Subaru BRZ 1st Generation 2013-2020 (ZN6/ZC6) Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying Used BRZ 1st Gen

Read in this article:

1st Gen Subaru BRZ: What Owners Say

  • The 1st-generation Subaru BRZ is an absolute riot to drive.
  • It has loads of space for the front passengers.
  • The rev-happy engine is a joy and it's reliable.
  • Considering it's a sports car, the BRZ is impressively frugal.
  • The Subaru BRZ ZC6 is known for its brilliant steering.
  • The first-gen Subaru BRZ has ridiculous rear seats.
  • It doesn't have straight-line speed. Most lukewarm or hot hatches will beat it in a straight line.
  • The BRZ is a victim of a tricky valve-spring failure. It was recalled, but during the repair process, excess sealant was applied which could lead to engine failure.

Subaru BRZ First Generation Facelift

A facelift rarely includes updates to the drivetrain, but in 2017 Subaru tried to make the BRZ a little faster via tweaks to the engine, gearbox, and suspension. The small power bump from 200 horsepower to 205 (only applicable to the manual) is not significant enough to notice, but keen drivers may notice the subtle changes to the gear ratios and suspension setup.

Honestly, it's best to just accept that the BRZ does 0-60 mph in around seven seconds. Getting bogged down with that figure completely misses the point of the car, however. If you're here for straight-line speed, might as well leave now and have a look at a used Mustang.

2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Front Changes

With the 2017 update, the front was handed just a few alterations to create a more modern and dynamic appearance. The most distinctive changes are the new kono-ji-style LED headlights1 and a front bumper that appears a bit wider than before thanks to more aggressive rakes at the ends2. A pair of new LED foglamps further modernize the sportscar's face3.

2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Rear Changes

Subaru updated the light cluster with a new layout, incorporating LED lights1. Look closely and you'll notice the sleeker, even sportier spoiler on the trunk2. Also take note that the Subaru badge located on the left side of the trunk cover has been removed3. Subaru kept the integrated diffuser and dual exhausts.

2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Side Changes

The most notable change made to the side are the new alloy wheel designs1. From this angle, you can also notice the revised headlights2, front bumper3, and redesigned taillights4. The fender vent is restyled and is nearly all color-coded, losing most of the black plastic of the pre-facelift car, with thinner slits5.

2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2017-2020 BRZ 1st Gen Facelift Interior Changes

To adapt the BRZ for the age of digitalization, Subaru added a new multifunction steering wheel1 and 3.5-inch TFT information display to the revised instrument cluster2. A more advanced touchscreen infotainment system is included to complement this3. To elevate the sporty feeling of the cabin, the updated BRZ also features new faux-carbon fiber trimmings along the doors4 and more contrast red stitching on the doors and dashboard5. The ventilation control knobs are no longer hexagonal, but round, with a knurled finish to be easily gripped by one's fingers6.

Engine, Transmission and Drivetrain

The BRZ is only available with one engine. It's a FA20 naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter flat-four that will happily rev to 7,500 rpm. The engine is mated to a slick Aisin AZ6 six-speed manual, but the A960E six-speed automatic transmission is available. We wouldn't bother with the automatic transmission unless your personal situation requires a self-shifter.

There are two different opinions on this engine, and both are valid. There are those who feel that it's asthmatic and requires forced induction in order to fully unlock the BRZ's potential. To others, it's simply part of a perfectly balanced driving machine. We accept both arguments as valid, but we've always enjoyed the BRZ as is. Yes, it's not the most powerful engine, but we love the immediate throttle response that you can only get from a naturally-aspirated engine. The suspension is also tuned for low-speed hooliganism, and doubling the power just makes the BRZ more of a handful.

Subaru and Toyota designed this car so even ham-fisted enthusiasts can get the tail out at 30 mph. It even has an in-between setting for the traction and stability control that will help you slide a bit. That same system will eventually intervene, which means you don't end up in a YouTube fail video compilation.

The manual transmission is a joy. Throws are short and positive, and the pedals are perfectly spaced for heel-and-toe action. If you couldn't be bothered, you have the automatic option. It's nowhere near as fun and slower than the manual. Having said that, the self-shifter is tuned for fun driving. It will even rev-match when you shift down. The rest of the drivetrain is sublime. All of the power is sent to the rear wheels only, also known as right-wheel-drive. The front end of the car is nimble, and the steering is wonderfully communicative. Even though the BRZ is razor-sharp, the suspension never feels too hard to live with daily. One thing you have to keep in mind is sticking to the OEM tires. There will be more affordable or grippier options, but the BRZ's inherent balance relies heavily on the right tire/wheel size and choice.

2.0-liter flat-four
200/205 hp | 151/156 lb-ft
200/205 hp
151/156 lb-ft
Six-speed manual or automatic transmission

Normally an engine with peak power and torque figures that only arrive at above 6,000 rpm would be useless, but in a sports car like the BRZ, it's perfect. It gives the car a very distinct dual personality. On days when you don't feel like hooning around, you need only use the first half of the tachometer. Drive it like this, and you'll see some impressive combined consumption figures pop up on the trip computer.

In the right conditions, you can take it past 4,000 rpm and all the way up to 7,500 rpm where the redline begins. The engine is a bit of a masochist and enjoys being thrashed. That's part of the reason why the manual gearbox is so highly recommended. It gives you ultimate control over the engine. There is one big downside to this engine, however. It's not nearly vocal enough, which is a pity. Subaru's flat-four soundtrack is one of the most recognizable sounds in the motoring industry.

1st Gen Subaru BRZ Real MPG

The automatic may be slower, but it comes with more impressive fuel consumption figures. Normally, when it comes to sports cars, we wouldn't care. But the BRZ is a budget sporty vehicle like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, so a prospective buyer might be persuaded to go the automatic route considering the lower fuel cost. Both models have a tank size of 13.2 gallons. The estimated driving range for the manual is 317 miles, while the auto can drive up to 370 miles between refills.

2.0 Manual21/29/24 mpg23.1 to 30 mpg
2.0 Automatic24/33/28 mpg28.2 mpg

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.


The BRZ is a driver's car, so the main safety feature is the person behind the wheel. You do get a rearview camera, ABS, traction and stability control, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, and a powerful set of brakes to help you out. The traction and stability control is adjustable. There's a setting that will allow you to play around up to a certain point, or you can switch it off entirely. The Limited adds fog lights. The 2016 lineup gains a backup camera and the 2017 model gets hill start assist.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result 2016

Because of the late original launch, the NHTSA only tested the 2014 BRZ. It's the exact same car as the 2013 model, so the result is still applicable. The most recent comprehensive results are available for the 2016 model. The results are extremely impressive, especially given the small dimensions Subaru and Toyota had to work with.

Overall Rating:
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
Side Crash Rating:
Rollover Rating:

2013-2020 Subaru BRZ Trims

The launch year of the Subaru BRZ didn't come with much diversity as it was only available in Premium and Limited trims. The 2.0-liter flat-four mill came standard with the six-speed manual on both cars, but the automatic was an optional extra. Local dealerships did offer accessories such as a fuel door cover and sportier exterior trimmings like a rear diffuser and trunk spoiler. An auto-dimming mirror with a compass and HomeLink garage and gate controls was also available. For the audiophiles, Subaru would even install a Kicker 10-inch subwoofer with a 100-Watt amplifier at the cost of some already minimal trunk space. Apart from the addition of a more comprehensive infotainment system, standard specifications barely changed throughout the BRZ life cycle.

The 2013 model is equipped with a basic 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, HD radio, a USB port, and Bluetooth connectivity. Somehow, Subaru managed to get eight speakers in there. The 2014 model year brings smartphone app integration to the lineup and the 2015 model has retuned shock absorbers for better ride comfort while gaining larger, stainless-steel exhaust tips and a shark-fin antenna. 2016 finally sees the addition of a standard backup camera, as well as a 6.2-inch Starlink touchscreen infotainment system with far more connectivity functionality. The 2017 facelift gains a little more power and revised gearing in manual-transmission guise, as well as automatic LED headlights across the board and hill-start assist. If you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, search for a 2018 or later Limited or tS. The navigation system on 2019 models can be updated over the air.

Special Editions:

  • 2015 Subaru BRZ Series.Blue: Limited to just 1,000 units, the Blue set itself apart from the standard lineup with its STI-specific 17-inch alloy wheels painted gloss black and accentuated by red brake calipers. It also features an STI aero kit, underbody covers, and unique trimmings in the cabin.
  • 2016 BRZ Series.HyperBlue: The HyperBlue was a more exclusive variant of the Blue as it was limited to just 500 units, bearing specific paint with black badging, 17-inch alloy wheels, and fender trims. HyperBlue stitching is also applied to the interior for a more distinctive experience.
  • 2017 BRZ Series.Yellow: The Yellow was also limited to 500 units but it is a bit more of an in-depth edition as it features uprated Brembo brakes and Sachs performance dampers. Visual highlights, apart from the yellow paint, are pretty much the same as the HyperBlue.
  • 2019 BRZ Series.Gray: The Gray is a more limited variation of the Yellow at just 250 units produced with a Cool Gray Khaki exterior paint.
2.0-liter flat-four
Six-speed manual or automatic transmission

The Premium is actually all you need. It comes as standard with 17-inch alloys, and a Torsen limited-slip differential. The interior is quite comfortable and comes standard with performance seats with cloth upholstery, a fold-down rear seatback, keyless entry, a manually tilting/telescoping and leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, and aluminum pedal covers. The Premium benefits from all upgrades applicable to the whole lineup per model year as mentioned in the introduction to the Trims section. This trim was discontinued in 2019.

2.0-liter flat-four
Six-speed manual or automatic transmission

The price gap between the Limited and Premium is not big, but you do get a lot extra. While the Premium is all you'll ever need, we can see why more people chose to pay an additional $2,000 for a trunk spoiler, fog lights, an anti-theft security system, dual-zone climate control, the All-Weather package (heated front seats and mirrors), leather-and-suede upholstery, and keyless entry with a push-button starter. The 2017 facelifted Limited gains LED fog lights and the 2018 model a new seven-inch infotainment touchscreen that incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2018 and 2020
2.0-liter flat-four
Six-speed manual

In 2018 Subaru launched the limited edition tS, which is the pick of the bunch. Unfortunately, production was limited to 500 units. Luckily, Subaru brought it back in 2020 to give the BRZ one last push to the finish line. This BRZ is aimed solely at the enthusiast. It's essentially a BRZ tuned by Subaru's STI department. It does not have extra power, but the STI folks added Brembo brakes, SACHS performance shocks, black 18-inch alloy wheels, STI bracing, an adjustable rear wing, and Alcantara and leather upholstery with red bolsters. You'll only find this model in Ceramic White. It comes standard with the 2018 Limited's updated infotainment system with smartphone integration but without its LED fog lights. It was discontinued for 2019 but returned in 2020, this time with matte-bronze 18-inch alloy wheels.

First Generation Subaru BRZ Coupe Features

Back-Up CameraSSS
Bluetooth ConnectionSSS
Leather SeatsaN/ASS
Keyless EntrySSS
Keyless StartN/ASN/A
Alloy WheelsSSS

Interior, Trim And Practicality

Subaru BRZ 1st Gen Interior Overview Subaru
Subaru BRZ 1st Gen Interior Overview

The BRZ is surprisingly practical. Subaru did not design it for families, but if you're single or a childless couple, you could get away with this being the only car. The rear seats are useless for passengers, but they work as additional storage space. They fold forward as well, increasing the minuscule 6.9 cubic foot trunk significantly. If you are only two people, just keep the seats folded flat permanently. Interior storage space is adequate, and front passengers get two cupholders, door pockets, and a locking glove compartment.

The quality of the interior trim is better post-facelift, but the pre-facelift cars aren't bad. It's typical Toyota and Subaru trim. The trim may be on the hard side, but all of it is bolted together properly. Subaru's contrast stitching looks extremely good, and even the cloth upholstery on the Premium model appears to have aged well.

Trim (2018)PremiumLimitedtS
Black clothSN/AN/A
Black leather/AlcantaraN/ASN/A

1st Generation Subaru BRZ Maintenance and Cost

The Subaru BRZ is remarkably cheap to service. The eco-friendly low-grip tires are also cheap to buy. For a basic annual service, you can expect to pay roughly $230. For the high-mileage services, expect to pay around $1,300. Oil changes should be conducted every 6,000 as per Subaru's recommendations. The cabin air filter will need to be exchanged at 12,000 miles while the coolant will need a flush and refill at 30,000 miles. The 60,000-mile service is a major one as it will require new clutch fluid and spark plugs. The camchain should not give in if you ensure that oil changes are conducted as per the manufacturer's recommendations.

2013-2020 Subaru BRZ Basic Service

Engine Oil Change Including Filter

Oil capacity: 5.8 quarts

Recommended oil type: 0W-20

How often to change: 6,000 miles.

Average Price: Around $122 for oil and filter.


BRZ 2.0

Part Number: 22401AA801

Replacement: Every 60,000 miles.

Average Price: $110 for four.

Air Filter

Part Number: 16546JB000

Replacement: Every 12,000 miles.

Average Price: $24


All models

Size: Group 35

Part number: 82110AA012

Replacement: Every 3 to 5 years.

Average Price: $210.

1st Generation Subaru BRZ Tires

Limited and Premium
Tire size:
Grand Touring All-Season:
$518 to $861 per set.
2018 & 2020 tS
Tire size:
Max Performance Summer:
$756 to $1,034 per set.

Check Before You Buy

Technical Service Bulletins according to the NHTSA. Check service book for:

There are remarkably few 2013 to 2020 Subaru BRZ recalls, but we suppose that's what happens when Subaru and Toyota team up. Still, 2013 models were part of a huge valve-spring recall. These first models have an engine valve spring that may fracture, causing the engine to stall. The first model year was also recalled for inaccurate airbag information in the owner's manual, so Subaru simply mailed new manuals to the 1,886 people affected by the recall.

2018 models were recalled for the rearview camera image not displaying, while 2018 and 2019 models were recalled for a faulty low-pressure fuel pump. There have been no recalls for the 2020 model.

Even more impressive is the number of complaints the BRZ received through its lifecycle. On average a truly terribly made car like the Jeep Wrangler receives several hundred official complaints per year. During its final year on sale, the Wrangler still received 532 complaints.

During its first year on sale, only 60 official complaints were lodged against the BRZ. From 2014 to 2020, the number of complaints never reached double digits again. That's a remarkable feat.

These are the error codes you'll most likely encounter when shopping for a 1st-generation Subaru BRZ:

  • Code P0302 indicates a misfire in the engine. In this case, the "2" signifies the location of the misfire, which is on cylinder two. Codes P0301, P0303, and P0304 would indicate misfires on the other cylinders.
  • Code P0018 shows that there is a problem with the crankshaft and camshaft alignment.

1st Gen Subaru BRZ Common Problems

FA20 Engine Problems

The FA mill sources its bones from the FB but it employs a direct fuel injection system with traditional port injectors. Because of this, the unit is susceptible to carbon build-up on the intake valves which are caused by oil droplets from the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system. You can expect this issue to occur in a big way at the 100,000-mile mark but there are extreme cases where it may appear as early as 60,000 miles. If this occurs, you can expect a loss of power and misfiring. Valves are cleaned via walnut blasting which requires no parts but costly labor.

The FA20 also struggles with valve-spring failures but this should have been covered by the recall. Despite the fix, however, it has been noted that the failure has occurred due to the fact that some dealers used an excessive amount of RTV sealant instead of conventional oil seals or gaskets, which resulted in the compound mixing into the powertrain's internals. It is understood that this issue occurs after 100,000 miles and can lead to severe engine oil leaks. Irregular idling from the FA20 can simply be resolved via a software update.

Mileage: Carbon build-up starts from 60,000 to 100,000 miles. The valve springs failed from new.

Cost: Walnut blasting the intake valves can set you back anywhere between $400 and $600. Subaru replaced the valve springs under a recall.

How to spot: Exessive carbon build-up on the intake valves is likely to be the culprit if you notice irregular idling, misfiring, a loss of power, and stumbling.

Less Common Problems And Problem-Free Areas

The best sales year for the BRZ was 2014. That year Subaru sold a total of 7,504 Subaru BRZ first-gen units in the USA. On average, Subaru sold roughly 2,500 per year. Considering the number of complaints lodged against the car, there are no common 2013-2020 Subaru BRZ problems. The worst problem we could find was a noisy gearbox that eventually failed. A grand total of three people complained about this problem. There are no known Subaru BRZ engine problems, which is what you want to see when buying a sports car.

Which One To Avoid

There isn't a bad apple in the bunch. Honestly, we'd just avoid the automatic gearbox, if only because the manual offers a much better driving experience. There's nothing wrong with the automatic, however. If you absolutely have to have a self-shifter, go for it.

Which One To Buy

The tS is the obvious answer, but some might find it too compromised and hardcore. We think the best balance is a Premium model, built from 2018 onward. The only reason we choose this later model is the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which makes the touchscreen interface much simpler and easier to use.

It would be a bonus if you could get your hands on one of the limited-edition models, but the colors Subaru chose might not be to everyone's liking.

1st Gen Subaru BRZ Verdict

The 2013-2020 Subaru BRZ is an epic little sports car. It has no serious known problems and it is extremely enjoyable to drive. Thanks to years of depreciation, what was already an affordable fun car has now become one of the default choices for somebody looking for a fun car on a tight budget. To many, Miata is always the answer. But the BRZ is just as good of an answer, in this case.

BRZ 1st Generation (ZN6/ZC6) Alternatives

If you're shopping for 2013-2020 Subaru BRZ you should consider these alternatives
To Top