Subaru WRX — Affordable driving entertainment

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(February 13, 2022) The fifth-generation 2022 Subaru WRX is a feisty little sedan that puts immense fun into the daily driving experience. The 2022 WRX is all an all-new model retaining Subaru's successful formula of a potent turbocharged flat four engine powering all four wheels in a compact four-door configuration. It comes with a new eye-catching exterior design and a modern interior with updated technology and a large tablet-style infotainment screen.



It makes a great statement that internal combustion engines should be allowed to live among the new breed of all-electric vehicles in the decades to come. We've driven our share of EVs — and we mostly like them for a number of reasons — but they are no substitute for the type of performance you can derive from a well-tuned muscular 4-cylinder engine exquisitely mated to an excellent six-speed manual transmission, outfitted with standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and Active Torque Vectoring, and with enough power to produce mood-elevating fun on a tight, winding road.

The obvious competitors for the WRX are the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N, Volkswagen GTI  and the turbocharged Mazda3 with all-wheel drive. We think the new WRX — which is pleasingly quiet inside and with upgraded materials — can also fight above its class going against such "ultimate driving machines" as the BMW 3-Series. If you really like the way a 3-Series performs and handles, but can't afford the price of admission, we recommend a test drive in the considerably less expensive 2022 WRX, which starts at around 30 grand.

Under the hood is a new turbocharged 4-cylinder 2.4-liter Boxer engine delivering 271 horsepower (three more ponies than the last-generation engine) at 5,600 rpm with 258 pound-feet of torque from 2,000-5,200 rpm. Subaru says the increased displacement along with a turbocharger equipped with electronically controlled wastegate and air bypass valves improves responsiveness with a broader torque curve.

We were delighted at the way the WRX delivered the goods when we demanded more power with our right foot. At the same time the six-speed manual transmission with outstanding clutch action can be played like a Stradivarius delivering the perfect notes through the gears. While straight ahead performance is not what the WRX is all about it gave us 0-to-60 time of about 5 seconds, which we found satisfying. Even more satisfying is the total package of power, handling, braking and overall drivability.

While a manual transmission — which is becoming rare in performance cars becomes of automatic transmission efficiency and dual-clutch technology — is still the shifter of choice in the WRX, Subaru has added an automatic transmission that comes with more goodies than can be found with the manual. It's as if the company is trying to push its buyers into its CVT "Performance Transmission" that mimics an eight-speed.

Subaru says the CVT incorporates adaptive shift control that can "quickly respond to performance rev-matching downshifts under braking, maintain an ideal ratio through corners, and respond faster on corner exit." Throw in a 0-to-60 time of around 4.5 seconds for good measure.

The automatic in the top GT trim comes with new electronically controlled dampers that can tailor performance preferences with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings that configure steering feel, and damper settings.

At the outset the WRX will be offered only with manual transmission. The automatic has been delayed because of supply shortages, but should be available this spring.

The interior layout has been upgra
ded — the centerpiece of the horizontal dash a large 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen flanked by a handful of physical buttons and knobs, including tuning and volume knobs for the radio (three cheers here). Materials throughout the cabin are noticeably improved over the previous generation and are competitive in the segment.

The large touchscreen is easy to use thanks to large on-screen buttons. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available and it was easy to tap into our phone's Apple CarPlay, which we used for navigation on a 125-mile trip. Unfortunately, some controls that should be a simple one-button push are embedded in the center screen such as heated seats, which accessing becomes a districted driving experience.

And another discordant note, Subaru's much ballyhooed EyeSight suite of advanced safety features and driver assists, require purchasing the automatic transmission. Blindspot monitoring is available without EyeSight, but it should be included on all models, and was disappointedly absent from our Premium trim test car.

On the plus side our car came with such goodies as dual-zone climate control, power up and down windows at all four corners, automatic high beam headlights, hill incline assist, and tire pressure monitoring.

If you usually carry rear-seat passengers you will be delighted to find that the newest WRX, which has been slightly increased in size over the outgoing model, has ample rear legroom and decent headroom. And trunk size has been increased by about a cubic foot to 12.5.

There are four trim levels — Base, Premium, Limited and the GT, which comes only with the automatic transmission. Prices had not been released at this writing, but they reportedly will be about $1,500 higher than 2021, which would make the starting price about $30,000 and the price of our Premium test car at about $32,500.

Subaru has not yet released information about the upcoming more powerful WRX STI.

After a week and 250 miles behind the wheel of the 2022 WRX with manual transmission we give the new WRX a two thumbs up. At its price point, there are only a very few competitors that offer as much driving enjoyment in a quiet and comfortable cabin and with ample space for four adults than the new WRX.

2022 Subaru WRX


Base price: $30,000 (est.), as driven: $32,500 (est.)
Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged flat four
Horsepower: 271 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 258 pound-feet @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.2 inches
Length: 183.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,320 pounds
Turning circle: 36.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 12.5 cubic feet
Fuel Capacity: 16.6 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 19 city, 26 highway, 22 combined
0-60: 5.0 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N, Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Good
• Delivers exciting driving experience
• Refined and quiet interior
• New big tablet infotainment screen

The Bad
• Difficult accessing some features

The Ugly
• Manual versions do not get the EyeSight safety package