When it comes to high-performance Subaru’s, the first model that springs to mind is the WRX STI. In many ways, it was, and still is, a somewhat attainable dream car for enthusiasts.
In reality, though, it is a little too hardcore for daily driving. The unforgiving ride, stiff clutch, and thirsty engine do not exactly make it the ideal for doing everyday stuff.
So, what if you want something like a WRX STI but is more mild-mannered? If you do not mind a little less power, you might want to take a closer look at the WRX. Think of it then as a performance car you can drive on weekends and weekdays. That’s the promise of the WRX.
Okay, so it is not an all-new car, but its design has stood the test of time for the most part. It is not short on aggression either, as it has most of the STI’s defined and muscular lines.
You have the mean-looking front bumper, chunky fender flares, and four exhaust pipes at the back. That said, it does not get all of the STI’s styling details.
Park its side by side with its more potent sibling and you will notice that the WRX has fog lights, rides on smaller wheels, and it does not come with the massive rear wing. At least it has a subtle spoiler to give it more flair.
While it is not as in your face as the STI, the WRX is not what we would call subtle. However, if you paint it in dark grey or silver, then it might pass for a suspiciously fast, old-shape Impreza.
However, you will feel the WRX’s age when you get inside. It is the same look since 2014 and not much has changed since. That means you get the interior of the previous-generation Impreza which ceased production in 2017. It does not get niceties such as dual-zone climate control or rear air-conditioning vents.
At least it gets some sporting bits in there to make it look a little more special. Red stitches imply the sedan’s sporting intentions, along with faux carbon fiber nailed to the dashboard. Also, the chunky, flat-bottom steering wheel is what you would expect in a performance car. For the technophiles, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are welcome additions for the 2020 model year. It does not feel down market in there either, as the WRX gets a lot of rich-feeling, soft-touch materials.
If you need to convince people that the WRX is a practical sporty proposition, let them sit inside and check out the cabin space. Legroom is good for all occupants, and there is even a decent amount of headroom. If that is still not enough, the trunk space is about on-par with similarly-sized sedans, and you can also fold down the back seats to extend the cargo area.
Now for the engine, and it is the same as before. Powering the WRX is not a detuned version of the STI’s 2,5-litre engine. Instead, it has a two-litre that packs a decent punch still. After all, we would not call a sedan with 200kW and 350Nm of torque underpowered. It is fitted with Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission.
Let us get the CVT out of the way first. Subaru is one of the best carmakers when it comes to tuning CVTs, and the WRX is no exception. If anything, it acts much like a dual-clutch transmission, but you do not get the jerkiness that is typically associated with DCTs.
The result is a smooth and seamless driving experience if you leave it to its own devices. It even reacts quickly to paddle shift inputs, which is a pleasant surprise. Of course, you will want the manual if you head up to mountain roads, but if you plan to use the WRX as a daily driver, you cannot hate the CVT.
What is not smooth and seamless is the WRX’s ride. To put it nicely, the best word to describe it is tolerable. It is stiff, but it is not jarring and unforgiving like the STI’s springs and dampers.
Mind you, if you ferry passengers in one of these regularly, they might find it uncomfortable. That said, the firm ride might be the only sore point of this car when you drive it on the road.
Nonetheless the hard suspension setting pays off when you go for a spirited drive up the mountains. The car stays planted and composed around the bends, and the all-wheel-drive system boosts your confidence. Because of that, you do not get the feeling of instability, and that it will not let go without warning and send you straight into a hedge. If things get dicey, there is stability control to reel it all in.
The WRX’s steering is also worth a mention. It is light when you are driving around the city, making it an easy car to maneuver in and out of traffic.
However, that does not mean it is lacking in feel when you are carving corners. Despite using electric power steering, the wheel is finely-weighted, precise, and accurate, offering bags of feedback along the way. It is a stark contrast to the STI, which feels heavy to steer at low speeds.
Packing nearly 270 PS under the hood, the WRX pulls strong, which should not come as a surprise for anyone. There is a bit of lag, but the turbo spools early, allowing you to get overtakes done with a twitch of the foot. Paired with the CVT, power delivery is linear rather than brutal. In some ways, this powertrain combination makes the WRX feel a bit like a six-cylinder-powered sedan.
Surprisingly, the WRX still delivers decent fuel economy. It is no hybrid, but 6,7 kilometres per litre in heavy traffic is not bad considering how much power that two-litre turbo puts out. In lighter traffic, that figure went as high as 11,1 kilometres per litre, according to the trip computer.
The WRX may not be the newest car in the market today, but it still has a lot of praiseworthy points. Yes, the cabin looks dated, and it is not the most comfortable sedan out there. But what you get in return is a car that is powerful and fun to drive that is surprisingly practical. It even has Subaru’s EyeSight system, making it one of the safest cars on the road today. Plus, the adaptive cruise control system makes heavy traffic commutes a lot more bearable.
You might not find a brand new car that offers the same amount of performance, handling, and practicality for the price of a Subaru WRS CVT. If you factor all that in, the WRX is a bargain. I wish we had a Subaru dealership in Zimbabwe. It is a favourite with many youths in the country. I guess they can not afford new ones, so they will stick to grey imports.