|Positives: Excellent handling and solid performance, roomy enough for four adults, still has some good physical controls, superb in the snow.
|Negatives: Seriously unattractive with overstyled and oversized body cladding, infotainment screen is too busy, on-screen climate controls are frustrating, poor gas mileage.
|Bottom Line: The WRX carries on the rally car tradition with a great driving experience. It's too bad some of the magic is lost with a confounding infotainment system and unattractive styling. We still love to drive it but don't want to be seen in it.
The WRX is more refined and composed than its more raw older sibling. It maintains that WRX personality, though, and the car is still very aggressive when you want it to be. The turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four-cylinder engine 271 horses are barely more than last year, but it's more accessible and more linear in the application of torque. Sadly, the top trim gets a lame CVT instead of a dual-clutch transmission, which is a mystery to us.
Ride Quality: The ride is still very firm to the point of feeling a bit jarring. The manual transmission version does not get the adaptive dampers from the GT trim level, unfortunately.
Acceleration: The WRX moves with alacrity, and the turbo spools up very quickly. It rockets to 60 mph in around five seconds. It's not as quick as the VW Golf R, but it's still plenty entertaining.
Braking: The WRX's brakes are strong, progressive, and easy to modulate. Stopping distances seemed good, and they held up well under hard driving.
Steering: The WRX's steering is sharp, accurate, and responsive. There's a good amount of feedback coming through, which makes it easier to drive quickly. It also has good heft to it, enhancing the driving experience.
Handling: The WRX corners pretty flat, and it's well balanced.
Subaru wants to put giant screens in all of its vehicles, apparently, but the huge 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system seems out of place in the WRX. For a car that's supposed to be driven hard and fast most of the time, we think such a big and overly complex system is a distraction. A smaller screen would've actually been welcomed here, and using functions buried in layers is an exercise in frustration.
Infotainment System: Not only is it difficult to use due to the overwrought climate control system embedded within, but it's also overly colorful and not intuitive.
Controls: There are climate control buttons that flank the screen, but heated seat controls remain in the touchscreen, as well as other functions. We also hate the one-touch lane change function on the turn signal stalk. It doesn't operate like a traditional turn signal when needing go change lanes but instead goes back to position after actuating it. Super annoying. At least the steering wheel controls are decent.
Although the last WRX wasn't exactly a looker, it was distinct and in line with previous models. The new WRX stretches things perhaps a bit too far. We know that some of the fender and bumper treatments are for aerodynamic purposes, but the end result is that the car looks weird and overstyled.
Front: The hood scoop looks great, as does the black mesh grille, but the overdone lower fascia cladding looks cheap.
Rear: Where do we start? The taillights look like they were taken off an old Honda Civic, the plastic trim between the lights looks like an afterthought, and the garish bumper and diffuser are just well, garish.
Profile: The body actually looks decent from the side view with the big rear haunches and the more sedan-like roofline. But its the weird angled fender trim that makes it look goofy.
Cabin: The cabin has been much improved over the last WRX with better materials and ergonomics. The flat-bottom steering wheel looks and feels great, the contrast red stitching is properly sporty, and the bucket seats look the part, too. We could do without the faux carbon-fiber trim.
The WRX might not be the most family-friendly sedan, but there's enough room for four adults to ride in comfort. We doubt many families would own the WRX to perform regular duties, but it can do so if called upon thanks to decent overall room.
Front Seats: The sporty bucket seats are well-bolstered and very comfortable. The work well for hard driving and daily commuting. We just wish you could get the Recaro seats from the automatic-only WRX GT.
Rear Seats: There's a decent amount of headroom and 36.5 inches of legroom. A six-footer can sit behind a tall driver, so that's good news. The seats are comfortable and well-positioned, too.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): There's not a ton of wind noise, but the overall sound deadening is just a little bit better than before. You can still hear the engine go nuts when you push the car, and that's a good thing. This is not a road trip car, though, and it's not exactly peaceful inside.
Visibility: All around visibility is pretty good thanks to manageable pillar size. The fact that there's no giant rear wing also helps.
Climate: Aside from the annoying on-screen climate controls, the system works pretty well, including the quick-working heated front seats.
The new WRX has yet to be crash tested by the IIHS and the NHTSA. Aside from the requisite airbags and rearview camera, there's really nothing in the way of safety tech. You can't even option out Subaru's EyeSight system on the WRX, which is a disappointment.
IIHS Rating: Not tested.
NHTSA Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: The WRX Premium gets a rear vision camera, an individual tire pressure monitor, and High Beam Assist.
Optional Tech: None.
The WRX is pretty good for its size when it comes to storage. The cabin has some accessible and simple cubbies, and the trunk is decently sized. It's not voluminous, by any means, but it keeps up with other, less performance-focused sedans.
Storage Space: The center console has a small tray and two useful cupholders, as well as a small but deep armrest compartment. Door pockets are pretty useful, and there's a grippy open compartment at the base of the center stack.
Cargo Room: There's 12.5 cubic feet of trunk space, a couple down from the Civic and the Elantra. At least you can fold down the 60/40 split rear seats for even more space.
The WRX is a thirsty little car that's not the least bit miserly, and owners will probably never drive it calmly, unless they're passing a police cruiser. We managed to get pretty low numbers, but we were pushing it pretty hard, especially in the snow.
Observed: 16.7 mpg.
Distance Driven: 182 miles.
Our tester did not have the upgraded Harman Kardon premium sound system, but it was still good to listen to. There's a lack of bass, but the overall clarity made tunes sound crisp. The $1,875 sound package adds an amplifier, 11 speakers, and a moonroof.