The Subaru WRX has long been the car for drivers who want some turbocharged fun but still need a commuter that's reliable in all four seasons. For 2022, the WRX enters its fifth generation with a complete redesign, but that same rally-for-the-road ethos is very much alive and well.
The 2022 WRX is about 3 inches longer and 2 inches wider than its predecessor, and while it's based on the standard Impreza, no body panels are shared between the two cars. The sedan's rear end looks great with some sleek BRZ-ish taillights, and I dig the larger grille up front. Also of note: Every scoop and vent you see on the WRX is functional for either aerodynamics or cooling.
My only real gripe is with the WRX's fenders. I'm not complaining about the cladding -- after all, the plastic stuff will definitely protect the WRX against gravel and mud. But the texture on these add-ons is just icky, and I don't like how the arches are asymmetrical. Looks are subjective, sure, but plain black cladding on a curved surface would look much better here.
Thankfully, you don't have to look at those arches from behind the wheel, and that's really where the 2022 WRX shines. Its 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine produces 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and power goes to all four wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic. I'm sure the CVT is fine, but come on, get the stick.
The turbo engine has a new wastegate design to reduce turbo lag, meaning the 2022 WRX will blast off without hesitation. The new car is also more rigid than its predecessor and has a new sway bar, and all of this keeps body roll in check. The WRX doesn't have the best steering feel, but still, hot damn is it fun.
When the winding roads turn straight, the WRX is a formidable commuter. Its ride is stiffer than before, but the WRX is far from punishing. The seats are comfortable, and while the steering is numb, there's at least some heft that helps inspire confidence. Overall, the WRX's cabin is fairly quiet, but you'll get plenty of engine and turbo noise when driving hard.
Subaru's all-wheel-drive system lets the WRX excel on a gravel road. No, this isn't an off-road car -- WRX Wilderness, anyone? -- but this compact sedan will handle a forest service road like a boss, keeping its traction around loose turns way better than any front-wheel-drive rival. It's easy to see why rallycross drivers start with the WRX as a donor car.
Unfortunately, all-wheel drive takes its toll on fuel economy compared to front-wheel-drive performance cars like the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N or Volkswagen Jetta GLI. I'm able to get close to the EPA's fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for the manual-transmission WRX, averaging 23.6 mpg after a week of testing. Sure, the Civic Si has less power, but it returns 31 mpg combined.
If you do choose to go for the CVT, this unlocks a new WRX GT trim, which has adaptive dampers and an individual drive mode where you can adjust the steering and powertrain parameters. The GT also comes with Recaro seats, and it's a shame you can't get any of this stuff on manual-equipped cars.
You also can't get Subaru's EyeSight driver assistance suite, which includes lane-centering tech, automatic emergency steering and adaptive cruise control, with the manual transmission. Other manual-equipped cars like the Civic Si and Volkswagen Golf GTI get a full suite of technologies, so it's a bummer Subaru can't keep up. My tester does have blind-spot monitoring, at least.
The base WRX has two 7-inch touchscreens running Subaru's Starlink infotainment system, but my Limited tester gets a single, 11.6-inch, portrait-oriented display with split-screen capabilities. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board, as are physical controls for temperature and volume. With the larger display, I like being able to see my map and audio control all on one screen, but I wish there were hard buttons for the heated seats. I shouldn't have to tap twice to get my bun-warmers going.
Charging options are plentiful with two 2.1-amp USB-A ports for both front and rear passengers. There are also two 12-volt outlets in the WRX, as well as an Aux port, which is kind of hilarious to see in this day and age.
The 2022 Subaru WRX starts at $30,100 including $995 for destination. The CVT adds anywhere from $1,850 to $2,250 depending on trim, while the top GT goes for a whopping $42,890. The sweet spot here is the Premium trim with the manual transmission for $32,600 including destination. Sure, I don't get blind-spot monitoring or a sunroof, but those aren't deal breakers for someone like me. Subaru's embedded navigation system is absent on the Premium, but with the larger screen and smartphone mirroring, you can let Apple or Google handle the maps.
The WRX has always been a great all-rounder, and this 2022 model is no different. It's playful and fun to drive, but not so raucous that it's difficult to live with on the daily. Plus, the added performance of all-wheel drive makes this a car you really can live with in all four seasons. Weird cladding aside, the WRX is as attractive as ever.