The WRX might be one of the quickest and most powerful sport compacts available for less than $30,000, but it’s also one of the least civil. A loud cabin, a stiff-legged ride, and a laggy turbocharged engine are some of the WRX’s surlier traits—a legacy of its rally-car roots. Still, enthusiasts will appreciate the model’s standard all-wheel-drive system, quick handling, well-weighted steering, and strong brakes. There are less powerful alternatives that strike a better balance between engaging dynamics and everyday refinement, but few are more fun on a twisty mountain road—whether that road is paved or not.
What’s New for 2018?
The WRX has undergone a thorough update for 2018. All models feature a revised front end, revamped suspension, and improved electric power-steering. The six-speed manual transmission has a new synchromesh design, and the cabin benefits from noise reduction. Other changes include improved dashboard displays, controls, and infotainment systems. The Premium trim gets an optional Performance package that includes Recaro front seats, red-painted brake calipers, and improved brake pads. Finally, the WRX Limited now boasts a number of new comfort, convenience, and driver-assistance features.
- Base: $27,855
- Premium: $30,155
- Limited: $32,455
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The WRX earns its performance stripes courtesy of its standard turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four engine. With 268 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque, and all-wheel drive to put it to the pavement, the WRX launches like a proverbial rocket whether it’s equipped with the standard six-speed manual or the optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). While the WRX’s powerful engine may result in impressive numbers on the track, it struggles in day-to-day driving. Turbo lag is considerable, and the engine’s power delivery is jerky. Like its powertrain, the WRX’s chassis is best enjoyed when being pushed hard. While the ride is on the stiff side, it’s never punishing. Still, the Subie lacks the polish and refinement found in vehicles such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI or even the Hyundai Elantra Sport.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The WRX is made for hard driving, not cosseting passengers. The cabin is dark, loud, and made of middling materials. But what the interior lacks in material quality, it makes up for in ergonomics. Drivers are treated to clear gauges, well-placed controls, and an easy-to-use automatic climate-control system. While all WRXs feature comfortable and well-bolstered seats, we’re partial to the sporty Recaro front seats in the Premium trim’s optional Performance package. A spacious trunk and a standard 60/40 split-folding rear seat provide plenty of space for cargo. But the WRX’s limited interior storage areas leave few places for hiding various odds and ends.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The WRX’s infotainment system comes standard with a host of modern tech features. Still, the system’s graphics look outdated, and not a single WRX model offers Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. While the base WRX comes standard with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, upper-end trims swap in a larger 7.0-inch unit. Navigation is only available on the top-of-the-line Limited trim as part of an optional package. A single auxiliary input and USB port are standard on the base WRX; however, Premium and Limited trims add a second USB port.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer’s Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer’s CPO program.