Subaru BRZ no poor second cousin

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The Subaru BRZ follows the Toyota 86 on to the market. Photo supplied

''We [Subaru] are the second cab off the rank. . .but it's also our car.''

Hard to think of anyone in the New Zealand car industry who equals Subaru New Zealand boss Wal Dumper for defiance, but he's got a point: Subaru builds the BRZ/86 and many bits are Fuji-embossed.

On the other hand. . .well, no denying that all eyes have been on the Toyota rendition. It's selling well, it's available in more versions, has the price advantage (just), it has scooped the country's big motoring prize and, well, got here first. By four months. Now that the BRZ has landed, what's the diff?

Dumper says it comes down to one word: Exclusivity. This means a lot to core Fuji loyalists who would never dream of buying the car as anything but a Subaru. And they exist, he says, though not in big numbers: hence 40 sales in 2013, against Toyota's hundreds.

Whereas Toyota has three 86 variants here, with two more to come, Subaru is sticking with a single model costing $48,990 in manual and $1000 more with the alternate six-speed automatic. It lines up as a natural alternative to the most-popular 86, the GT ($46,986/$47,986).

They're also considering a spiced-up option, heavily laden with enhancements from the Subaru Technica International special parts bin, at a proposed price of $69,990. A response to the limited-production $68,486/$69,486 GT86-based Toyota Racing Division models? Yes, and also a stopgap until STi's actual car lands, probably in 2014.

But anyway, the driving. No surprise it's just like the 86. Which is hardly a criticism - in either persona, it's an utterly fabulous car.

In appearance it's hardly any different, inside and out. Detail changes are minor and by and large, so too is the kit count. Subaru's audio, unlike Toyota's, doesn't include Bluetooth, so it has instead added a clumsy ancillary control. BRZ gets a proper spare tyre; 86s have a space-saver.

The STi enhancements certainly produce a sharper, more invigorating car, with better ride and a rortier exhaust. Not so good are the brakes. I mean, they're great, but Subaru's idea of enhancement is to bung in some performance pads, whereas Toyota provides a full Brembo kit.