Canadian pricing for the 2020 Subaru WRX starts at $29,995, $27,495 in the US.
Current generation Subaru WRX and WRX STI dates back to 2015.
The Subaru WRX remains the quintessential sport compact car.
The Subaru WRX needs little introduction this far into its life. Its production car roots, which finally arrived in 1998 in North America, might be more obscure but the WRX as we know it is one of the most popular sport compact cars on the Continent.
Few might remember the 1998 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS. The 2-door version was the first Subaru to sport the large rear spoiler. The enthusiasm for this car convinced Subaru to launch the Impreza WRX for 2002, and they’ve never looked back.
The WRX is a hot number
For years, it’s been the best-selling non-domestic sports car trailing behind the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. But this is not a defeat, this is a triumph. Subaru was in fact the first automaker to mesh performance, AWD capability in a package that was both affordable and useful on a daily basis.
Competitors have come, and sadly, some have gone but the Subaru WRX has stayed true to its roots, much like the majority of Subaru’s products. A net result of this is that Subaru has some of the most loyal owners anywhere.
Why so faithful?
It’s simple. The Subaru WRX is exactly what’s its always been, and that is a robust, all-season high-performance car that requires the driver to work for results. The last bit is in reference to the fact that the WRX is the last car from a previous era where drivers actually needed a certain level of dexterity in order to operate. This is a rare treat in 2020 as most like-minded cars, even the Honda Civic Type R, give the driver extra tools to drive skillfully.
Release the clutch only a fraction of a second too soon or get on the throttle a hair too quickly and the car will buck like a wild bronco. The clutch pedal isn’t exactly heavy, it needs a gentle touch. Driving smoothly in town is not a mindless affair as it can be in the Volkswagen Golf GTI with a manual transmission.
Should you want to launch the WRX, you will need to be fully committed to the act. No fear, lots of engine revs, and being prepared for some mild gear-grinding is the required mindset to make it happen. And if you get it right, the reward is immense.
Great power, excellent handling
The WRX is powered by the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, with improved tuning, that produces 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. On paper, the WRX STI seems far more powerful but the 2.0-litre’s torque is full-on from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. This enables the car to leap off the line with what feels like as much vigor as the STI. The stats say the WRX needs 5.4 seconds to reach 100 km/h while the STI runs the sprint in 4.8 seconds. It is that close. The WRX is quick as always, and the be frank, I noticed no tangible result to Subaru’s claim that the 2.0-litre has been tuned.
Once underway, another hint from the “old” era is how the car behaves. Immediately, one will notice the grainy, occasionally harsh ride. For the most part, the amount of damping provided by the struts is adequate. What the performance-tuned suspension does deliver is un-wavering grip which, coupled with the quick steering ratio, the Active Torque Vectoring system with updated rear differential, and grippy Dunlop tires, makes for a very sharp-handling car.
The difference with the WRX, and the Civic Si of Hyundai Veloster N, is that you feel the chassis working – there’s actual residual feedback that works its way to the driver. As analog and possibly unrefined the driving experience may be, it is addictive. Despite my “advanced” age and the fact that I typically seek out a less intrusive encounter with a car, the WRX is wonderful.
Base WRX > Sport-tech RS < WRX STI
The most wonderful of them all is the base $29,995 WRX ($27,495 in the US) which does away with leather, larger wheels, a sunroof, and generally useless features for such a car. In Canada, the tested Sport-Tech RS (a few notches above the $32,095 WRX Limited in the US) features Recaro seats and impressively powerful Brembo brakes. Unfortunately, these elements are only available in this $39,695 version.
There’s little to say about the 2020 Subaru WRX’s styling – it is instantly recognizable especially when draped in World Rally Blue. The cabin too is an extremely familiar place. It is roomy enough to accommodate two baby seats and the trunk is usable with 340 litres (12 cu.ft.) easily accessible through the large opening. For 2020, Subaru has spruced up the door cards with red stitching but otherwise, it’s good business as usual.
The 2020 Subaru WRX is still a fantastic driver’s car but one that is best enjoyed with few add-ons. The tested Sport-Tech RS is interesting but a base STI is only $600 more. I’ll take more power, suspension and larger calipers over a larger screen and push-button start every time.