The WRX is Subaru’s hot compact performance sedan and is a favorite among drivers who want rally-car performance and don’t care as much about a smooth ride or upscale interior.
Base Price: $29,795
As Tested: $35,259
Mileage: 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway/23 mpg combined
The five-passenger WRX became an all-new model in 2015. Before that, it was known as the Impreza WRX. It’s received some updates since then but there are no major changes for 2021. All-wheel-drive is standard, making the WRX a sports sedan you can drive all year in changing Pacific Northwest conditions.
There are five trims: base, Premium, Limited, STI, and STI Limited. Starting prices range from $27,495 to $41,945. These are high for a compact car but competitive when you consider other compact performance cars.
The base engine is a potent 2.0-liter turbocharged flat four-cylinder engine that generates 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a continuously variable automatic transmission is available.
The STI trims get a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat four engine that produces 310 horses and 290 pound-feet. This engine is only paired with the six-speed manual.
There’s some turbo lag when you accelerate from a stop but then the WRX takes off like a rocket. Subaru says it can go from zero to 60 mpg in less than six seconds. Steering is responsive and the WRX stays planted when cornering. Visibility is good all the way around. You’ll definitely have a smile on your face when cruising on twisty backroads!
There are some drawbacks, though. The manual transmission is not very forgiving. You have to shift often and quickly, and it can be challenging to find the right position of the clutch. And the ride is very firm and can be jarring on rough roads and over bumps. But hey, you’re not buying the WRX because you want a cushy daily driver. Rather, the WRX is an eager and fast performer that’s often thrilling to drive.
Fuel economy is below average for compact performance cars. EPA ratings for my tester are 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with a combined rating of 23. I got 22 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is a good news/bad news story. The good news is front seats are comfortable and supportive even for taller adults, two adults will fit ok in the second row, and the infotainment system is user-friendly. The bad news is the cabin is rather low rent with a lot of hard plastics and fairly noisy. At least my tester’s interior looks attractive with its optional Recaro Sport seats and snazzy black and red upholstery.
Standard features include remote keyless entry, rearview camera, automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, AM/FM audio, single-disc CD player, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and two USB ports.
Available features include proximity keyless entry, push-button start, leather upholstery, power-adjustable driver’s seat, Recaro front sport seats, heated front seats, seven-inch touchscreen, navigation, nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, moonroof, adaptive headlights and automatic high beams.
Available driver assistance technologies include blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, and reverse collision warning,
The infotainment system is easy to reach and use, however it’s looking long in the tooth and the system can be a bit slow to respond to commands. There are buttons for common audio and climate functions, making it easy to make these adjustments.
The WRX has 12 cubic feet of space in the trunk. That’s below average for a compact car but there’s still enough room for many shopping bags or some luggage or other gear. The rear seats split-fold 60/40 providing flexibility in hauling long and/or bulky items.
Two powerful engines
Thrilling, quick performance
Excellent steering and traction
User-friendly infotainment system
Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Firm, jarring ride
Low rent and noisy cabin
Not so comfortable as a daily driver
Below average fuel efficiency
My tester starts at $29,795. Option Package 14 is $4,200 and includes Brembo performance braking system; sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers, Ultrasuede trimmed Recaro front seats; black finish exterior badging, mirror caps and shark fin antenna; bronze finish 18-inch Aluminum Alloy wheels; LED steering-responsive headlights; LED fog lights; eight-way power driver’s seat; keyless access with push-button start; and gloss black instrument panel trim. Body side molding is $268. Bumper applique is $96. Delivery fee is $900 bringing the grand total to $35,259.
The 2021 WRX lives up to its reputation as Subaru’s compact sports car. It’s a blast to drive and standard AWD means you can get behind the wheel all year long. While the WRX won’t appeal to someone who wants a smooth ride and upscale cabin, you’ll want to check it out if you want a small performance sedan that’s always an eager and willing partner.