Subaru BRZ – good for two people but not four


One last fling in the BRZ today. I remember driving the Subaru’s sister car, the Toyota GT 86, and thoroughly enjoying it. The BRZ is a lower spec model and it does feel rather cheap by comparison.

The seats are especially disappointing. Combined with a hard suspension set up they have give my poor back a proper pounding over the last 700 miles.

Access to the back seats is a bit tricky too! It requires pulling the lever underneath the front of the seat to roll it forward. Then another lever on the top left to fold the seat back section forward too.

So, it will actually be a joy for my backside and passengers when the Kia Optima arrives tomorrow. And I never thought I’d say that either…

The Subaru BRZ behaves like a naughty teenager…


It’s the horse fair in Stow-on-the-Wold tomorrow. In days of old, this was a place for people to buy and sell their animals. Now it’s become a giant car boot sale for everything but equine and the locals hate it.

The town is invaded by people you wouldn’t want to sit next to in your favourite boozer. My barber tells me ‘things’ go missing and many shopkeepers just shut up shop for a few days.

Driving a BRZ into the middle of the preparations today raised plenty of eyebrows. The Subaru is no shrinking violet and turned plenty of heads. The styling reminds me of a small Jaguar XK-R – and by that I really do mean small.

Sadly, the sporty looks aren’t really matched by the 197bhp engine. The BRZ makes a lot of noise, wheelspins with even the slightest over-acceleration and behaves like a naughty teenager…

How much play is there in the bonnet fit of a Subaru BRZ?


Windy day in the Lake District – especially if you are 1000ft up Shap Fell on the highest section of the M6 motorway. I could see lorries and vans swaying all over the place.

Quite scary but not as terrifying as noticing the bonnet on the BRZ was moving up and down 5mm or so. Had I inadvertently left it open – was a disaster about to unfold?

I have a fear of this happening after watching the bonnet of a Ford Grenada fold back over the windscreen when I’d just passed my driving test 30 years ago.

So I pulled off the motorway today, only to find the BRZ bonnet was closed but the fit wasn’t that reassuring. Very distracting but a very good method of keeping my speed down!

Gentlemen, do not wear high heels in the Subaru BRZ…


It’s a long time since I wore high heels (honest). About 38 years to be exact  – on a crazy skiing holiday to Italy with my school when there was too much snow. Instead of skiing, we held fancy dress parties with the girls and drank cheap vodka. Obviously, too much drink was taken…

I mention this because I can’t believe that women can walk or even stand up in the damn things. So when I saw a lady climbing out of a Mazda MX-5 the other day, I just wondered how the heck she operated the pedals.

She certainly wouldn’t want to be in the BRZ because foot space is tight. If I wear my lightweight desert boots it’s really tough operating the pedals with and dexterity. The Subaru should come with a pair of Vans flats as standard.

That’s my only issue with BRZ driving position. Everything else is perfect. It even has a PROPER handbrake you can pull upright! Imagine that…

Thursday – Hidden Gem


Rare to find a hidden gem these days but the GT86 is a thrilling example of what car manufacturers can do – when they don’t concentrate solely on luxury features that water down the joy of driving enthusiastically.

The Toyota may be a tad slow when compared to some of the hot hatchbacks out there, and the interior does suffer from some cheap materials. However, I can forgive that when a car returns so much driving pleasure.

A two-year-old GT86 would be a bargain buy in my book. The coupe has a great warranty and provided you can find one with a full service history – and some rubber left on the tyres – it’s great value for money.

At £25,000 a new GT86 is a steal too. Compared to the Nissan 370Z and Audi TT, it’s more exclusive and will give you just as many exciting moments. Plus, being a hidden gem, very few people seem to know what the GT86 is…

Thursday – No Place To Hide!


If Car Couture is giving out prizes for the oddest moment of the year, it must surely have occured this morning when I came back to the Forester after a long run.

Wiltshire has plenty of quiet spots but the behind a Subaru on a hectic B-road is obviously not one of them. I went to open the boot and stumbled across a woman who was relieving herself on the kerb!

She picked the Forester over a BMW 3 Series estate and a SEAT Leon because it is much taller and provides a good deal more cover. Obviously, not enough in this instance!

Final day with the Subaru. In a nutshell – loads of space, practical interior and genuine off-road ability, without the bling. On the downside, it won’t appeal to image-conscious buyers, the prices look a little high and the engine is noisy when pushed hard.

Despite that, I’d buy one over a ‘pretty’ SUV anyday.

Monday – Doors To Manual


It’s slightly off-putting that a car I enjoy driving as much as the Forester suffers from a problem I’ve discovered in other vehicles recently – a poor quality key.

I know nobody actually uses a key in the conventional sense anymore, you just press a button. However, you really have to know the three buttons on the Subaru key intimately if you are going to avoid a frustrating game of ‘press the key’ every time you try to get in.

The symbols on the buttons are so small, it’s really difficult to decipher which one does what. And with the nights closing in, it’s easy to mistakenly press unlock, rather than boot open or just lock!

The problem would be eased by the buttons being illuminated. They are not. Yes I do have poor eyesight but I would imagine a good 50 per cent of Forest drivers wear glasses too.

Sometimes it’s the silly little problems that annoy car owners the most and this is one problem that would be so simple to solve too…




Sunday – Ready For Winter?


It’s lashing down in the Cotswolds – it must be to mark the arrival of our Subaru SUV. Summer ended last week and I’m mightily happy to be splashing through the ever-deepening puddles in the Forester.

This is definitely the sort of car that lives and breathes bad weather. You could say it looks better splattered in mud than clean – even the interior seems to have been designed for bad weather too!

There are loads of storage spaces and cubby boxes, many of them with practical rubber linings that are easy to clean. Our XC has fabric seats but any dirt seems to  disappear easily enough. Not sure it’s worth going for the more expensive leather option.

The XC does have some luxurious, like the electric driver’s seat, a USB socket, 17-inch alloys and obviously air con.

In fact, I’d say there’s little point opting for a more expensive Forester, unless you want the leather and sat nav. This is one SUV that, rather like a Land Rover Defender, is better for being basic.




Saturday – An Alternative To Bling


To a certain generation of bloke, the name Subaru will always be associated with the WRX rally car. The Impreza is no longer imported in to Britain, although you will still see plenty of die-hard ‘Scooby‘ fans frittering away their pay cheques to keep one on the road. No, these days, Subaru is targeting the SUV market and this fourth generation Forester is a key weapon.

Today I did my weekly shop down at Waitrose and the Subaru looked oddly out of place, parked next to row after row of ‘bling’ four-wheel drives. Personally, I love the fact I’m driving something different, which I know can tackle proper off-road work and won’t be offended if I chuck half a ton of wood in the back.

Sadly, I’m not sure the majority of British car-buyers will see it the same way. The Forester isn’t offensive to the eye but it just doesn’t have the cosmetic appeal of a Kia Sportage or a Ford Kuga. Beauty may be skin deep but that’s as far as most people look these days when they are buying a car.

The boxy design will be seen as a disadvantage, even though it allows for a huge load capacity, exceptional headroom and a bright cabin. The interior is basic but you know a Forester will still be lugging sheep up a field in 15 years time when a Kuga has been turned back into sheet metal.

Right now I’m feeling totally inconspicuous in the Forester – a rare feat in any modern SUV. And I’m loving it.

Friday – Ugly Betty?


I’m not sure the great British car-buying public really understand Subaru. Seriously, the company has carved out such a niche for itself that there are still a long of people out there who are still uncertain about the brand.

In a search for a family-friendly SUV, they either pay a premium for an image-conscious BMW or Audi all-wheel drive, or they go for a cheaper, pseudo 4×4 from Nissan or Renault that looks the part but will be left in the dirt when set against a Subaru.

Hopefully over the next seven days we can try and persuade you that despite the Ugly Betty looks, the Forester should definitely be on your list of options. It may not be as pretty as an X3 or a Q5 but it will prove ultra reliable, practical, brilliant off-road and kind of cool, in a slightly alternative type of way.

I’ve just driven our XC back from Heathrow. It has excellent road manners, takes a corner well and is surprisingly good fun on a twisty A-road. It may look a Plain Jane but the Forester is worthy of being regarded as much more than just a farmer’s car for carrying damp Border Collies.