Many automakers participate directly or indirectly in motorsports. For the past two decades, Subaru has been laser-focused on rally racing, with competition versions of the WRX and WRX STI models leading the charge.
The latest all-wheel-drive (AWD) WRX sedan, which is now on sale, is in the same performance league as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Hyundai Elantra N and Honda Civic Si, but the Subaru is more hard-core than those three.
The WRX is now built on the more rigid Subaru Global Platform, which also means a lower centre of gravity. The car is about 7.5 centimetres longer that before, 2.5 centimetres wider, and the distance between the front and rear wheels has grown by almost 2.5 centimetres.
You could call the WRX’s bodywork similar but different. The grille and signature hood scoop (that directs outside air through the turbocharger’s intercooler located atop the engine) are recognizable. The rear fenders are more prominently flared and the protective side cladding lends a no-nonsense tone to differentiate it from the base Impreza. The two vehicles share platforms but no body panels.
The interior has a new flat-bottom steering wheel and an available 11.6-inch infotainment screen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 7.0-inch screen is standard.
The one-and-only turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine puts out 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It replaces the previous 268-horsepower turbo 2.0.
On the surface it looks like an insignificant swap, however Subaru says the new turbocharger is more responsive, especially at 3,000 rpm and above. Expect the 2.4 to be snappier through a wider rev range.
As before, a six-speed manual transmission is standard. According to Subaru, it’s preferred by the majority of buyers. Fuel consumption, with the manual gearbox, is rated at 12.3 l/100 km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.8, combined.
The all-wheel-drive system in manual-gearbox WRXs splits the torque evenly front to rear.
A Subaru Performance Transmission, which is the automaker’s term for a continuously variable unit (CVT), is available for all trims. It comes with a variable AWD unit. Under normal traction conditions, it splits the torque 45:55, front to rear.
The CVT’s paddle shifters control eight gear-like steps and will blip the throttle when downshifting to aid vehicle stability.
The CVT comes with the up-level WRX Sport with EyeSight and Sport-tech with EyeSight trims. EyeSight refers to Subaru’s comprehensive grouping of active-safety technologies. Among them are blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist, while Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centreing is intended to help “with steering, braking, and throttle control — both in daily traffic and on long road trips.” Automatic Emergency Steering, new for 2022, can steer the WRX away from oncoming obstacles.
In the EyeSight Sport models, the CVT has three drive-mode settings: Intelligent (most fuel-efficient); Sport (for rapid driving) and Sport Sharp. The latter firms up the shocks, delivers quicker transmission shifts and sharpens steering response.
Fuel consumption with the CVT is rated at 12.7 l/100 km in the city, 9.4 on the highway and 11.2 combined. Those numbers are higher than for the stick-shift WRX, which is unusual as CVTs usually rate better.
The base WRX is priced at $32,700, including destination charges. It’s light on content and it lacks dynamic-safety tech — such as emergency braking and lane-departure warning — as do the Sport and Sport Tech that are not equipped with EyeSight.
The top-end Sport-tech with EyeSight ($43,600) gets premium seat covers with synthetic-suede inserts, an 11-speaker Harmon Kardon-brand 11-speaker audio system with navigation and 18-inch wheels (17s are standard) and Dunlop SP Sport tires.
Regarding the hotter WRX STI, Subaru says it has no plans to continue with that model.
For now, the WRX should be enough to satisfy the performance needs of buyers with a passion for driving rapidly, and also securely and safely. For these folks, setting a quick pace at an equally quick heart rate go hand in hand.
What you should know: 2022 Subaru WRX
Type: All-wheel-drive compact sedan
Engine (h.p.): 2.4-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged (271)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (CVT, opt.)
Market position: The WRX is part of an elite group of performance vehicles with quick reflexes and road-taming capabilities in practical and compact packages.
Points: Styling is a bit more rugged than the previous version. • Engine output numbers are virtually unchanged, but the power is more than adequate for a sedan with sporting capabilities. • The optional continuously variable transmission is actually less fuel-efficient than manual-transmission models, which is rare. • Base model is devoid of active-safety features.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); front and rear emergency braking (opt.); inattentive-driver alert (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.); pedestrian warning (opt.); automatic emergency steering (opt.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 12.3/9.0 (MT)
Base price (incl. destination): $32,700
Hyundai Elantra N
• Base price: $40,800
• Performance sedan comes with a 275-h.p. turbo I-4. AWD not offered.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
• Base price: $33,250
• FWD hatch, 241-hp turbo 2.0-litre I-4. Manual and automatic transmissions.
Honda Civic Si
• Base price: $35,500
• New-for-2022 FWD sedan, 200-h.p. I-4, manual transmission only.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media