When I was shopping for a new car about two and a half years ago, I tested many different family sedans (Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6, Honda Accord Sport, Hyundai Sonata, and Ford Fusion), a small SUV (Mazda CX5), and one particularly fun hot hatch. The 2013 WRX hatchback was by far and away the most fun car of the bunch, but it was also the most utilitarian apart from the CX5. The combination of hauler/enthusiast’s toy instantly drew me to it and I eventually purchased a 2014MY, Dark Grey Metallic, Limited, WRX hatch. And quite honestly, it still puts a smile on my face every morning I turn that key and take off for work. I’ve owned this car for 30 months and I feel that this is ample enough time to give it a good long term review as I’ve lived through all 4 seasons with it as well as put nearly 42,000 miles on the clock. In short the car is excellent, but far from perfect. Let’s take a look at some of the finer points of this modern daily driver – the rally inspired brute.
With stock power to the crank rated at 265hp/244lb-ft and a weight of 3208 pounds, the WRX gets moving in a hurry. Couple those numbers with an all-world all-wheel drive (AWD) system and it can best the 0-60 time of most sport sedans and coupes at double the price point (claimed 4.9s). A bone stock WRX, however, is never enough for an enthusiast or WRX owner. This is evidenced by the staggering amount of owners who modify their cars to obtain more power. But this car has ample power for a daily driver (DD). Yes I clamor for more as well, but since there have been zero reliability issues and no tuning or aftermarket engine parts, it will stay stock for the near future. FYI, tuning and bolt on parts don’t necessarily mean an unreliable car, but that’s a topic for another article. When boost kicks in, you feel it and it’s addicting. I’ve caught myself roaming around in 2nd and 3rd gears in hope for a time where I can boost. Shut up I know it’s bad, but man is it fun. A 5-speed manual transmission is the only transmission offered for this car (6MT in the STI) and it’s more than adequate, but I do yearn for a 6th gear on the highway. RPMs are pinned at 3k @ ~75mph.
In the Subaru community, this generation of WRX is renowned for being a very good handling car, but not great. I would agree with this on every level. The STI is another story, but the WRX just isn’t up to snuff. Yes coming from a Honda Civic or Accord (both admirable handling cars in their own right for a DD), you will notice a marked improvement in handling. The thing is, once you get used to it, you’ll want it to be sharper and more refined. The ’14 WRX (GR generation designation) has a LOT of body roll. This can be remedied by fitting aftermarket sway bars to the front and rear of the car. Once done, it corners much flatter. Until you do any suspension work, you’re going to enjoy yourself, but much like the power you’ll end up wanting more. That said, this car can handle nearly any turn you throw at it on a back road, especially with the AWD system and the summer tires the car comes with. If you’re going to do track days or autocross, you’ll want a better set of tires (Michelin Pilot Super Sports come to mind) and a few suspension upgrades to get a better time and have a better time.
So this is a tricky category. The WRX comes standard with 17” wheels equipped with 235/45/17 Dunlop summer tires and on this combination it is peppy in turns and glides over smooth pavement with ease, just like a small hatchback should. Once bumps are hit, vibrations will be directed into the suspension, frame, A-pillars, and your crotch. I’ve never been in a car that absorbs bumps so poorly; especially potholes. I thought I’d bent a wheel several times, but turns out it’s only just incredibly jarring and loud. Good to know. On the other side of this argument, if you’re a WRX owner and a savvy enthusiast and live in a state where temps get below 50 on the regular in the winter, you’ll want dedicated winter wheels and tires. Living in NJ, I opted for an old set of 16” 2004 WRX wheels (same bolt pattern of 5×100) with 205/55/16 General Altimax Arctic tires. When on these, those bumps and hard ride conditions all but disappear. The suspension is obviously still sport tuned, but the ride gets a bit squishier due to the increased amount of sidewall and a softer, more malleable compound. The tradeoff is that the winter tires are much louder (79 db at a 70mph cruise on summer tires; 85db with winters) during highway driving. So there’s really two types of ride quality here, but neither are very good. This is not a grand tourer with enough sound insulation to keep a small house warm. If you can deal with that, then you’re fine and you’ll enjoy the sporty ride.
All I can say about the brakes is that they’re adequate for a DD, but they should have been upgraded by Subaru. More stopping power is needed, but if you’re not going very fast they are fine. If in an emergency situation, they will be inadequate for avoidance. For spirited driving they are fine for back road use, but again inadequate for track or autocross work.
Subaru is not known for its technology prowess and it shows. I opted for the OEM navigation system and while it does improve sound quality in the car, it’s lacking in the turn-by-turn directions. Is it a unit that routinely has put me into a lake or wooded area? No. Not at all. It’s just a bit archaic and slow. It’s like having a Laptop from 2008 today. Still works, but you want the upgrade. Other than that, the Bluetooth™ connectivity with my iPhone 5S and 6S has never failed once when attempting to pair automatically. Voice dialing is easy and works well with a 90% success rate (seriously guys just speak at a normal volume and enunciate. It’s not difficult to grasp). There is an annoying safety feature though. You cannot type in an address or use voice dialing when the car is in motion above 5mph. This is to deter the driver from taking their eyes off the road. While safer, this could be solved via the voice commands, but Subaru did not implement that particular bit of code into the unit. Newer units are easier to use and much more user friendly, but this model is lacking.
Off the charts. I love taking the back way to work. I do it more often than not and my MPGs suffer for it, but I honestly don’t care. This car is an absolute blast to drive in the twisties. The aforementioned AWD system and summer rubber give it grip for days and corners can be taken with reckless abandon if you are so inclined; within reason of course. Street racing and unsafe driving are the height of stupidity, but there’s nothing wrong with opening up your sports car on a back road as long as you’re in control and not going 70 in a 30. And though this car can easily do that, it’s not even needed. Going only 10 over, as most normal motorists do, makes even the most mundane corners seem fun. Body roll aside, there really aren’t many cars you can find at this price point that will be more fun.
I’m going to let you in on a secret the WRX community knows about all too well. EVERYTHING rattles. No, seriously. Everything. Day 2 of ownership saw the trunk privacy cover develop a rattle that never went away. Took that out the day after I found the noise. The dashboard clicks when it’s cold due to the plastic joints not being completely fitted together. The driver seat has developed a squeak when pressing in the clutch pedal or making a similar motion with my left leg. The passenger side dash is also rattling, but I’m unsure of the source. I’ve wedged a small piece of paper in the driver-side, front passenger window control because if the volume on the stereo is above 15, the bass rattles the switch to the point of severe annoyance. Without going into further details, as there are more rattles to speak of, this car is made to be incredibly safe yet sounds like it’s coming apart at the seams. No matter, because if you can deal with the noises the complaints end there. The cabin is spacious for a smaller car. Head room is ample and front seat volume is tremendous. Back seat space is fairly good as well, but might get uncomfortable for anyone over 6’ on trips over an hour. You might be saying, “How dare you comment on space, you’re a Hobbit.” And while you might be partially correct (I am quite short) I can assure you than more than 5 people have driven my car ranging in heights from 5’6” to 6’2” and non of them complained about room in the driver’s seat. Nor has anyone complained about the room in the back and the same sized people have been back there for greater than 1 hour trips. And the best part, it’s a hatchback! If you need more room to haul anything, just fold the back seats down. I’ve never had a problem for space with golf clubs (4 sets and 4 grown men fit snugly, but they fit), skis, or car parts/wheels/tires.
The interior itself is above average, but could be much better. The limited trim option I went with gives you leather, heated seats, and HID headlights along with fog lights. That’s pretty much it. It’s $1000 more than the Premium package and while the leather and HIDs are nice (you still get heated cloth seats in the premium model), I’d have went with the Premium package and retrofitted a nice set of lights from a reputable light company/modifier if I could buy this car again. The leather is not the highest quality, but it seems very durable. I tend to slam myself down into my car without thinking about 90% of the time and so far the leather shows little signs of fading or wearing. The color scheme is 2-tone with black in the lower half and an off crème, sort of beige-ish color on the top half. It sounds worse than it is. I’ve only really noticed it twice. Nor should this be your reason to not buy the car. The seats are surprisingly comfortable on long trips, but can get a bit stiff after the 4 hour mark. Then again what seat doesn’t? Bolstering on the sides keeps you firmly planted when giving it the beans on a back road with minimal sliding. The rumors of sliding around on this leather are overblown and I’m fairly certain are only echoed by < 115lb people under 5’ tall. The leather wrapped steering wheel is particularly nice, but ridiculously cold during the winter months. Gloves are hugely recommended. The red “WRX” stitching into the integrated head rests is a nice touch and hasn’t worn off on me. Overall, it’s a nice place to be when making a commute.
This car, apart from the leather and sat nav, is not luxiorous in any way shape or form. Its hard angles and bulbous rear end outside make for a love it or hate it style with no elegance what so ever. The inside is a dressed up commuter hatch. If you’re looking for sumptuous essentials in a Subaru, you should be looking at the Legacy/Outback or a Lexus/German rival, not a WRX. Is it more luxurious than an Impreza? Yes. Is that saying much? No.
Price point on this car was excellent. Without diving into what I paid for it, at the time of purchase you could get a brand new base WRX for ~$25,000. For the limited, a bit more, but for the fun you get with this car and the fact that you can’t find much in the way of hot hatchery in the US (newly released Focus RS aside), the price is spot on and in my honest opinion, a steal.
In summation, this car is a bit different than what I thought on my initial test drive. And that only goes to show first impressions, while good, should not be the basis of a snap decision especially on a purchase as large as a car. By all means, drive everything you can, but make your decisions slowly and carefully. For me, I’m still very glad I bought this car. I love it and I really wouldn’t trade it for nearly anything currently available (Focus RS is on the short list).
So there you have it. A fun rally inspired hatchback with a few creature comforts can equal a solid enthusiast’s commuter car. Do you own this model of WRX? Another model? Do you DD your WRX? Am I an insane person for these ratings? Let us know in the comments why you chose the WRX as your own or why you hate it.