the wrong car
compares very well with a Golf GTi from $40,490, the Golf R at $49,990 and the Lancer Ralliart SST from $43,990.
There are other hottish hatches around, and people also shop a WRX against a Mini or a BMW 1 Series, but they are the obvious rivals.
The STI is up a gear from there and, in Australia, the only serious opponent is the Lancer Evo from $61,390.
The update to the Subaru range brings extra value with the wide-body look on the WRX, as well as Bluetooth, an STI exhaust, lightweight 17-inch alloys and a rear-suspension upgrade.
The STI kick includes a 5mm cut to ride height with revised suspension, new 18-inch wheels, darker instrument panel and door trim and Bluetooth.
WE’RE looking primarily at the STI so the big changes are the revised suspension and the automatic transmission.
It’s a five-speed with a sequential change, but the shift is the ‘‘wrong way’’ for sporty driving with downshifts requiring a pull backwards instead of a push forwards.
But the big disappointment in the STI auto is the engine. It still makes 221kW but loses a full 50Nm from the manual car to protect the gearbox from damage under maximum acceleration.
THE 2011 updates gives the STI a real visual kick. At last the sedan is back in the family and it looks tough with the big wing, droopy front spoiler and the big alloys, as well as the minor tweaks inside.
SUBARU has always been big on safety and the important change this year is — surprisingly — Bluetooth. It’s not as important as airbags, ESP, ABS or all-wheel drive, but it allows the driver to go hands-free on the phone and that is a huge thing in 2010.
THE new STI looks rally-bred tough and that’s great. It’s also comfortable with chunky sports buckets, has quality in the trim and equipment, and comes with rock-solid resale and service backup.
And yet . . . the STI automatic is a major disappointment. It’s the first turbocharged Impreza I’ve driven in more than 10 years that fails to deliver the goods.
I can live without the huffing and puffing of the turbo, and without the wicked redline rush which has always been part of the STI experience, but this car is plain dowdy in the middle gears.
The loss of all that torque hits so hard that the STI is a snoozer around town. You can give it a rev — provided it does not make an unwanted automatic upshift— to get some fun but it is not remotely what an STI driver wants.
If Subaru was so keen to have a self-shifter, it should have done the job on the regular WRX and left the STI as the kick-hard car.
The rest of the deal is good, with excellent cornering grip and balance, classy brakes and good fuel economy.
Some things still feel a bit cheap and tinny, like the way the boot closes, but the STI compensates with the tough new look and the welcome return of a four-door sedan.
She says —Alison Ward
EVERY WRX I have driven is definitely a fun experience, and not much comfort is given to the passengers. But this latest, easy-to-drive version of the legendary car is not as formidable as earlier models, or even, I suspect, the manual models today.
I think the effort here from Subaru might be lost to the usual WRX customer. Where is the speed? Where is the slam-into-the-seat feeling? Well, it’s still there, but a little quieter and a little more refined. But can really fire up when you add on some power revs.
It’s probably brilliant for those people who enjoy a practical car for everyday use, or for the lazy driver who just wants to punch it out every now and then, not at every set of lights.
It’s a sobering ride and still reasonably comfortable and edgy enough to feel all the bumps.
So perhaps it’s the legendary car it always was, just now it’s showing off its softer side.
THE wrong car for a lazy automatic gearbox.
Good deal: (left) the Subaru WRXSTI Spec.R with optional Recaro seats and satellite navigation.