The new Subaru WRX.
The new Subaru WRX. Newsdesk Media

Subaru WRX road test review: The 'Rex' quickens the pulse

TASMANIA'S north provided a picturesque backdrop for the launch of the latest Subaru WRX.

Its quaint towns with beautiful beach shacks and important historical buildings stood in stark contrast to the Japanese manufacturer's sporty number with the WRX's melody the only sound of note in the tranquil surrounds.

Of course Tasmania's roads, some of the best in the country, were the perfect canvas for the WRX to demonstrate its prowess.

And it failed to disappoint as the launch cars carved out the thrills on the curvy circuit travelling along much of the course used in the Rally of Tasmania. There was nary a vehicle to hamper our progress and by the time we hit the Bass Highway and encountered our first truck, a favourable impression had already been made.

The Subaru WRX has a proud sporting tradition with its roots deeply etched in motoring folklore.

Some 37,800 cars have been sold since its debut here 20 years ago and this fourth-generation car with a new engine, stiffer body, revitalised interior and the option of a CVT for the first time, certainly quickens the pulse. Nick Senior, the general manager of Subaru Australia says he has "no hesitation in declaring this WRX the best ever, the best by a large margin", and after our little foray we find that difficult to dispute.

Comfort

The changes made to the interior of the WRX are instantly noticeable. Care has been taken to use soft-touch plastics with texture and brush metal detail peppered around the dash adds interest.

Two screens, 4.3-inch and 3.5-inch multi-information displays, take pride of place without overtly dominating the layout while the new instrument cluster is both funky and concise.

A smaller steering wheel - flattened at the bottom - is comfortable underhand and boasts the necessary controls without being too cluttered. Detailed sport seats offer cushioning where needed with largish side bolsters keeping you ensconced through the sharpest hairpin bends.

The cabin is 25mm longer and 15mm wider which gives a feeling of much more room than even those numbers suggest.

On the road

The new WRX sports a 2.0-litre direct injection turbo charged engine adapted for the latest Forester XT and is nicely paired with either a six-speed manual or the long-awaited sport lineartronic CVT.

There is little doubt there have been a number of significant technical changes to the WRX including the stiffening of the front and rear suspension, retuned suspension, upgraded brakes, sharper steering and an active torque vectoring system that improves cornering performance by applying the brake to the inner front wheel and distributing the torque to the outer front wheel.

When designing this WRX, said project general manager Masua Takatsu, Subaru was looking to deliver a convenient and fun vehicle that behaves as the driver thinks it will, an extension of the driver so to speak. And after the first drive it is difficult to disagree that they have come pretty close to the mark.

The WRX, with its throaty growl at start-up, is certainly an exciting drive with excellent responsiveness and a sportiness that pays tribute to its heritage.

What do you get?

Inclusions are first rate in both specifications. The entry-level WRX sedan sports amongst others Bluetooth with audio streaming, climate and cruise control, 17-inch alloys, auto-off and self-levelling headlights, reverse camera and a sports body kit.

The Premium adds dusk sensing LED lights, electric sunroof, leather trim, push-button start with keyless entry, power adjustable driver's seat and sat nav.

Subaru has always prided itself on its safety features and this WRX, with 35.85 points out of 37 in the ANCAP ratings, is the manufacturer's safest car yet. The WRX boasts seven airbags, stability control, brake assist and brake override, driver's knee bag, hill start assist and side intrusion bars.

Other options

The WRX, as before, is firmly placed against the Golf GTi (from $41,490), Ford Focus ST (from $38,290), Holden Commodore SSV (from $51,990), Mini Cooper S (from $31,650), Toyota 86 GTS (from $35,990) and off course its BRZ stable mate (from $45,145).

Practicality

The release of the CVT opens new doors for Subaru with the WRX now appealing to those people who want a sporty drive but not a manual. The sedan offers practicality with performance. Thinner A-pillars and relocated wing mirrors afford better visibility. Door hinges are tilted forward for easier access.

Running costs

Subaru claims improved figures for the manual of 9.2 litre/100km and 8.6 litre/100km for the CVT. Our first drive was probably not long enough to dispute these figures.

Funky factor

This WRX cuts a snazzy figure with a sporty nose, defined lines and new LED lights both front and back. A simple boot spoiler is also nicely integrated into the design.

The lowdown

Subaru believe they have a real winner in the WRX. It has retained its sportiness, improved performance and produced a CVT that will no doubt attract new interest especially from female buyers.

There is no hatch but considering it accounted for just 10% of sales, that may be a moot point. Expectations are to sell 200 a month. The WRX's all-round ability and appeal will no doubt see that target being met.

What matters most

What we liked: Sporty performance, value for money.

What we'd like to see: Reverse camera and powered seats for entry-level.

Warranty: Subaru offers a three year unlimited kilometre warranty and three year roadside assist program.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Subaru WRX

Details: Five-door all-wheel drive small-medium sedan

Transmission: Six-speed manual or six/eight-speed CVT

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder horizontally opposed turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 197kW @ 5600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm between 2400-5200rpm.

Consumption: 9.2 litres/100km for manual, 8.6 litres/100km for CVT

Bottom line: from $38,990 (Premium CVT from $43,990)


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