Used 2016 Subaru WRX STI Review
Edmunds expert review
When you take a spin in a 2016 Subaru WRX, you can tell right away that it has the right stuff. It's a blast to drive thanks to its turbocharged power and sharp handling, and the standard all-wheel drive is a definite bonus if you live in a place with a lot of wet weather. Learn more about what else we like about this sport sedan below.
What's new for 2016
After its complete redesign for 2015, the 2016 Subaru WRX offers the same heaps of power and performance as before, for a relatively affordable price. The base engine is one of the strongest in its class, with sub 6- second 0-60 acceleration even in the base model with the optional continuously variable automatic transmission. The WRX is a lot of fun when the road gets twisty, too, thanks to its precise steering, nimble handling and standard all-wheel drive. The upgrade STI version simply ups the ante.
Unhappily, though, the WRX interior appointments and design remain pretty middle-of-the-pack, and the cabin isn't as insulated against high-speed wind and road noise as much as we'd like. Many will find the STI's track-tuned suspension still a bit too stiff for comfortable daily driving as well.
The 2016 Subaru WRX carries on from last year's redesign with just a few changes.
But will you really care? That depends on your priorities. The closest competition for the WRX has traditionally come from the Mitsubishi Lancer, but the Ralliart and Evolution are discontinued for 2016. Instead, look to hot hatchbacks from Ford and Volkswagen. Ford offers its front-drive, 252-horsepower Focus ST and all-new all-wheel-drive Focus RS, while VW builds the Golf GTI and all-wheel-drive Golf R. All four deliver stellar performance along with high-quality interiors. The Mini Cooper JCW hatchback remains one of our favorites in the sport-performance class as well. But overall, the 2016 Subaru WRX remains hard to beat if performance and fun top your list of desires for an affordable performance car.
Trim levels & features
The high-performance 2016 Subaru WRX and WRX STI are available only as five-seat sedans. The WRX can be had in base, Premium and Limited trims; the WRX STI comes only in base and Limited trim levels.
Standard WRX features include 17-inch wheels and summer performance tires, a trunk-lid spoiler, cruise control, sport front seats, automatic climate control, a 4.3-inch vehicle information display, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera, 60/40-split fold-down rear seatbacks, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and Subaru's Starlink six-speaker infotainment system with 6.2-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, CD player, USB interface and auxiliary input and smartphone integration.
Stepping up to the WRX Premium gets you 18-inch wheels and summer tires, foglights, a power sunroof, heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icers and heated outside mirrors. The Limited model adds to that with an eight-way power driver seat, leather-trimmed upholstery, LED low-beam headlamps and keyless ignition and entry.
WRX Premium buyers who stick with the manual transmission can get the optional 7-inch Starlink screen and premium nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, bundled with navigation. Limited buyers who select the CVT can get the navigation and premium audio system bundled with Subaru's optional EyeSight front collision mitigation system. It includes adaptive cruise control, automated pre-collision braking, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assistance systems. The package also includes an electronic parking brake, blind spot detection, navigation, rear cross-traffic alert and steering-responsive foglights that help illuminate corners and curves.
The WRX Limited with a manual transmission can be ordered with the optional blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert systems bundled with navigation and the premium nine-speaker media system. The EyeSight system, though, is not available with the stick shift.
The 2016 WRX STI model comes with all the WRX and WRX Premium items except the sunroof but adds a more powerful engine, Brembo brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials, driver-selectable modes for the center differential and a more aggressively tuned suspension. Dual-zone climate control is also standard. Step up to the STI Limited trim level and you'll get back the sunroof and add keyless ignition and entry, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and the premium audio system with navigation and the 7-inch Starlink screen.
Options for STI models are limited to a package for the base trim that includes keyless ignition and entry, navigation and the premium audio system. The only option for buyers of the STI Limited is the no-cost choice between the iconic rally-style tall wing spoiler or the new low-profile trunk lip spoiler.
There's also a limited edition of the STI available this year. Called Series Hyper Blue, it's essentially an STI Limited but with special exterior paint and interior trim.
Performance & mpg
Subaru's 2.0-liter turbocharged, horizontally opposed four-cylinder "boxer" engine continues to power the 2016 WRX model in all three trim levels. Its 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque are directed to the all-wheel-drive system through a standard six-speed manual transmission. An optional CVT with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters that let the tranny impersonate either a six- or eight-speed automatic, depending on driving mode, is available for the WRX Premium and Limited trim levels. The WRX Premium and Limited trims also get inverted front struts for improved handling.
The 2016 Subaru WRX cranks out 265 hp, while the STI boosts it up to 305 hp.
In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped WRX posted a speedy 5.4-second 0-60-mph run. Subaru says the WRX with a CVT needs 5.9 seconds to cover the same distance. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the WRX with a manual transmission is 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway), while CVT-equipped models are unchanged at 21 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway).
The STI steps up the game with a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine rated at 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. A beefed-up six-speed manual is the only transmission available. In our testing, the STI accelerated to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds. EPA fuel economy is 19 mpg combined (17 city/23 highway).
Every WRX model gets standard traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, a rearview back-up camera, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning systems are options on the WRX Limited with either the manual or CVT, and are standard on the STI Limited.
Subaru's EyeSight front collision mitigation system, however, is reserved for the WRX Limited with a CVT. The package adds adaptive cruise control, automated pre-collision braking, and lane keeping assistance systems and independently operating, steering-responsive foglights to help illuminate curves.
In Edmunds brake testing, a WRX stopped from 60 mph in a short 106 feet. An STI actually took a bit longer at 108 feet in our test, though its upgraded brakes showed superior fade resistance after multiple panic stops compared to the regular WRX.
The WRX received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest rating of "Good" for small overlap and moderate overlap frontal-offset collision tests, side impact resistance, roof strength and whiplash protection.
The 2016 Subaru WRX's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is muscular throughout its operating range and delivers a particularly addictive flood of midrange power. The manual is likely to remain the transmission of choice for true gearheads, despite its tricky-to-modulate clutch action. The CVT is more refined than most, and the steering-wheel-mounted shifter paddles combine with the WRX's driver-selectable operating modes to present plenty of opportunity to make the most of the engine's output.
As is only right and fitting for a car with World Rally Championship heritage, the WRX is tight and precise, devouring twists in the road with confidence. Subaru's big gun, the 2016 WRX STI, raises the bar a few more pegs with its more powerful engine, limited-slip differentials, hefty Brembo brakes and beefed-up six-speed manual. It's a blast to drive and makes the most of its all-wheel-drive traction, but the side effect is the stiff ride quality, which can be jarring even for this class of car.
WRX interiors typically have taken a backseat to performance, and that's the case with the 2016 WRX. What you get is a pretty basic design and layout, but with simple and easy-to-use controls. The base audio system is improved this year, however, and now has a 6.2-inch screen.
Subaru improved the base audio system for the 2016 WRX, now with smartphone integration and a 6.2-inch touchscreen. A 7-inch screen is optional.
Seating is pretty roomy, as is the trunk, and while hatchbacks still have an edge, cargo space (12 cubic feet) is further helped by the fold-down rear seatbacks. The WRX is a driver's car and the driving position is spot on, as are the firm, nicely bolstered sport seats. Thin roof pillars provide for excellent outward visibility, and large side mirrors make it easy to monitor conditions to the side and rear.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.