Preach to the coveted
The new Subaru WRX is the same as it ever was. That’s mainly good news
IT’S almost 20 years to the day the original Subaru WRX stormed on to the scene.
An anonymous-looking sedan, it proved an unlikely challenger to the established performance cars thanks to its light weight, turbocharged engine and all‒wheel-drive grip.
The $40,000 starting price was a bonus (it even lured me) but not everyone liked to pay for theirs. The WRX quickly became the car of choice among ram‒raiders and high-speed criminals because of its ability to outrun police.
It was the new bad boy on the block and its popularity soared despite — or perhaps because of — its reputation.
Australia is the third-biggest market for the WRX, with more than 37,600 sold since 1994. In its fourth generation, the WRX formula hasn’t changed: it starts life as a base Impreza, then Subaru adds the go-fast bits. But has the performance-car world moved on?
Subaru has wound back the WRX’s price 20 years and shaved off a further $1000 for good measure, to $38,990 plus on-road costs. (By Subaru’s calculations, with inflation, the real cost of the new WRX should equate to $66,000.)
Of course, Subaru isn’t alone — the prices of the Nissan Pulsar and Toyota Corolla are also at 20-year lows. Send your thank-you note to the Japanese government, which has devalued the yen over the past 12 months to boost car exports.
Nevertheless, $38,990 is a deft move from Subaru, which is well aware the WRX no longer has the market to itself. It limbos under the price of the VW Golf GTI (the undisputed king of the class for the past decade) and Renault Megane RS, while it’s only $700 more than the category’s unsung hero, the Ford Focus ST.
Standard fare includes seven airbags, rear-view camera, touchscreen audio, digital speedo, geek mode that shows you how much g-force the car is pulling, cruise control, remote central locking, sports seats and steering wheel, unique front and rear bumpers and, of course, the vented bonnet that feeds air to the turbo engine’s intercooler.
The premium model is less attractive when lined up again the competition.
At $45,990 it gains leather seats (with electric adjustment for the driver), sunroof, navigation, push‒button start with sensor key and eightspeaker premium audio.
returns to the WRX for the first time in 10 years, the eight-speed CVT adding $2000.
Subaru doesn’t have fixedprice servicing for its routine maintenance (due every 12,500km or six months, whichever comes first). Instead, a complicated form on its website invites customers to ask for a quote. Subaru is now conspicuous among the top‒selling brands for its lack of a transparent pricing schedule.
At least the WRX’s resale value is sound, retaining 55 per cent of its value (average) after three years according to Glass’s Guide, as long as it has low kilometres , no modifications and impeccable service records. After 10 years of a turbocharged 2.5‒litre, the new model returns to 2.0‒litre turbo power.
The switch to a smaller engine is for reasons of fuel economy. The new WRX is more efficient than before (down to 9.2L/100km) but still nowhere near as efficient as the class leaders (the Golf GTI, Focus ST and Megane RS sip 6.2L‒8.2L/100km).
Now with direct injection as well as other advances in technology, the 2.0 has fractionally more output — now 197kW and 350Nm — compared with the old 2.5. This puts the WRX’s power on a par with the current crop of hot hatch heroes but, as we discover, it doesn’t necessarily translate to better performance.
Subaru has gone back to basics and ditched plans for a hatch — the WRX is sedan-only for now.
We were teased with a daring sedan styling change at the New York motor show two years ago, when Subaru whipped the covers off the most exciting show car to ever come from its design studio.
So there was much excitement when the designer standing next to the show car told reporters that elements of the concept vehicle would make it to the production version.
Yet the new WRX is same as it ever was: a turbo engine in a relatively plain package. Customarily, production cars are toned down from the concept cars that precede them. This WRX redefines disappointment. Most car companies underpromise and over-deliver. Here the opposite is true.
Slimmer windscreen pillars, larger glass area and mirrors mounted on the doors improve vision but the dash glares badly into the windscreen in direct sunlight. Inside, the WRX gains the storage benefits of the