Ever since the Subaru WRX’s debut in the early 2000s, this rally-derived Japanese sports compact quickly earned the respect of enthusiasts making it a car that needs no introduction.
The 2018 edition of Subaru’s performance-oriented WRX features updated styling, new equipment and an array of safety features. Under its bonnet lies a 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged Subaru Boxer® engine. Engine output is rated at 197 kW with 350 Nm of torque and you’ll get from 0 – 100 km/h in a claimed 6.3 seconds. Symmetrical all-wheel drive comes standard and the model I drove was equipped with the Sport Lineartronic® CVT transmission with SI-DRIVE and paddle shifters.
Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) is an advanced engine management system with driver-selectable modes. SI-DRIVE is the perfect solution for those who crave both sporty response and economic fuel consumption. The Subaru WRX (equipped with CVT) features SI-DRIVE with three different modes: Intelligent (I), Sport (S) and Sport Sharp (S#).
The WRX’s spacious cabin, ample for both driver and passengers, offers great all-round visibility through big windows and good sized mirrors, and despite the WRX’s sporty nature is relatively easy to get in and out of. The interior is refined and comfortable and doesn’t feel cheap at all with quality levels approaching those of the VW Golf GTi and Ford Focus STI. The WRX offers a full leather interior with red accent stitching which adds to the sporty feel.
The WRX comes with a long list of impressive safety features such as 7 airbags, a reinforced frame, ISO-FIX adapted child seat anchors and with crime the way it is currently a handy emergency glow in the dark escape lever in the boot.
I’m still not a fan of the CVT and its delayed reaction times, although it’s much better in the WRX thanks in part to the turbocharged engine. Mash the throttle from a standstill and the car doesn’t instantly get up and go. That being said once the transmission figures out what you’ve got in mind, it operates almost flawlessly keeping the revs high while maximizing boost pressure and keeping the engine in its powerband. I couldn’t match the claimed fuel consumption of 8.6 l/100km and over the week I averaged around 11 l/100km.
Steering feels direct and responsive and offers a lot of feedback on what the front wheels are doing. Grip in the corners is outstanding thanks to the all-wheel drive and the impeccable weight distribution of the WRX’s chassis, keeping the car planted no matter how hard you push it. This car is really fun to drive and after having it for a week I’d seriously consider trading in my Golf GTi… but only if it were a little quieter and if I could bring across the DSG gearbox and automatic door locking.
I didn’t take the WRX off-road but its sophisticated all-wheel-drive system is more than capable in the mud and dirt.
On the dash you’ll find a Multifunction Information Display (MFD), a 7.0″ Touch Screen Infotainment System with 6 speaker CD system and Bluetooth hands-free functionality, 12-volt accessory power outlets and dual-zone climate control. The WRX comes standard with Apple CarPlay™ and Android™ Auto Integration and Tom Tom satellite navigation.
The WRX comes with front and rear-facing cameras ensuring unlimited visibility. The rear-facing camera is linked to the ‘Rear Cross Traffic Alert‘ system which lets you know if it detects traffic approaching or moving across your path as you reverse. Blind spot monitoring also comes standard. The front-facing camera is displayed on the 5.9″ multi-function display with turbo boost gauge found on the dash.
The WRX ES Premium CVT comes with EyeSight1. EyeSight is Subaru’s advanced driver assist technology which uses two stereo cameras to capture three-dimensional colour images to recognise vehicles (including motorbikes and bicycles), pedestrians and lane markings. In traffic it locks onto the vehicle in front of you and keeps a safe distance (which you can adjust), slowing down and speeding up smoothly and steadily when required, and when coupled with autonomous emergency braking and smart cruise control it works even when traffic comes to a full-stop – all you need to do is steer. Other features of the EyeSight system are ‘Lead Vehicle Start Alert’ which alerts you if the car in front has moved off and ‘Lane Sway and Departure Warning’ which will alert you if you leave your lane without indicating – these are both visual and audible warnings. I loved this system in Subaru’s XV but I found it a little invasive and clumsy in the WRX.
The updated front end of the 2018 WRX gives it a more aggressive look. A bulging scoop on the bonnet feeds air to the engine’s top-mounted intercooler and flared fenders give cover to the WRX’s 18-inch wheels with sporty red calipers. At the back, you’ll find four silver-tipped exhaust pipes and a small lip spoiler on the boot to complete the high-performance look.
Verdict: The Subaru WRX provides continual thrills in a straight line or around corners and while it is a little on the noisy side (exhaust and road/wind noise) it’s still a very practical and really safe family car. The CVT gearbox doesn’t hinder the car’s performance that much but it does take away a lot of its character… so personally, I’d opt for the manual.
Starting at R 581 400 for the 2.0 Turbocharged MT and R 631 400 for the range-topping 2.0 Turbocharged Sports Lineartronic™ CVT, all vehicles come with a 5-year/150 000 km warranty, a 3-year/75 000 km maintenance plan (with extension options available) and Subaru Assist.
1 EyeSight available locally on the Subaru WRX 2.0 ES Premium CVT model.
2 Prices valid as at 01 December 2018.