If there’s a sports car Canadian automotive enthusiasts can always rely on for year-round driveability, it’s the Subaru WRX. Ever since it landed on our shores 20 years ago, Subaru’s rally-inspired econobox has been the perfect formula for our harsh winter climate.
For the 2022 model year, Subaru completely overhauled the car for its sixth generation. Although all-new with a revamped platform, drivetrain, styling and technology, the overall package doesn’t differ much. As Subaru Canada’s public relations representative Sébastien Lajoie likes to say: “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. It’s an ethos that perfectly resumes this freshly updated Rex
Improved Where it Matters
This new WRX finally inherits Subaru’s Global Architecture platform, which allows it to grow a bit in size, but also improve on overall chassis rigidity and crash protection. Displaying a much more futuristic design, with plastic cladding surrounding the wheel arches to give it a more rally-friendly look, this WRX is a tad wider and about three inches longer than the last car.
The real big news, however, is an all-new engine. Gone is the old 2.0-litre Boxer unit. In its place, Subaru transplanted the turbocharged 2.4-litre flat-four that also powers other vehicles like the Outback and Ascent SUVs. As a matter of fact, this is essentially the same engine as in the Ascent, but with reworked turbocharging and improved breathing for quicker throttle response and less turbo lag.
On paper, this engine pumps out similar numbers as before, with horsepower only going up three for a total of 271 and torque remaining unchanged at 258 lb-ft. However, Subaru claims this engine is less turbo-reliant thanks to its larger displacement, leading to what it says is a broader torque curve. Torque also kicks in lower at 3,000 r.p.m. Another interesting engineering detail is that although it slightly bigger and gets a larger engine, the new WRX is only about 20 pounds heavier than the old car thanks to clever use of aluminium in key places like the front fenders.
Just like it always has, the WRX comes standard with Subaru’s acclaimed symmetrical all-wheel drive system. This new car can be paired to a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). For maximum enjoyment behind the wheel, I highly recommend the manual gearbox.
More Grown Up, but Still Very Juvenile
On the road, it’s immediately apparent that this new engine gives the WRX a more grown-up feel. Not only does it pull a tad harder at low rpm, but it’s also less frantic when the turbocharger kicks in, revving smoothly all the way to its 6,100-r.p.m. redline.
It still however relies on boost and downshifts to get up and go. Make the mistake of selecting a higher gear too soon, and the Rex bogs down until the turbo wakes up. Luckily, the manual transmission is a gem to row around, with crisp shift action and a firm clutch that makes dropping a few gears a blast. Get that turbo spooling, and the WRX puts down good power, with spirited acceleration that still makes it respectfully quick if not comically immature. Where it performs best is out of the hole. Hold the revs up to about 2,500 r.p.m. at standstill, dump the clutch while letting it slip just a tad, and she’ll catapult herself forward as if launching out of a slingshot. Repeat the experience for a constant rush of adrenaline.
The WRX’s freshened chassis also gives it superhero reflexes. The car responds to your slightest inputs in utmost precision. The small-diameter steering wheel is both enjoyable to grab and quick to react, while the all-wheel drive system leads to massive four-wheel grip as the car claws itself around an apex. Brakes are strong, with a firm bite and very little fatigue even after several hard stops at high speed. I can only imagine what I could do with this car after a fresh batch of snow.
New Interior, Better Materials and More Technology
Inside, the WRX finally gets a much-needed cabin update, with improved materials, tighter build quality and more technology by way of the available 11.6-inch infotainment screen that’s essentially a large vertical tablet. Like in all Subarus of late, the system is quick to respond thanks to a fast-reacting interface. Large icons make cycling between apps a breeze too, but I do wish the car’s HVAC controls had standard physical controls. That said, the ergonomics in this WRX are spot on, with a no-frills approach to where everything is placed and a down-to-business analog gauge pod that simply works. Extra points go to a physical handbrake.
Perhaps where the WRX let me down the most was in the comfort of its driver’s seat, or lack thereof. I’m a tall and wide human being and never did I find comfort in these sport bucket chairs. I always felt like I was awkwardly sandwiched inside, with the steering wheel and pedals either feeling too far or too close. It was also rather worrying to see the car’s hood shake as if it wasn’t bolted on properly at freeway speeds.
But hey, if that kind of stuff helps Subaru keep costs low, I’m all for it, as the WRX’s pricing is still impressively appealing in this world of heavy inflation. Base models go for a decent $33,033 including freight, with a fully loaded Sport-tech with EyeSight and a CVT towering the lineup at $43,933. The sweet spot of the lineup remains the Sport at $37,533 thanks to its decent list of standard equipment like larger wheels, fog lights, the larger infotainment screen, and more color options.
One thing’s for certain, no matter which WRX you’ll choose, you’ll have in your possession one of the most daily driveable sports cars on the market, one that’ll give a Ford Mustang a run for its money at the drag strip, but that’ll also double down as a sensible family sedan during the week. With the STI now gone and Subaru already planning to transition this nameplate to electric propulsion, this is your last chance to own of the best analog sport compact cars currently on sale.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.
2022 Subaru WRX
Front engine, all-wheel drive
2.4-litre turbocharged Boxer flat four-cylinder (271 hp @ 5,600 r.p.m. and 258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000 r.p.m.)
: 6-speed manual
: 10.7 L/100 km (combined), 12.3 L/100 km (city), 9.0 L/100 km (highway)
OBSERVED ENERGY CONSUMPTION
: 11.2 L/100 km
$41,333 (as tested)