Looking for a small, performance-oriented sports sedan with all-wheel-drive? The WRX offers dynamic handling and Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system so you can play on the track as well as conquer rainy and snowy roads.
The WRX was first introduced in the U.S. in 2002 and has always been aimed at driving enthusiasts. The current version came out for the 2015 model year and gets a few additions for 2019 including a bigger touch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
The five-passenger WRX is available in base, Premium, Limited, STI and STI Limited trims. Starting prices range from $27,195 to 41,395. The STI models have more power, perfect if athletic handling is what you crave.
The WRX stands alone among compact cars when it comes to performance. The Mazda3 comes the closest with its zippy handling but the WRX has more power and is one of the few to come standard with all-wheel-drive.
The base engine in the WRX is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The STI models get a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 310 horses and 290 pound-feet. My tester has the base engine with standard six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable automatic transmission is available.
Both engines provide super quick acceleration, and plenty of power for every driving situation. Steering is responsive and brakes are strong. Yep, the WRX is a blast to drive when you’re accelerating on the freeway, winding through twisty country roads or competing at the track. It’s not so much fun on busy city streets. The twitchy clutch makes it challenging to drive in stop and go traffic, and you’ll be constantly up- and down-shifting. If you’re looking for a compact car to use as a daily driver in the city, the WRX will not be your first choice.
The ride is firm and there’s a fair amount of engine and road noise. Visibility is pretty good all the way around.
All that power makes for poor fuel efficiency in the class. EPA ratings for my tester are 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with a combined rating of 23. I got 23 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving. To make matters worse, the WRX requires premium fuel.
The interior is what you’d expect in a performance-oriented car. It’s not meant to be luxurious or upscale; rather everything is laid out in a clean and simple way for the driver. The front sport seats are comfortable and supportive with their side bolstering. Both rows of seating have good leg- and headroom for adults, in fact the second row is surprisingly roomy for a compact car.
Standard features in the WRX include a rearview camera, cloth upholstery, front sport seats with side bolsters, automatic climate control, six-speaker audio system, HD Radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Subaru’s StarLink infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone connectivity.
Available features include proximity key, push-button start, leather and suede upholstery, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, Recaro sport seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, moonroof, red-painted brake calipers with performance brake pads, nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and an upgraded StarLink system with a seven-inch touch screen and navigation.
The StarLink system is updated for 2019 with standard Android Auto and Apple Carplay. The system is easy to use and reacts quickly to touch and voice commands
Available driver assistance systems include blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pre-collision braking, reverse automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, and Subaru’s StarLink Safety and Security telematics system. Some of these features are part of Subaru’s EyeSight suite of driver assistance technology.
The WRX has less cargo space than most competitors with 12 cubic feet in the trunk. At least the trunk has a wide opening. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats do provide some flexibility in hauling cargo and passengers.
Awesome performance for the class
Lots of power, quick acceleration
Fun to drive—perfect for driving enthusiasts
User-friendly infotainment system
Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Poor fuel efficiency
Requires premium fuel
Twitchy clutch not suited for driving in stop and go traffic
Fair amount of road and wind noise
Interior not as upscale as rivals
Has less cargo space than many competitors
My tester starts at $29,495. Option Package 14 Series Gray is $3,100 and adds Ultrasuede-trimmed Recaro front seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, moonroof, red-painted brake calipers with performance brake pads, keyless access with push-button start, LED steering-responsive headlights, LED front fog lights, black finish, exterior badging, Alloy wheels, mirror caps, sharkfin antenna and gloss black instrument panel trim. Destination fee is $885 bringing the grand total to $33,480.
If you want a compact car with serious performance ability, the WRX is arguably the top choice. You’ll love its athletic handling and speedy acceleration, and standard all-wheel-drive provides plenty of grip and the ability to tackle wet and snowy roads. If you’re looking for a compact car as a daily driver in the city, the WRX is probably not the most suitable choice.