The 2022 Subaru WRX arrives amid a chaotic time for sport compact cars.
This Subaru now sits at the top of the brand’s performance lineup, but it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Hyundai Elantra N, Honda Civic Si, and Volkswagen Jetta GLI, which are more exciting, practical, and value-packed than before. However, don’t be quick to count this WRX out. It may look and sound a bit different, but at its core is a formula that made this nameplate shine for decades.
The Subaru recipe for success has never called for jaw-dropping styling. This generation of the WRX includes some SUV-like body cladding around the fenders, as if there was some leftover material from the Outback and Crosstrek and Subaru decided to throw it onto its performance sedan. It’s not particularly handsome, but Subaru has always skewed toward brutalist rather than modern styling.
The cabin is an upgrade over past models, with a clean design. The large vertically oriented screen dominates most of the dashboard, and there’s a lot of carbon-fibre-influenced plastic inside, which looks cool but feels flimsy.
The evolutionary approach continues with the powertrain. A turbocharged 2.4L engine replaces the 2.0L of old, and it makes 271 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Despite the extra displacement, it gets just three hp more than the last engine.
Peak horsepower arrives at 5,600 rpm, while you feel the torque as soon as 2,000 rpm. There’s a definite feeling of lag as you roll onto the throttle, and you want to keep the motor in its relatively narrow power band to get the most out of it.
As expected for a Subaru, the motor sends power to all four wheels. Our tester featured a six-speed manual transmission that feels more agricultural than slick and smooth. It’s not as if it doesn’t work; it definitely does, just with a heavy clutch and clumsy throws. That’s one way to engage with the driver, but an alternative is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which might do a better job of keeping the motor in its sweet spot.
Driving Feel: 8/10
The peaky, unrefined motor and rough transmission play into the character Subaru WRX. It feels like an old-school sport compact, loaded to the brim with power and performance, leaving everything else behind. The throttle response is middling but then the turbo spools up, and suddenly you’re blasting off. Keep your foot down, and keep shifting to manage the revs, and any enthusiast will be satisfied.
Steering is on the vague and light side, but the stiff chassis and suspension help provide the necessary feedback to the driver. The ride does feel a bit too harsh at times. The all-wheel drive system also helps provide confidence, not just when pushing it on the back roads but even in inclement weather conditions and poor road conditions.
It’s easy to get into the WRX and get used to the ergonomics regarding pedal placement and driving controls. The seating position is good, as there’s plenty of visibility. However, the infotainment system is merely adequate. Touch response is sluggish, and some controls can take your attention away from the road. While the system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the integration seems a bit half-baked and it underutilizes the space available on the 11.6-inch screen found in higher trim levels like our tester.
If the old-school sport compact theme isn’t coming through, the message should be clear given how few luxuries and convenience features there are. There are standard heated seats in the front, while rear heated seats are available. Shoppers can get dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, a navigation system and an upgraded sound system in mid-trim models, but there’s no killer app or stand-out features here.
While the seats are supportive and comfortable, the rest of the car is decidedly harsh. The stiffness might be touted by enthusiasts as part of its charm, but the droning exhaust note, along with the tedious ride, grows tiring during long trips.
Fortunately, the vehicle is spacious, with plenty of room in the front. The rear seats offer a decent amount of legroom, but headroom is limited. With 354 L of cargo room, the WRX is worthy of being called practical. The rear seats also fold down to help accommodate longer items.
Manual versions of the WRX lack the safety features and driver assistance technology that automatic models have but still pack plenty of airbags, including side-impact units, one for the driver’s knees, and side-curtain airbags. Higher trim models can get blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Automatic-equipped models come with Subaru’s loot bag of goodies including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, and automatic emergency braking.
Fuel Economy: 7.5/10
Manual-equipped versions of the WRX deliver 12.3 L/100 km in city driving conditions, 9.0 on the highway, and 10.8 combined, which is a bit less friendly than the outgoing model that delivered 10.4 combined with its smaller engine. In contrast, automatic models are more efficient than previous iterations but are thirsty compared to the manual, coming in at 12.7 L/100 km in the city, 9.4 on the highway, and 11.2 combined.
Starting at $32,270 before tax but including a fixed freight charge of $1,725, the WRX is a delicious bargain for sport-compact shoppers looking for pure power and all-wheel traction. It’s cheaper than the Hyundai Elantra N and Honda Civic Si, which both lack all-wheel drive. Only the VW Jetta GLI represents a better price, but it’s also front-wheel-drive and has less power than the Subaru.
While the base WRX sports an attractive entry price, the $37,220 Sport model is a slightly better blend of price and features, adding the larger touchscreen, more USB ports, and an upgraded sound system. The automatic is also available for $2,600 and adds safety and driver-assistance features. The fully loaded Sport-tech model is tempting at $41,020 for the manual or $43,620 for the automatic, but it doesn’t feel like a significant leap up from the Sport trim.
Those that subscribe to the notion of sport-compacts delivering the most performance for the money should appreciate what the 2022 Subaru WRX offers. It’s all business, with plenty of power and grip, along with a fun sense of engagement, while rejecting concepts of style and features. It’s still plenty practical, and thanks to its low price, it should plaster a smile on the face of any enthusiast.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo H4|
|Peak Horsepower||271 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||258 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.7 / 9.4 / 11.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||354 L|
|Model Tested||2022 Subaru WRX Sport-tech 6MT|
|Price as Tested||$41,120|