Simplicity Makes Subaru Sports Car A Design Icon

Classic shape, simplicity, and an affordable price add up to an addictively fun driving experience.

Dave Pinter
Dave Pinter on December 27, 2013. @DavePinter

During PSFK’s visit to 2013 Design Miami, Subaru loaned us one of their 2014 BRZ 2-door sports cars to drive for the week. The Subaru BRZ is a departure for the brand, known to produce vehicles equipped to handle rougher terrain and challenging weather driving conditions. Their iconic Impreza WRX is the closest thing to a performance car and even that is modeled after a World Rally Championship car that raced on surfaces from ice to sand. Would a sports coupe from the brand feel at home on pavement and still retain some design character of Subaru? That’s what we wanted to find out.

2014 Subaru BRZ

Our trips between the Design Miami tent on South Beach and the Miami Design District in the BRZ garnered a lot of looks from fellow motorists and pedestrians. People often stopped to ask, ‘what is it?’ One of the things the BRZ has going for it right now is rarity. There just aren’t that many out on the roads at this time. The BRZ has a sibling, the Scion FRS and both are based on the Toyota F86 which is available internationally.

2014 Subaru BRZ

In person, another notable thing about the BRZ is how low everything is. The overall proportions of the are are close to the ground and wide. The driving position is like a go-kart, seemingly a few inches off the ground. And Subaru’s Boxer engine under the hood, which lays the cylinders flat instead of in a traditional V-shape, gets the weight lower to the pavement for better handling. All of these points are classic sports car wants and quite opposite of Subaru’s other vehicles which feature added ground clearance to handle rough roads.

2014 Subaru BRZ

Overall exterior proportions follow the classic sports car formula, long hood and nose, rearward cab and short rear overhang. The exterior styling is clean and free of any details that could become dated quickly. The surface bulges over the front wheels become quite pronounced from a perspective behind the wheel. Same with the flares over the rear wheels which extend into view in the rear view mirrors. The car is a bit stealthy from the outside but gives the driver a visual reminder that this is a car meant to offer a spirited driving experience.

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There’s restraint in the interior design as well. It could have easily gone overly boy racer. But the BRZ has more of a function over form aesthetic. There’s no flashy digital dash, no disco interior lighting, there’s not even a large badge that says ‘Subaru’ anywhere, just the star emblem on the steering wheel. This level of simplicity keeps the focus on the driving experience.

The one piece of digital kit is the touch screen infotainment system which actually feels out of place. There’s so much analog feel to the car that this system in particular feels super complicated to use, in fact it is. The complicated interface design doesn’t fit at all with the personality of the car. There should be a big button with a twisty road shape on it that you can simply press to turn it off when you just want to have fun on a nice piece of pavement.

2014 Subaru BRZ

For the price, this BRZ Limited model lists at $28,390, there’s a good deal of performance included. The six-speed manual we had was fun to launch off a stoplight with a chirp of the rear tires. The low stance of the car combined with the near to the ground driving position heightened the sensation of speed without actually having to go that fast.

While the suspension performs well in corners, it isn’t rock hard and cruising over the highway doesn’t send every stone and road seam the car goes over straight through your back.

2014 Subaru BRZ

Lacking in most car design these days is a timeless quality. The BRZ seems to attain that, it could have come out ten years ago and will still look fresh in ten years time. There’s just enough of a blend of classic lines with contemporary touches like the headlights.

The attention to driving experience is also a welcome change rather than the latest technology gimmick. It is a fun car to drive makes it clear how removed a lot of other cars make driving feel. It captures a similar spirit to the original Datsun 280z, Volkswagen Scirocco and Honda CRX. Likely making it a future classic as well.

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Photos: Dave Pinter

TOPICS: Automotive
Dave Pinter

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Dave Pinter is a senior editor at PSFK and focuses on automotive, design and retail news plus NYC culture. Dave is also a New York based concept designer.