Hating on the Toyobaru Is Played Out and Wrong

The FR-S/86/BRZ was, is, and always will be a good little driver's car.

If you venture onto a message board or comment section about a new vehicle, the crowd’s lousy with Debbie Downers. I’m inclined to agree with some; I have mixed feelings about an increasingly EV, crossover-ified, half-assed autonomous future. It’s a shame that affordable, mechanically robust, sharp vehicles are evaporating but equally annoying is the hate I still see online about the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86. That car is doing a lot of heavy lifting keeping driving alive, people!

When a cheapish, fun-to-drive car appears on the market, you’d think it’d be like water in a desert, and we’d gulp that junk down. But it sure seems like nope! And I don’t know why.

When the Toyobaru Twins came out (also known as the Subaru BRZ, Toyota GT-86 and Scion FR-S) circa 2010, the internet exploded in excitement. The closest thing Toyota had to a driver’s car at the time was the Scion tC, which was basically a slightly sporty Camry Coupe. The Toyobaru, so-called because of its dual-parentage from Toyota and Subaru, was different. It was closer in concept to the Celica, which had been discontinued more than six years before the Toyobaru’s release. It was rear-wheel drive, powered by a flat-four engine from Subaru. The engine was mounted low, Toyota bragged about how it engineered the car for a high fun-to-drive factor, different than other Toyotas of the era. The cars have narrow tires that encourage flirty handling. Toyota claimed that the 200 horsepower non-turbo engine was “enough” – meant for the car to be reasonably quick, but not quite fast.

Subaru BRZ interior
Image: Subaru

I got excited. The internet got excited. It seemed like the Toyota/Subaru twins were shaping up to be some dope cars, filling a hole in the market.

Initially, the reviews were pretty glowing. It was sharp to drive, not that expensive to buy, and easy to live with.

Then, maybe six months later, everyone did an about-face. Now, the car was too slow. The car wasn’t as fast as a Mustang or Camaro. Why didn’t Toyota or Subaru include a turbo?

Sure, the BRZ’s got flaws, all cars do. But the internet turned on the BRZ and FRS and made them sound completely undrivable.

Car Throttle debated if the Toyobaru was worthy of being called a sports car, because it’s “too slow.” Tiremeetsroad posted a video of an FR-S or BRZ getting “embarrassed” by a Toyota Sienna. If you check Reddit or Facebook, with the keyword “BRZ” or “FR-S” you’ll be inundated with internet denizens dunking on the FR-S’s perceived slowness. Why not buy a pony car, they say. Or, why not buy a Miata? Or a 370Z? Or a Veloster Turbo? Or a goddamn Camry TRD? Or some other sporty car that they think would be better than the Subaru twins.

How about this: I don’t want a pony car. I don’t want a Miata. I don’t want a Veloster Turbo, or 370Z, or Civic Si, or whatever. That’s a valid reason, that needs shockingly less justification than what people will lead you to believe.

I’ve driven the Mustang and Camaro – they are fast cars, that handle well, but they feel large. I’m told that the Mustang is like a scalpel in the corners, but when I drove it, it felt like driving a very fast house. I don’t hate any Mustang or Camaro owner, most of them like their cars because they bought them. I’m glad they bought them, but there is space for other cars in the sporty car segment that aren’t those two.

Hating on the Toyobaru Is Played Out and Wrong
Image: Toyota

There’s space in the sports car segment for cars other than the Miata, too. The BRZ’s hardtop design and rear seat (albeit tight) is a huge boost in practicality and livability for anyone who is attempting to make a small sporty car their only car. A two-seat convertible or coupe-like the Miata or 370Z isn’t that practical for a lot of people despite what some may insist.

The BRZ is at its core, a fun car. Actual BRZ owners don’t really notice the lack of power because they’re too busy having fun behind the wheel. The BRZ and FR-S are light, rear-wheel-drive sporty coupes with a slick-shifting manual transmission and 200 HP. That’s a good thing. We gotta support them, lest we all have only crossovers to choose from in the year 2025. 

People like different things. The Toyobaru twins were never bad cars. Get out there and drive it, if you like it, then go for it. If you don’t that’s OK too! I’m just happy that we’ve got a manufacturer that’s out here making a sporty car that isn’t super expensive. It even just got a refresh with a new engine, so maybe the complaints about power will go away.

Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

Kevin's been into cars his entire life, anything from the tiny kei cars in Japan, to the maybe not-so-good American barges of the 1980s. He's flipped more than 25 cars, only lost money twice, and has known how to make his dollar stretch as far as it can. If he ain't talking about cars, he's probably snacking on something sweet and cakey. Contact the author here.