Full 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX Review
What's New for 2014
Smartphone app integration (featuring Aha Internet radio) is now included on 2014 Subaru Impreza WRXs and WRX STIs equipped with the optional navigation system. Otherwise, the 2014 WRX and WRX STI are unchanged.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI are a family of high-performance sedans and hatchbacks. Based on the previous-generation Impreza and inspired by Subaru's years in international rally competition, these cars are aimed at serious driving enthusiasts who spend their weekends carving up back roads and tearing up racetracks. Although entertaining to drive, the 2014 WRX and WRX STI represent the last hurrah for the current car, as Subaru is preparing a redesigned Impreza WRX for 2015.
Accordingly, if you decide to purchase a 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX or WRX STI, you're either buying a classic streetable rally car or a performance car that's a bit past its "best by" date. Certainly, it's hard to argue with their performance numbers on paper. The base WRX has a turbocharged, 2.5-liter "boxer" four-cylinder engine rated at an impressive 265 horsepower. The STI uses a higher-performance version of this engine that makes 305 hp. In either case, getting the power to the ground is no problem thanks to standard all-wheel drive. The addition of front and rear limited-slip differentials on the STI translates to ridiculous grip, making it a cult favorite among car enthusiasts who regularly drive in foul weather.
Outside of performance, however, the 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI come up short in the face of newer competition. The interiors of these cars betray a significant lack of refinement: Hard plastics abound and the overall fit and finish is unimpressive for cars in this price range. What's more, the factory audio system is weak, while the optional navigation system has dated software and is more difficult to use than rivals' systems.
If you're looking for alternatives, there's really just one car that's very similar: the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the STI's longtime rival. It, too, generates close to 300 hp that's put to the ground through a rally-bred all-wheel-drive system. Perhaps not surprisingly, it's also stuck with a similarly dated and underwhelming interior design. However, the availability of an automated manual gearbox gives the Evo potentially broader appeal in households where not everyone wants to deal with a conventional manual and its associated clutch pedal.
On the more affordable side of the spectrum, the 2014 Ford Focus ST and 2014 Volkswagen GTI offer much nicer interiors, and they're easier and more comfortable to drive on a daily basis. That said, they're both slower than the Subaru, and their front-wheel-drive layout will likely have less appeal for hard-core drivers. In the end, your choice will likely depend on what you want from your high-performance sedan or hatchback. From our standpoint, the WRX and WRX STI, though flawed, continue to offer a level of performance and appeal that's rare at this price point.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI models are available in either sedan or five-door hatchback body styles, both of which seat five. The WRX is offered in base, Premium and Limited trim levels, regardless of body style. The WRX STI is offered as a single base trim level on the hatchback, while the sedan comes in base and STI Limited trims.
Standard WRX features include 17-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, cruise control, full power accessories, automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, sport front seats, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel (with audio controls), aluminum-trimmed pedals, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, USB/iPod integration and an auxiliary audio input. The hatchback also features a roof spoiler, a rear wiper, and a cargo cover and tie-downs.
Upgrading to the Premium trim adds foglights, a sunroof, a trunk lid spoiler (for sedans), heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer and heated front seats. The Limited model gains xenon headlights (low beams only) and leather upholstery.
The base WRX STI builds on the base WRX's equipment list by adding a more powerful engine, 18-inch wheels (hatchbacks get lighter-weight BBS wheels), Brembo brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials, a more aggressively tuned suspension and a bigger hood scoop. It also comes standard with xenon headlights (low beams), foglights (hatchbacks only), heated seats and simulated suede/leather upholstery. A rear spoiler is standard on both body styles. The WRX STI Limited sedan adds foglights, the BBS wheels, a sunroof and leather upholstery.
A touchscreen navigation system is available on the WRX Limited and all STI models. It includes voice control, traffic data, text messaging capabilities, smartphone-based Internet radio (Aha), HD radio and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder boxer engine that produces 265 hp and 244 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission and an all-wheel-drive system are standard. In Edmunds testing, a WRX sedan went from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, which is very quick among similarly priced, high-performance compact cars. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg in combined driving (19 mpg city/25 mpg highway) for both the sedan and hatchback. Cars like the Focus ST and VW GTI earn significantly better mpg ratings.
The STI gets a more elite version of this engine tuned for extra performance and rated at 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg combined (17 city/23 highway). These numbers aren't great, but they're comparable to the STI's chief rival, the Lancer Evolution.
When we instrument-tested a 2009 WRX STI, it went from zero to 60 mph in a blistering 4.5 seconds, but two 2011 STI sedans we tested were a full second slower. Although Subaru has never confirmed that any drivetrain changes were made to the STI, there's a good financial case to be made for buying the less expensive base WRX if you can do without the STI's fancy differentials and lightweight wheels.
Every 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, hill-hold assist, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The STI features ventilated disc brakes front and rear. In Edmunds brake testing, a WRX sedan came to a stop in an excellent 114 feet, while an STI hatchback did it in an even better 106 feet (the STI sedans we tested did no better than 112 feet, however).
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the regular, non-WRX versions of the previous-generation Impreza the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Interior quality is not the WRX's strong suit. The cabin design is simple and straightforward, but there's an overload of cheap, hard plastic trim for a car in this price range. We've not been impressed by the assembly quality of the test cars we've examined, either.
The outdated touchscreen interface for the navigation system is frustrating to use, and when equipped, it makes the audio system complicated to operate. The sound quality is subpar as well, making aftermarket audio upgrades a virtual necessity.
There is, however, plenty of room inside the cabin for passengers and cargo. Generous head- and legroom provide enough space for taller adults, and the front seats feature aggressive bolstering to keep passengers securely anchored to their seats when cornering. When it comes to hauling stuff, the hatch can accommodate up to 19 cubic feet of cargo while the seats are in place. Folding the rear seats expands that space to a generous 44 cubes. The sedan has an 11.3-cubic-foot trunk.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX offers an impressive amount of performance for the money, featuring plentiful power and tenacious cornering grip thanks to its firm suspension and summer performance tires. The WRX STI kicks it up a few more notches with limited-slip differentials front and rear, powerful Brembo brakes, a six-speed manual transmission and truly thrilling acceleration when the throttle is wide open. Ride quality for either version is acceptable considering the performance, but some drivers might object to the high levels of road noise.