2021 Subaru WRX Review
The 2021 Subaru WRX is one of the more affordable performance cars on the market. It's got a relatively powerful turbocharged engine that sends power to the wheels through a standard all-wheel-drive system. It handles well too, with responsive steering and plenty of grip. Subaru also offers the top-level STI trim with a more powerful engine and a variety of other performance upgrades.
The WRX is showing its age, though, especially inside. While it's had some small updates over the years, the basic design dates back to the previous-generation Subaru Impreza that debuted nearly a decade ago. As such, the WRX isn't as refined or fresh as rivals such as the Hyundai Veloster and Honda Civic. It's loud on the street, too, and not in the way we want a sports car to be. Are these deal-breakers? Check out the categories of our Expert Rating below to help you decide.
The WRX's combination of a high-performance engine and standard all-wheel drive is rare for a small performance car. If you drive it hard, the WRX can be relatively quick in a straight line, and handling is entertaining. Unfortunately, unrefined or unavailable in-car tech, a bumpy ride, sluggish throttle response in town, and a high cost of entry are all major deterrents. We'd recommend taking a closer look at one of its many highly skilled rivals.
How does the WRX drive?
There was a time when the WRX was a class benchmark in terms of speed and driving. But that time has passed. Acceleration is a surprisingly jerky and unpleasant experience. Full-throttle shifts cause massive lurches forward, and leaving the line quickly requires a launch technique that we feel is mechanically abusive.
Once you're up to speed, though, the WRX becomes more entertaining. Around corners, the WRX has decent grip and changes direction quickly. The steering wheel relates information the way you'd want it to. The Brembo brakes are easy to use in routine driving, and we didn't experience any fade in high-performance driving.
How comfortable is the WRX?
For a high-performance small car, the WRX is pretty competent in the comfort department. The optional Recaro seats are well bolstered and easy to adjust. Ride quality is less impressive. Small bumps aren't an issue, but large bumps and highway imperfections definitely upset the ride. There's also plenty of wind noise generated around the mirrors while on the highway.
The WRX's climate control blows cold air fast even on a hot day. The automatic controls are easy to set and forget. Two-level heated seats up front are quick to warm up too.
How’s the interior?
One of the highlights of driving a WRX is the interior's spacious and airy feel. The cabin is roomy enough to fit four adults easily, with large door openings that make it easy to slide into or out of all four major seating positions. Visibility is excellent, with thin roof pillars and large windows as well as a big windshield to see through.
The cabin is well laid out, with logically arranged and easy-to-learn controls. Unfortunately, the driving position is a bit funky because of the steering wheel's limited tilt adjustment. Also, the center armrest is located too far back to be useful.
How’s the tech?
The crisp-looking touchscreen in the WRX Premium is aesthetically pleasing, and it responds to commands quickly. Smartphone connection via USB is quick as well, with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Once you start operating Subaru's Starlink system, however, things begin to fall apart. Audio quality is substandard and the options list is missing several features. Navigation isn't available, and the voice controls are difficult to use. Another issue: On manual transmission-equipped cars, you don't have access to Subaru's suite of safety features, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning.
How’s the storage?
Whether you're comparing the WRX to its hatchback or sedan rivals, it falls behind class leaders in terms of cargo space and small-item storage. In both categories, it's got enough space to get by, but it doesn't offer any smart solutions in the interior. It also doesn't offer a particularly spacious trunk at 12 cubic feet.
If you're buying a WRX with a child seat in mind, there's plenty of space in the back seat, with easily accessed anchor points and enough room for a large rear-facing seat. Load-in should be easy thanks to the wide-opening doors.
How economical is the WRX?
The WRX has some of the worst fuel economy in its class by EPA standards. With the manual transmission, the WRX gets an estimated 23 mpg combined, which is lower than even high-performance rivals such as the Civic Type R (25 mpg). Our test WRX averaged 24.1 mpg on our highway-biased 115-mile evaluation route, which indicates the EPA figures should be pretty accurate.
Is the WRX a good value?
You have to really want a WRX to buy a WRX. Fuel economy ratings are some of the worst in the class, interior quality is uninspiring, and the price can be hard to justify when you start considering the missing features. A loaded-up WRX can cost as much as a Civic Type R, which is simply a better car.
For the class, the WRX's warranty is average: three years/36,000 miles of basic coverage, five years/60,000 miles of powertrain coverage, and corrosion coverage for five years/unlimited miles. Roadside assistance lasts the life of the basic warranty.
The WRX moves quickly between corners, but it does so with less poise than most of its competition. If you've driven a car that's been modified with go-fast aftermarket parts, it's sort of like that — an assortment of upgrades that don't quite play well together. If you're committed to getting a performance Impreza, we think the STI holds a bit more sway in this category, even if it's significantly less comfortable on the open road.
Which WRX does Edmunds recommend?
Get the WRX Limited trim. It's not as powerful or capable as the STI, but it offers more features at a lower price and is more comfortable in day-to-day driving.
Subaru WRX models
The 2021 Subaru WRX sedan is available in five trim levels: base, Premium, Limited, STI and STI Limited. The base, Premium and Limited trims use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (268 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque), a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive. An automatic is available as an option on certain trims. Stepping up to the WRX STI gets you a turbocharged 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (310 hp, 290 lb-ft of torque) paired exclusively with a six-speed manual.