The all-new 2022 WRX is definitely the best one yet, as long as you’re OK with it having grown up a bit in the process.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens.
There are always more photos at the end of my reviews.
Pricing: 2022 Subaru WRX
Base price (Sport-tech trim): $39,295
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $41,120
Although the WRX is instantly recognizable, Subaru definitely wasn’t shy about one of the biggest styling changes – have a gander at those squared-off fender trims. Now my review car’s paint colour does a lot to hide them effectively as they kind of blend in. But if you don’t like them (as a lot of people don’t), you really won’t like them when the car is painted something lighter. You can see the new-look plastic wheel arch cladding a mile away when the WRX is a more vibrant paint colour.
That same black plastic continues its way along the side skirts and into the rear valance – so in the end, if it bugs you, there will be a lot of it to drive you crazy. Again, the darker colours really soak up the look nicely if this feels like a deal-breaker.
Speaking of darker colours, the exterior is essentially devoid of any chrome, save the Subaru badging.
Otherwise, although all new, the exterior follows the same recipe as before and nothing really stands out. It’s a decent-looking little sedan with handsome 18-inch rims, shod with meaty 245/40-sized performance tires – they are the outstanding Dunlop SP Sport Maxx.
Headlights are LED, as are the foglights, daytime running lights and tail lights.
Some dimensions have changed as the WRX has grown up – it’s longer, wider and has a lower roofline, giving it mildly different proportions.
The interior of the WRX has come a long way. Subaru’s interior design and quality as a whole has matured wonderfully in the last few years and although the WRX isn’t up to the current top-trim interiors in the bigger vehicles, it’s a night-and-day improvement over the last generation.
Materials are nice, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces to be found, and there are nice touches like the embroided WRX logo on the seats and carpets, and the contrasting red stitching throughout the cabin. You’ll also find some fake carbon fibre trim pieces – they look fine although they’re not going to fool anyone.
While the traditional gauges are decidedly old-school, the centre stack houses a massive 11.6-inch iPad-style touchscreen that handles nearly all the car’s tech functions. From phone, navigation, vehicle settings, climate and the outstanding 11-speaker harman kardon audio system, it takes care of it all. The screen is bright and responsive, and although some functions would be quicker to access with hard buttons, you never have to dig deep into menus to do whatever you need to do, and thankfully Subaru does include some hard buttons to access volume and tuning as well as climate control basics. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
There is a dual-zone automatic climate control system and a standard-sized sunroof overhead.
The seats are very grippy, thanks to a faux-suede material, and quite well-bolstered for aggressive driving, yet remain comfortable and accessible for commuting and highway driving. The steering wheel feels excellent in hand.
When it comes to driver assistance technology, this trim level comes with rear/side vehicle detection, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert as well as a back-up camera.
At 5’10”, I found plenty of leg room and enough head room (a couple of inches to spare) in the back, easily sitting behind my own driving position. The middle seating position is no fun at all – it straddles a large floor tunnel and the centre console comes way back to intrude on knee room.
The outboard seats are heated, and the rear console has two USB charging ports. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with a couple of cupholders. There are two sets of child seat anchors if you are transporting little ones.
An open bin can be found under the centre stack, along with 12V, auxiliary and two USB plugs. There’s a shallow tray behind the shifter, and you’ll find a small storage bin with a 12V plug under the “armrest”. I call it an “armrest” because it’s pushed so far back that no human could ostensibly rest their arm on this thing.
The trunk can be opened with the fob, a button on the trunk lid itself or a power-release button on the dash. It’s a nice size at 354L, and you can increase cargo capacity by folding the rear seats down – they do so in a 60-40-split.
Under the Hood
Here you’ll find a big change, although there’s little change on paper. The engine has grown to 2.4L in displacement, and of course it’s still a flat-4, turbocharged and intercooled. Output hasn’t really changed – it remains at nearly the same numbers as before: 271 HP at 5,600 RPM and 258 lb.ft of torque available at 2,000 RPM.
My car had the 6-speed manual transmission (thank goodness!) and of course the power is routed to Subaru’s all-wheel drive system.
Fuel economy is rated at 12.3/9.0 L/100 km city/highway.
A quick shout-out to the exhaust system – upon ignition, when the car is cold, there is a wonderful snort and familiar boxer-rumble for a minute or two as the revs hang around 1500 RPM until the engine warms up. It also sounds wonderfully throaty under throttle, especially at lower RPMs.
Whatever you may think of the engine’s output on paper, I found this new WRX easier to drive. It’s not going to snap off the line as angrily as some may want, but once that initial turbo lag has been overcome (it takes but a split second to do so), it pulls wonderfully through the rev range, and I absolutely loved the mid-range power. It’s what makes this car eminently drivable on a daily basis, and plenty of fun during hard driving as well. I don’t mind winding the car up a bit to get a hold of its capabilities, and it felt as though this car excelled more and more the harder I drove it.
The manual transmission is absolutely the way to go with the WRX. While not the sportiest of transmissions, the rubbery feel with longer-than-expected throws is nevertheless a fantastic companion for the powertrain. It is very livable, and easy to manage while puttering about town on a daily commute as well as when you’re rowing the gears between stints of a pinned gas pedal. The clutch is easy peasy to work with, boasting forgiving take-up and commuter-friendly characteristics. It’s a happy compromise considering if I owned this car, little of its life would be spent taking full advantage of its considerable capabilities and most of it would be spent getting my family from point A to point B.
The suspension is firm, yet compliant enough to soak up most things. The only time I found it harsh was over road imperfections that were harsh themselves, such as abrupt expansion joints or potholes – things like that come through to the cabin with a bit of a jolt and some noise. Otherwise it’s just fine, particularly for a car with this much capability. And you’ll be happy with the compromise once you pick up the pace and throw the WRX into some corners – tight city turns and long sweeping cloverleaf merges are equally easy for the car, and they handled with aplomb and an unexpected eagerness and playfulness. Coupled with extraordinarily sticky and competent performance rubber, this suspension is here to please. The steering is perfectly fine too – no, it won’t feel as sharp or turn in with the immediacy of its purer stablemate, the BRZ that I reviewed recently, but its character remains involved and quick, and suits the WRX to a tee.
Traction was never an issue during my time with the WRX, as it was sunny and hot. But Subaru’s all-wheel drive system is truly one of the best, and the 50:50 torque split, coupled with a limited-slip differential, are palpably good at keeping things in check when you start pushing the car towards its limits. Of course I never even approached those limits, but in picking up the pace and in driving aggressively, I felt the system doing exactly what I wanted it to do. That competence and predictability is what I want, and what I wish I’d get from other cars with sporting pretensions.
Braking is powerful enough for the most part, and visibility out of the car is excellent.
I loved the simplicity of the WRX – no electronic drive modes, no fancy active suspension… and yet, everything works amazingly well.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was low. She doesn’t drive manual transmissions, she doesn’t like being driven around in cars with manual transmissions (even though I pride myself in being a good manual shifter!), she found the WRX a bit noisy and the ride too rough.
If you don’t want to row your own gears, the WRX is available with an optional CVT transmission. Although I haven’t driven it, I’ve heard that performance-wise, it’s quite impressive and also suits the car’s character.
I really enjoyed the 2022 WRX. It’s a truly engaging car, with plenty of capability and the willingness to allow the driver to access it. And yet, in its most grown-up iteration to date, it presents itself as a perfectly great commuter and even road-tripper. To top it off, Subaru’s pricing is reasonable for what you get. What’s not to like? Other than maybe that sea of plastic trim.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Subaru Canada.
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