Compact performance models are no longer common fare, at least not from the mainstream manufacturers. Ford exited the market a few years back when it decided to keep the Focus out of the U.S. market. Also, Chevrolet and Dodge no longer participate in the segment in any form. Thus, what’s left of the market is reserved for a precious few players. And even those may not remain.
Happily, Subaru remains steadfast in its commitment, offering the standard fare Impreza as well as the souped-up WRX. Along with the Honda Civic Type R and the upcoming Toyota GR Corolla, buyers have a trio of hot compacts to consider. Add in a few subcompact models such as the Hyundai Veloster N and the Volkswagen Golf R, and there are some great choices out there.
Subaru WRX: Four Trims for the Choosing
For 2022, the Subaru WRX is freshly-designed and is available in WRX, Premium, Limited, and GT trims. The prices start around $30,000 and push above $40,000 when fully loaded. Destination, taxes, and tags add to the cost.
This new model is just the right medicine for enthusiasts although there is one disturbing fact. That fact is that Subaru may no longer produce the range-topping WRX STI and that is a shame. We point to a statement from Dominick Infante, Subaru of America’s director of corporate communication, outlining the reason why an STI likely will not follow. Ever-changing and more restrictive government regulations are the reason for that. Sadly, the STI never received a proper send-off – it was simply canceled.
We can cry all we want, but the WRX remains. At least for now. So, without further ado, we turn out attention to the 2022 Subaru WRX.
We will call the latest WRX an evolutionary update rather than a revolutionary overhaul. Likely, that sits well with faithful who might be none to be pleased if the new look was a clear departure from the past.
But some changes give this four-door sedan an edgier presence. To begin, the hexangular grille is wider than before, sitting just below a more creased hood topped by a purposeful hood scoop. The wheelbase is 0.9 inches longer and there is an additional 2.9 inches bumper to bumper. Significantly, the WRX is 1.2 inches wider. Take note of the black cladding surrounding the wheel wells and the grander rear diffuser.
Add it up and the evolutionary changes are not small but are nevertheless wholly welcome.
Inside, the cabin seems larger and it is thanks in part to this vehicle’s overall size boosting. There are plenty of hard plastics present, but there are enough soft-touch materials at hand to offset that. Metallic trim pieces and real metals for the pedals give the WRX a sporty flair.
Standard cloth seats give way to leather seats with suede inserts further up the trim range. You get your choice of seat color provided your selection is black. Sporty bucket seats and a d-shaped steering wheel are performance design touches of note.
Four sit inside with ease and five fits in a pinch. The trunk space measures just 12.5 cubic feet and that is less than what the typical compact sedan offers. Fortunately, the rear seats fold flat, effectively extending the cargo space when needed.
The standard tech package for the 2022 WRX includes a 7-inch touch-screen display. A 6-speaker audio package with a satellite radio is standard. Other included features range from Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth, to two USB ports.
An 11.6-inch display appears with the Premium trim. Move further up the trim range and the WRX gains an 11-speaker audio system.
Most of the driver-assist technologies are reserved for the range-topping GT trim. This model comes with automatic emergency braking. It also has Subaru’s bundle of “EyeSight Driver Assist Technology.” This includes a pre-collision braking system, lane departure control, sway warning, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control. The package is available on the other trims, however.
Included with the Limited and GT trims are blind-spot monitoring, lane change alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. Reverse automatic braking is available with the Limited and included with the GT.
You asked for it and now you got it. Subaru replaced the previous 2.0-liter turbo-four with a larger engine displacing 2.4 liters. Turbocharged and with the cylinders horizontally opposed, the WRX now bangs out 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. As always, the WRX comes with standard all-wheel drive.
Fortuitously, Subaru continues to offer a 6-speed manual gearbox. It was the transmission found in our test model, thus we were supremely glad. The other choice is a continuously variable transmission that includes fixed “gear” ratios. This year, Subaru lowered the ratios for improved feedback. Needless to say, we cannot recommend the CVT to enthusiasts – #savethemanuals remains the rallying cry!
This year, the WRX gains adaptive dampers for the GT trim. Adaptive dampers simply make driving better, compensating for uneven surfaces more effectively. Off-road enthusiasts also love them, although we recommend keeping the WRX on hard pavement or packed down dirt trails and nothing more. On-road mavens prize adaptive dampers for an enhanced driving experience.
The larger WRX engine more than makes up for the added overall weight. A quick spooling turbocharger effectively negates turbo lag, while the manual transmission shifts smoothly and combines with clean clutch uptake to deliver a confident feel. Choose the CVT and paddle shifters come with the GT model.
But we are most happy when a manual is available and offered. We see the writing on the wall and it spells “EV” and “automated driving.” That is something we would like to see put off for as long as possible, but alas the days of the internal combustion engine seem sadly numbered.
The WRX builds up speed fast and keeps delivering in all driving conditions. The engine is never tired and the manual gearbox is our joy toy. Add in the standard all-wheel drive and this rally-type car is a champ on the twisty roads, a king on the corners, and a track star when needed. The WRX is tossable, playful, slippery, and potent. There are times that it seems a larger engine is under the hood — such is the power on tap.
Comfortable and bolstered seats encourage the driving antics. Credit the flat-four’s low center of gravity too with amping the driving experience. An enhanced suspension system, springy tires, and improved torsional rigidity combine to simply improve upon the previous model.
Subaru WRX Takeaway
The new-generation WRX does what it needs to do to maintain a stronghold in the compact performance sedan segment. The upgraded engine is welcome; keeping a 6-speed manual in the fold is wise. That it comes with standard all-wheel drive is almost easy to overlook, but it does make a difference under vigorous driving.
We think an STI variant will eventually return, but not as a gas model. Indeed, Subaru is working diligently in all matters of electrification and the STI might be one of those models. If they move in that direction, driving any WRX without a vaunted Boxer engine will truly be a sea change.
Photos courtesy of Subaru America.