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2018 Subaru BRZ: What You Need to Know

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 5/24/2018 U.S. News & World Report
a close up of a car: 2018 Subaru BRZ© Subaru of America, Inc. 2018 Subaru BRZ

The 2018 Subaru BRZ is a small, fun-to-drive sports coupe that's all about the driver, with animated yet composed performance. However, its small back seat and shortage of features contribute to its low place in our rankings.

The 2018 Subaru BRZ is ranked:

Is the Subaru BRZ a Good Car?

If you think you need outrageous horsepower or blistering acceleration to have fun in a sports car, the Subaru BRZ might change your mind. Though its naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine puts out only 205 horsepower, the BRZ feels quick off the line. In fact, it's so enjoyable to drive that it earns a top performance score in a class that's all about performance. The car's low stance, light weight, and athletic handling lets you rip through turns. Driving enthusiasts should also check out the newest trim level, the performance-oriented BRZ tS.

The BRZ has a few shortcomings, most of which are typical for a small sports car. A cramped back seat and trunk limit the BRZ's practicality, and it has few optional amenities from which to choose. The car also has a below-average history of predicted reliability.

Should I Buy the Subaru BRZ?

The BRZ is unlike anything else Subaru makes. It's the only Subaru that doesn't feature all-wheel drive, and it lacks the family-friendly seating space and advanced safety features that you might find in an Outback or an Impreza. Still, the BRZ is meant to be fun – not practical. Most folks looking for a rear-wheel-drive, manual-transmission coupe with a lively engine and deft handling should consider the BRZ.

You should also check out the related Toyota 86. These two are almost identical, except for minor styling, options, and handling differences. Other worthy competitors in this class include the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Fiat 124 Spider—another nearly-identical pair of sports cars that are also convertibles.

Compare the BRZ, 86 and MX-5 Miata »

Should I Buy a New or Used Subaru BRZ?

For 2018, Subaru introduced an optional upgraded infotainment system that has a 7-inch touch screen, navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. There's also a new limited-edition tS model that features several performance and appearance upgrades. You may be able to save thousands of dollars by shopping for a used model, especially the farther back in its existence you go. However, there were several changes each year that you'll have to weigh your savings against.

Navigation was not available at all in 2016 or 2017 models, though it was standard in 2015. The 2016 model received a rearview camera and an upgraded infotainment system as standard equipment. The BRZ saw a significant refresh for 2017, including updated interior and exterior styling, an improved suspension, and a 5-horsepower bump in engine output.

To research some other models in this generation, check out our reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Subaru BRZ. If you decide an older model is right for you, check out our Used Car Deals page for savings and incentives on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Subaru BRZ »
We Did the Research for You: 43 Reviews Analyzed

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know about the BRZ in our comprehensive review. It combines concrete data (like fuel economy estimates, horsepower specs, and cargo space dimensions) with 43 professional Subaru BRZ reviews. This 2018 Subaru BRZ full review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which spans the 2013 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

The Best Cars team—a division of U.S. News & World Report—has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars, publish current car news, and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from carmakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Subaru BRZ Cost?

For 2018, the price of a new Subaru BRZ starts at $25,595, which is about average for a sports coupe. In addition to the base Premium trim, the BRZ comes in a Limited trim level, which costs $28,445 with a manual transmission and $29,545 with an automatic. Keep in mind that these are only suggested retail prices. For great savings at your local Subaru dealer, check out our U.S. News Best Price Program. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

Subaru BRZ Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Subaru BRZ or Toyota 86?

Toyota and Subaru joined forces to design the BRZ and the Toyota 86 side-by-side. There are few differences between these cars, and they mostly pertain to exterior styling, cabin layout, and available options. For example, the 86 doesn't offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The 86 also boasts Toyota's great history of predicted reliability, while the BRZ is a little below average in that regard.

Which Is Better: Subaru BRZ or Mazda MX-5 Miata?

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is an outstanding sports car with a storied history. Its nimble handling and gratifying manual transmission practically define the modern two-seat roadster. While the Miata has a peppy four-cylinder engine, it isn't quite as powerful as the BRZ. The Mazda does come with more available safety features and a better optional infotainment system. If you're looking to drop the top on a summer day, the Miata is the clear choice. It's available either with a soft-top convertible or—in the Miata RF model—a power-retractable roof. The BRZ coupe is not available as a convertible.

Compare the BRZ, 86, and MX-5 Miata »

BRZ Interior

How Many People Does the BRZ Seat?

The BRZ is a 2+2 sports coupe: two seats in the front and two seats in the rear. The cloth front seats are nicely bolstered for enthusiastic driving. They come only with manual adjustments. The BRZ Limited and BRZ tS models get leather and Alcantara trimmings, along with heated front seats. Adults will want to steer clear of the cramped back seat, but this space is useful for stowing small items or occasionally carrying petite passengers.

BRZ and Car Seats

Caregivers will have a challenging time installing car seats in the BRZ using either set of lower LATCH anchors because they're located deep in the seat cushion and require a lot of effort to use. Two tether anchors are also mounted in the back seat, both of which are easy to find.

BRZ Interior Quality

Subaru applied a minimalistic approach to the BRZ's interior styling. The cabin isn't overly posh, but it is put together well, with a nice sampling of soft-touch materials. The upgraded seats are an especially nice touch.

BRZ Cargo Space

The BRZ has a 6.9-cubic-foot trunk, which is enough space to hold a weekend's worth of luggage for you and a friend. That's the same amount of cargo space that the Toyota 86 and Nissan 370Z offer and more than the Fiat 124 Spider and Mazda MX-5 Miata.

BRZ Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The BRZ's infotainment system doesn't get a lot of love from automotive journalists. The display is small—which makes for cramped graphics and hard-to-read text—and the system isn't as straightforward as some others are. The upgraded system that's standard in Limited and tS trims is better, thanks to its slightly larger screen and the addition of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Read more about interior »

BRZ Performance

BRZ Engine: Exuberant 4-Cylinder

Every BRZ (including the STI-tuned BRZ tS) comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine. This 205-horsepower engine (200 in cars with the automatic transmission) is animated and responsive, and with its standard six-speed manual transmission, proves quite satisfying for spirited drivers. A six-speed automatic transmission is available.

BRZ Gas Mileage: Above Average

The BRZ gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission, which is better than most sports cars with a four-cylinder engine. Opting for the six-speed manual lowers your rating to 21/29 mpg city/highway. If fuel economy is a concern for you, the Fiat 124 Spider is even more efficient, with a 25/36 mpg rating.

BRZ Ride and Handling: Nimble and Fun

The rear-wheel-drive BRZ is designed to appeal to spirited drivers. That means its suspension is stiffer than your average small car in order to limit body movements and improve handling. The BRZ doesn't feel overly rough, but if you're looking for a daily driver, make sure you test it on bumpy pavement before making a decision. The Performance package, optional in the Limited and standard in the tS, adds an upgraded suspension, special wheels, and a Brembo brake system.

Read more about performance »

BRZ Reliability

Is the Subaru BRZ Reliable?

While the 2018 BRZ does not yet have a reliability score, the comparable 2017 model earned a below-average predicted reliability score of 2.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Subaru BRZ Warranty

The 2018 BRZ comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty.

Read more about reliability »

BRZ Safety

BRZ Crash Test Results

The BRZ has an overall four-out-of-five-star frontal crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a five-star rollover rating. At the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the BRZ receives the top score of Good in four crash tests, and a rating of Acceptable in the driver's side small overlap test.

BRZ Safety Features

The BRZ comes standard with a rearview camera. No other advanced safety features are available. That's similar to the Toyota 86, but alternatives like the Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spider offer blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, along with a few other driver assistance features.

Read more about safety »

Which Subaru BRZ Model Is Right for Me?

For 2018, the BRZ comes in three trims: the base Premium, the uplevel Limited, and the performance-oriented tS. All three come standard with a 205-horsepower four-cylinder engine (200 in cars with the automatic transmission), a six-speed manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive. In the Limited trim, Subaru offers a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for $1,100. 

The most appealing collection of amenities comes in the BRZ Limited. Its upgraded infotainment system—a new feature for 2018—has a larger touch screen and expands smartphone integration by adding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Navigation, leather and Alcantara upholstery, and heated front seats are also standard in this trim. Below, we go into more detail on the notable standard features in each trim level.

Subaru BRZ Premium

The base BRZ Premium starts at $25,595 and includes cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle, and a rearview camera. Its Starlink infotainment system comes with an eight-speaker sound system, a 6.2-inch touch-screen display, smartphone integration, Bluetooth, a USB port, HD Radio, and satellite radio.

Subaru BRZ Limited

Leather and Alcantara upholstery is standard in the BRZ Limited ($28,445), along with heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 4.2-inch LCD driver information display screen, keyless access, and a push-button ignition. New to the Limited trim for 2018 is an upgraded Starlink infotainment system that includes a 7-inch display, navigation, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

Subaru BRZ tS

The BRZ tS is a special edition with a limited production run of 500 cars. Its performance upgrades include 18-inch wheels, an STI-tuned suspension system, the same high-performance Brembo brake system that's included in the Limited's optional Performance package, and an STI rear carbon fiber spoiler. Seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara, contrast red stitching, and the upgraded 7-inch infotainment system are also standard. Prices start at $33,495.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

See 2018 Subaru BRZ specs and trims »

The Final Call

If you're looking for a nimble little sports car with a sub-$30,000 price tag, the 2018 Subaru BRZ is an excellent choice. It delivers plenty of thrills, and its good fuel economy makes it a smart choice for commuters. If this is destined to be your daily driver, your commute just got a lot more fun … as long as you don't have excessive cargo or more than one passenger along for the ride.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

Read the full 2018 Subaru BRZ review on U.S. News & World Report for more details, photos, specs and prices.

 

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