|Positives: Downright hooligan fun that's astounding to experience, great handling and steering, noticeable changes in drive modes, still has a six-speed manual, perfect choice of seats.|
|Negatives: Juvenile looking with that giant rear wing, knocks your fillings loose going over bumps, overly heavy clutch, hard to drive smoothly at slow speeds, imprecise and notchy shifter, tight back seat.|
|Bottom Line: The WRX STI is like no other car you can experience at this price. Sure, the Veloster N is a blast, and so is the GTI, but the WRX STI is a true rally car for the street, and it's raw in just about every way possible. Those who want to relax need not apply.|
No need to spend the boku buck on the WRX STI RA since the standard STI now has 310 horses, and you feel every one of them as you mash the gas. Dial it into Sport Sharp mode, and it turns into a ferocious beast that belies any civility it had in Intelligent Mode. Oh, and that ride. You'll get used to it... or not.
Ride Quality: Even in Intelligent driving mode, the WRX STI is bumpy as all hell, and you feel every surface undulation you encounter. It didn't bother us all that much, but we can't imagine driving in for urban commutes. It's just harsh all the time.
Acceleration: The 310 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque boxer engine in the STI will launch it from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, as quick as the Hyundai Veloster N (which has 275 horses). The STI feels faster because of the AWD and the sheer noise and fury.
Braking: The Brembos are great, and we're guessing they'd do well at the track. Brake bite is firm and pedal feel is excellent.
Steering: The WRX STI has excellent steering that's razor sharp and precise. Turn-in is quick, and there's ample feedback.
Handling: The WRX STI is remarkably tractable and handles like a rally car should. The upgraded Bilstein STI sport-tuned suspension is great for fast driving, not so much for comfort.
There's a lot to look at in terms of tech with the instrument cluster, the center stack gauges and the overly colorful infotament system.
Infotainment System: The STARLINK system is Subaru's best yet, but there are too many bright colors and unnecessarily large icons. Subaru needs to look at Hyundai and Kia for ideas.
Controls: It's definitely a cult vehicle when you have drive mode controls that beep like a vintage spaceship. Audio knobs could be larger. The three huge climate control knobs are especially easy to use.
No one can accuse the STI of being attractive. It looks like a Gundam robot come to life with its massive rear wing, exaggerated haunches and generally overdone interior. But the ones who buy it love it, primarily because it looks so danged distinct. This is not a vehicle for 50-year-olds. Seriously.
Front: We love the big hood scoop, and the black mesh grille looks nice. We'd actually like to see a more vertical fascia that adds presence to the WRX STI.
Rear: Kinda the only thing you notice is the massive spoiler that's the WRX STI's signature. The taillights are a bit on the small side and should creep into the trunklid for a stronger look.
Profile: Thank goodness for those gold BBS wheels, which are stunning and a bit on the darker side, thank goodness. The body creases are a bit too harsh, but we do like the carbon fiber fender strip on the front quarter panel just aft of the wheel.
Cabin: The interior is very purposeful and right for this car. The Recaro seats look great. But it's still a bit on the low rent side for a car that costs over $40K. That said, it makes the Veloster N interior seem pretty bland.
Although the front seats are great, passengers in the back are sure to complain. There are also still plenty of hard plastics, and the ergonomics could be improved.
Front Seats: The Recaro sports are wide but not overly so, and they have superb bolstering without being impractical. Six footers can fit without a problem. The seating position is also very good.
Rear Seats: There's not a lot of rear legroom, and good luck getting in behind a tall person. Only the outboard seats are acceptable for adults and not for too long given the overall lack of space and that brutal ride.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The interior feels solid, but the whine of the engine and the bumps make it less than quiet.
Visibility: Visibility is good in all directions, but that spoiler oftentimes makes you think there's a car behind you when you're backing up using your own eyeballs.
Climate: HVAC seems to work well, and the heat fires up quickly. We just wish the airflow was better. The heated seats are responsive and generate ample heat during really cold days.
The WRX performed well in crash testing. Our vehicle, unfortunately, did not come with the optional EyeSight suite of safety tech.
IIHS Rating: The WRX gets a Top Safety Pick+ score, the highest ranking. It also gets "Superior" when it comes to accident avoidance tech, when properly optioned.
NHTSA Rating: 5 stars in crash testing from the federal government.
Standard Tech: Our tester came with automatic headlights and a rear-view camera. There were no automatic emergency systems.
Optional Tech: None.
Don't look to make IKEA runs with the WRX STI because there's just not a ton of space in the back or in the boot. It's a small sedan that, sadly, doesn't have the same practicality as the Golf R with its cavernous hatch.
Storage Space: The binnacle at the center stack is good for small items, and the center armrest is also decently sized.
Cargo Room: The 12 cubic-foot trunk is on the small side. At least it has 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Just don't look to smush in taller items since the clearance and cargo are height are short.
This is not a car for those concerned about fuel economy. It just wants to be driven hard all the time, to be honest. Our mileage in Sport Sharp was pretty sad, actually. Overall, it pretty much delivered what we expected. We did mostly local roads, which definitely hampered our numbers.
Observed: 15.6 mpg
Our tester came with a stock audio system, which worked just fine. It's a basic system with decent sound, but we were more occupied with just enjoying the thrilling driving dynamics and listening to the raucous engine.