midrange torque trough — there was zero want from yours truly. But this new one is a hot tamale. First of all, it looks massively better. No contest. Someone might actually buy this car for how it looks. As for the new engine, lately I've taken to leaving the shifter in fourth gear on the freeway, which means 4500-ish rpm, and just flooring it willy-nilly. That's where the old engine was still waking up from its torque nap, but this new one is ready to GO. Wow! There's a pretty serious surge that does not let up. I've hit the rev limiter multiple times (the warning beep comes a little late) because the engine feels like it just wants to keep going. Oh, and still no turbo, which to me is such a good thing. The immediate throttle response is a big reason why I'm thinking this car is a legitimate substitute for a used base 981 Boxster. I drove one of those once; I don't remember it having the same sense of urgency at full throttle. Anyway, yeah, I'm kinda smitten. Gold stars to the team tasked with reinventing this car for 2022 on a presumably not enormous budget." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
How functional is the BRZ's back seat?
"Are the BRZ's back seats usable? Well, it depends on what you want to use them for. For adults? Nope. Babies or small children who still need to sit in a reverse-facing safety seat? I haven't tried that, but it seems unlikely. But I can report that I've put my 11-year-old son in back for my school drop-off runs. He normally still uses a booster seat but in the BRZ it's not necessary. (He quite liked that, in fact.) But even here the BRZ is a three-person car. I've been putting him on the passenger side with that front passenger seat slid forward. Introducing another child or adult would complicate matters greatly." —Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
What do we think of the interior storage?
"Apparently, minimalist sport coupe design also means minimalist interior storage. There's no center console bin or cubby ahead of the gear shifter, so anything you might want to tuck away (your phone, for example) has to be placed in the glovebox (suboptimal) or in the cupholders, two of which are inconveniently located rearward on the center console. And what if you want to use those cupholders for -- crazy idea here -- actual beverages? Well, now you need to put your stuff on the front passenger seat. And then what happens if you have a front passenger, and they have their own stuff? You get the idea. I understand that this is a driving-focused sport coupe, but the lack of practicality dulls this car's appeal to me as a daily driver." —Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
Buckle up or suffer the annoying consequences!
"The BRZ has the most annoying seatbelt-reminder chime in the history of seatbelt-reminder chimes. How do I know this? Because I've driven a bazillion cars and I can't remember a single other car that stood out in this way. I always wear my seatbelt, of course, EXCEPT when I'm moving parked cars around, which is a pretty common activity in life. Maybe you park in a tandem spot, maybe your driveway's only one car wide. Maybe it's street cleaning today and you have to move your car to the other side of the street. Know what I mean? There are a lot of reasons why you might have to hop in your car and move it such a short distance that putting your seatbelt on would be pointless. And the BRZ has no sympathy whatsoever. BONG BONG BONG. It's a hammer pounding your inner ear. It gets progressively louder, too, which is the part that really drives me nuts. I heard you the first time -- it's not subtle. Making it louder every 15 seconds or so is not really helping anyone. If you're wondering whether I checked to see if the bonging can be defeated, why yes, of course I did. There's no off button per se, but a forum post told me that if I turn on accessory power and click the driver seatbelt in and out of its receptacle 20 times within 30 seconds, serenity will ensue. I actually tried it. No joy. I conclude that you may well be stuck with the bonging if you buy this car. Is it a deal-breaker? No, I guess not, but it can cause extreme frustration from time to time, as you will have surmised." — Josh Sadlier, director, performance strategy
We have mixed feelings on installing a car seat in the BRZ
"Grabbed the keys for the BRZ and remembered that I had a car seat to haul home. Figured I'd have to use the lap belt to mount it in the front passenger seat, or if it didn't fit at all, toss it in the trunk for the ride home. Upon inspection, the rear seat DID have LATCH anchors, but it was a complete PITA to get into back seat.
"Using every ounce of my Tetris brain I was able to get it in and home. Figured I'd document the process the next day. Mounted the GoPro, and repeated the process. Having a bit more practice, I was able to shoehorn it in but had to recline a bit to extend the headrest to its proper height. One thing I didn't take into account was the 'strap' anchor. Only way I was able to hook it in place was to get into back seat from the driver's side. Overall it took 5 minutes and I twisted my ankle in the process.
"My daughter got in easy, but the seat's headrest was at its vertical limit. I don't think she'd fit in another year." — John Adolph, supervising producer
"I figured since I put my toddler in the back seat of our long-term Mini Cooper, I should at least try him in the BRZ. On the plus side, it was actually easier to maneuver his car seat in through the door of the BRZ than the Mini ... but the good news ends there. The deeply recessed, sloping seat cushions meant that there was no way for me to get the base of the car seat ... seated. No matter what I did, the back of the base just hovered a few inches above the cushion, preventing it from being properly secured. I think if I used the lower anchors instead of the seat belt, it might have been a more stable fit, but my kid is just above the weight limit where the seat's manufacturer says you need to use the seat belt. (Did you know LATCH has a weight limit?)
"In the end, I wasn't comfortable driving my kid around in that wobbly setup, so I guess score one for the Mini? But then, my kid didn't actually like being driven around in the Mini, so ..." — Will Kaufman, video content manager
More evolution than revolution
"The new BRZ honestly feels more like a refresh than a full redesign. I think it's the interior that really carries that vibe: It's pretty much just as plasticky as the old car, and nothing about it feels 'newer.' Even the head unit is still packaged in such a way that it looks like someone just dropped in an aftermarket stereo. The interior really is chintzy, but if that lets you save a few grand on the driving experience, that's just fine." — Will Kaufman, video content manager
Frustrating build quality
News editor Nick Yekikian is not impressed with the build quality of the Subaru BRZ.
"In terms of build quality this thing is actually infuriating (at least, to me). I'll get straight into it: The dome light broke immediately, one of the USB ports broke (also immediately), the passenger-side rear wheel's logo wheel cap came off, there's a hole in the air stem on that same wheel, everything inside feels so heinously cheap it's almost offensive.
"I know it's supposed to be an inexpensive car, but the build quality in our car is hugely disappointing. The dials to control the HVAC feel like they're off a kid's plaything, the grain and gloss vary from one panel to the next (like the thing was put together in three different factories), the beeping and bonging is a constant annoyance. The sound system is one of the worst on sale right now, and I know that isn't this car's purpose, but you'll never drown out the CONSTANT road noise from the tires. Oh and another thing, there aren't even wheelwell liners, so every single little pebble or crack the tires go over is 100% transmitted into the cabin.
"Additionally, when you have low tire pressure warning, the notification that pops up in the instrument panel can be dismissed but it comes right back 5 seconds later. Good luck seeing any other pertinent information you wanted because it's never going to go away.
"The only nice thing about this interior are the seats. That. Is. It.
"The engine sounds like a diesel tractor at startup, the shifter feels different from gate to gate (sometimes it's nice and slick and sometimes it's horrifically notchy), and it's weirdly difficult to rev-match correctly on downshifts. I can do it in other manuals without issue, so why do i over-rev this thing all the time?? Maybe that's on me — that's fine.
"I cannot think of another small performance car that is so inundated with issues like this. The Miata is well built, well equipped, and features none of this car's annoyances. Same with the GR Corolla, or the base Golf GTI, or even the Elantra N.
"After spending a lot of time in this thing I'd never recommend it to anyone purely because of how poorly it's put together. Do better, Subaru."
New brake pads for the BRZ
As stated earlier, the brakes were not a safety issue but when driven at our test track and applying hard pressure to the brakes at higher speeds, there was a mild slip before they engaged. That's the best I can describe it. It felt like the pads were glazed. This was going to be used at a track soon so we HAD to get this done. A week later, I was back at Irvine Subaru to take care of the brakes. Speaking with the service advisor again:
— Replace all 4 brake pads and resurface the rotors.
I opted to go to Buffalo Wild Wings across the street to wait this one out. A couple of hours go by and I get a call to say the car was done. To replace 4 pads and resurface the rotors cost us $759.30. Not bad at all. Irvine Subaru performed the bed-in procedure before handing it back so we didn't have to worry about that. After paying, I went out onto the freeway and did a couple of freeway off-ramp braking tests (safely) to check them out. Brakes felt good and we are all set for our track day!
We took our BRZ in for its 10,000-mile service
Associate Manager of vehicle testing operations and logistics, Rex Tokeshi-Torres, took the BRZ in for its first major service interval.
"Technically, this should be the 12,000 mile service but since this is going to be used at the track soon, it's a good idea to get fresh oil in and a quick inspection done. I called up the good folks at Irvine Subaru and set up an appointment for the following week to get this handled.
"A week later, I'm meeting with a service advisor going over items that I wanted to have taken care of that I dictated over the phone:
— 12,000 mile service which includes an oil change, tire rotation and have a multi-point inspection done. Standard stuff.
— Wanted to have the alignment checked-out: when driving, you get a mild pull to the right when going straight. Something is off so it's best to have them look into it.
— Swap out all 4 brake pads and have brakes resurfaced due to a couple of our drivers, including me, who felt like the brakes didn't quite engage right away — like there was a mild slip or delay upon braking — which was noticeable on our test track. It wasn't a safety issue but from a performance standpoint, it could be annoying.
3 hours later, the service was completed. Damage? $0. Technically, it was applied as our first service for the vehicle. As we suspected, they found that the right front wheel was indeed out of alignment and they put everything back to proper spec. The BRZ tracks straight now. Unfortunately, the brake pads we wanted were not in stock and had to be ordered. So we made an appointment for the following week and off I went.
|Total routine maintenance costs||$759.30|
|Additional maintenance costs|
|Scheduled dealer visits||1|
|Unscheduled dealer visits||1|
|Days out of service|
|Breakdowns stranding driver|
It can get quite noisy inside the BRZ
"I hate to bag on a car for whose existence I am grateful, but this delightfully nimble little rocket is, unfortunately, extremely loud inside. You hear all kinds of noises from the tires that you've never heard on that section of road before. It's loud even at low speeds -- 35 mph usually isn't this noisy unless there's no roof on the car. Yelling is advised if you want to be understood by your passenger or someone on the phone. I get it, sound insulation adds weight and that's the enemy, but here's my dream BRZ spec: Add 200 pounds of Dynamat and somehow coax another 30 horsepower out of the engine (without adding a turbo, please) to compensate. Those tweaks are gonna cost something, but I'd gladly pay a premium to kill that cacophony. The BRZ really appeals to me because of how it drives, but the killer sports-car combination, I think, is when those dynamics come paired with surprising refinement." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
But it's a good-enough highway cruiser
"Rex told me that our BRZ needed some miles, so I volunteered to add a bunch in the form of a road trip up to the Bay Area for a wedding.
"Long-range cruising isn't what the BRZ is made for, but it's at least competent at it. The suspension doesn't beat you up too much and the seat remains pretty comfortable over time. The only real annoyance is how loud the cabin is, at 75 mph even if you're in sixth gear the rpm are around 2K. So there's engine buzz but also a bunch of wind and tire noise to along with it. It's sort of like our Bronco, in that at highway speeds it's tough to have a conversation with someone in the car or on the phone. And to hear my podcast over the din, I had to crank the volume up pretty high.
"Storage wise, it fits a lot (especially with the seats folded down). Easily fit a set of golf clubs with one side folded down, and a duffel bag, suit bag, and backpack on the other side. Small-item storage up front is abysmal. Ended up tossing my phone on the passenger's seat after I plugged it in." — Brian Wong, senior editor
The BRZ is great for track days — but can you take it golfing?
"The question of whether two golfers and their gear will fit in the BRZ is obviously a burning one, and I've got your answer: Yes! Barely! First of all, there's no way you're fitting two golf bags into the trunk. You can't even get one bag in there. So that means you're gonna be folding the rear seatback down to get to your tee time no matter what.
"If you're alone, you can try putting your bag in lengthwise, but I found that to be a pain because things can get caught on the lip of the folded-down seatback when you're trying to pull the bag out. My preferred approach is to flip the passenger seat forward and put the bag sideways across the folded-down seatback. Then, if you've got a pull cart, you can wedge it into the trunk, and I do mean wedge, because the trunk is so short vertically that there may be hardly any clearance for the wheels.
"Got all that? Good, so what if there are two golfers? Easy: Put the second bag on top of the first one, sideways across the folded-down seatback, and Tetris the second pull cart into the trunk next to the first one. As a nuclear option, you could throw one of the pull carts on top of the bags if both don't fit in the trunk. Now, is any of this convenient or great? Not remotely. But, it's a fact that our BRZ transported two full-size humans, two golf bags, and two pull carts from Los Angeles to Ventura (a 90-minute drive) and back, without compromising the passenger space of said humans whatsoever. Considering we're talking about a tiny sports car, that's mighty impressive, even if, 10 times out of the next 10, I would park the BRZ and take my 1997 Mercedes E320 sedan instead." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
Small-item storage isn't great in the BRZ
"I really, really dig the BRZ. It's always entertaining, making even the afternoon slog through traffic a little more tolerable. I don't have kids, just a girlfriend and a couple of dogs, so the lack of rear doors or a usable rear seat is basically a nonissue for me. There's a surprising amount of cargo space, too, given the pint-size footprint. The trunk isn't super tall, but you can fit a lot of grocery bags as long as that loaf of sourdough isn't sticking out of the top. You can get a couple of carry-on bags in the trunk, too, with no issue. I basically just use the rear seat for storage. I see it more as a parcel shelf with seat belts (which are handy at keeping items in place).
"Storage up front isn't quite as great. The door have decently sized bottle holders, but I usually stick my sunglasses and garage door opener in the pocket as there's not really a good place for them anywhere else. The cupholders are behind your elbow. The odd placement makes reaching for drinks somewhat awkward, and the USB port placement means there's not a great place for your phone outside of the cupholder. It's a small car, so I know packaging has its limits, and none of these are things that would keep me from buying one. I'm on Subaru's website every single time I hand back the keys." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
Senior editor Clint Simone just returned from an extended-weekend road trip in the BRZ.
He says, "Truth be told, I wasn't looking forward to driving 1,000 miles in our long-term Subaru BRZ. Maybe I'm older now, maybe I'm just not as fun, but that distance in a little two-door sports car didn't seem like a good time. Now that I'm on the other side of said journey, I can tell you with total confidence that I was proven wrong. The new BRZ is far more civilized than its predecessor. Here's a short list of pros and cons that I experienced during my trip up and down California's Interstate 5.
The seats: Wow! These were unexpected. The BRZ has some of my favorite seats out of anything I've driven this year. They're supportive all the way up your back without squeezing too hard in the bolsters.
"The clutch: This Subaru has a very forgiving clutch with an early catch point. During peak LA traffic getting out of town, I had to pop the car into first no less than 100 times, so I'm thankful that it was so easy to manage.
"The fuel economy: As I kept driving on the highway, the BRZ's fuel economy average kept climbing higher and higher. After 1,057 miles, the car managed 28.3 mpg combined. That smashes the car's 22 combined EPA rating and does better than its 27 mpg highway figure.
The noise: Among all the good, the BRZ's overall noise levels were the worst of the worst. The cabin is prone to wind and road noise, levels that I don't think should be excused for any new car on sale today. I'm aware that this is an inexpensive sports car, but a Volkswagen GTI or something similarly fun does much better in this department. Cranking up the sound system is the only solution for overcoming this, and even that doesn't make it all that much better.
"The infotainment: While this generation's infotainment is much better than the last gen's, it still feels like a new car from 2014. The BRZ does have Apple CarPlay (thankfully), but it would disconnect all the time. And if you're not using CarPlay, the native software feels slow and cumbersome to use.
"The space: One carry-on-sized suitcase and a backpack took up most of the trunk space. I threw all my extra gear in the back seat, eliminating the possibility of bringing more than one passenger along for any of the ride. The BRZ can handle a quick grocery run, but anything more than that and the space disappears rapidly."
We're still developing the "BRZ / GR86" wave
"Some flavor about driving our BRZ: I was cruising along a highway when I saw a silver Toyota GR86 coming up behind me in the rearview mirror. 'Oh, cool,' I thought to myself. It was in the lane to my right and going faster than me. I looked over as it came by, figuring we'd exchange waves or something. You know, kindred spirits? We've basically got the exact same car and I wanted to compliment him on his purchase.
"But the guy just kept looking straight ahead as he cruised by. No wave, no thumbs-up or acknowledgement whatsoever. So either: 1) he was thinking of more "important" things and didn't see me; 2) BRZ and GR86 owners just don't do the wave thing; or 3) BRZ/GR86 owners wave to their own brand only. I don't know enough about the BRZ/GR86 car culture to say. But all the same, I was disappointed to not share the moment." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
The BRZ is flat-out fun to drive
"When given a choice, I often find myself choosing the BRZ for the weekend. It's easy to drive even in stop-and-go traffic. That says a lot since it's a manual. It brings a smile to my face when I have open road and it's wonderful to drive when going on Angeles Crest." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, manager, vehicle testing operations