Chris Miller road tests and reviews the 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX.
The WRX nameplate has been around a while now. The first iterations won it notoriety amongst those who appreciated the frantic turbo charged engine and endless all wheel drive grip, all at a reasonable price.
There have been a few incarnations of the Subaru Impreza WRX along the way, not all have had the tenacity of the first, but they’ve always had a strong following. In fact, the WRX has won many international rally championships over the years, and for a while there it the most popular choice of thieves to use as a getaway car in bank robberies.
Thankfully for bank robbers everywhere the latest WRX is possibly the best one yet. Ferociously fast, supremely agile, and now, remarkably refined. The Impreza name has been dropped to distance it from the more sedate suburban runabout, and it is one of the prettiest Subaru’s we’ve seen for years.
It’s also still genuinely affordable with the base manual car kicking off at $38,990. The CVT auto adds another $2,000, if you opt for the leather clad Premium model you’ll need to cough up $43,990 for the manual, $45,500 for the auto. If you’d like to spend even more money, the hardcore STi variant is available starting at $49,990 – the cheapest STi ever offered in Australia.
Under the bonnet the capacity has dropped from a 2.5 litre unit to a 2.0 litre horizontally opposed turbo charged 4-cylinder engine. Fuel consumption has dropped while power has increased markedly. A meaty 197kw is now available at 5600rpm, while the full surge of the 350Nm of torque kicks in at 2400rpm; resulting in a 6.0 second sprint to 100km/h in the manual (the CVT is a 0.3 seconds slower).
The notchy six-speed manual gearbox has a great feel about it and a nice short throw between gears, it is the most engaging of the transmissions. The CVT auto with 8 programmed “steps” controlled via flappy paddles behind the steering wheel is one of the better examples of this type of gearbox, but it does highlight the turbo-lag more than the manual.
There’s a distinctive note to the WRX and the engine spins freely and quickly to the top of the rev range and you are never short of power. Economy is a highlight; I managed 9.7 litres per 100kms over a week of mixed driving.
The ride is taught, but not bone crushing. It’ll happily soak up imperfections in the road surface without too much cabin disruption, although it’s not a fan of speed humps and big potholes. The taught ride adds to the stability in the bends and helps with fast direction changes and mid corner bumps – it really is hard to unsettle the WRX.
The all wheel drive system provides seemingly endless grip in both the wet and the dry, and its able to get the full 197kw to the road quickly and effectively. It slingshots you out of corners with blistering pace and provides confidence inspiring grip through the twisty stuff. The steering is perfectly weighted and quick to respond to inputs all while providing excellent feedback about the road surface.
The driving position is well thought out and is endlessly adjustable. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is chunky and feels great. Visibility is good all round and aided by a rear view camera for reversing.
The WRX has really upped the ante in the refinement stakes, particularly inside the cabin. Noise suppression from tyre roar and road noise is great although not muted enough to block out the intoxicating thrum of the turbo charged boxer engine at high revs. The layout of the dash is stylish and sophisticated with a nice mix of materials used in its construction and the glowing red gauges reinforce the sporting intent of the WRX.
A LCD screen atop the central dash gives turbo-boost readouts, trip computer info and a host of g-force & suspension tune graphics…it’s a little gimmicky but a whole lot of fun.
The seats are big and comfortable and provide acres of space upfront – you will need to have the front pews pushed forward a little however to achieve decent leg room in the back – the boot is enormous and would easily swallow a set of golf clubs and some shopping.
Both variants of the WRX came laden with all the standard features you’d expect including auto headlights and wipers, Bluetooth streaming, dual zone air con and in the Premium model, lashings of leather and an identical big central screen and gear shift knob that you’d find in the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins.
ANCAP has awarded top marks for safety – 5 Stars.
The WRX is the first car this year that I’ve found that is as rewarding to live with as the VW Golf GTi. It has a character all of its own, but in the same way the GTi has a split personality that wavers between garden variety shopping trolley to maniac racer, so too does the WRX, just at a cheaper price.
The latest WRX is the best yet. It’s pretty, it’s refined, it’s fast and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo petrol producing 197kW and 350Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or CVT automatic
Safety: Five stars
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited kilometres
Price: From $38,990
For further information, please see Recalls and faults: Subaru V1 WRX.
Photos by Jeff Cooper. Contact Jeff at [email protected]