Skip to main content
car review

2022 Subaru WRX.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

Subaru’s says its goal in building the 2022 WRX all-wheel-drive sedan was to create a multipurpose vehicle that can be driven on any road, in any season, for a variety of activities.

When you aim to be everything for everyone, the result is typically mediocre in all areas. Not the case for the fifth-generation 2022 WRX, which starts at just over $30,000. This car shines – in exactly the space Subaru enthusiasts would expect – when the going gets tough.

With 30 millimetres of rain in the forecast for the media launch event, organizers were worried about the poor scribes getting wet at lunch hour.

They should have been rejoicing, because the conditions were perfect. The deluge produced slick pavement, massive washouts and prodigious potholes on a series of paved and gravel roads in the wild Canadian Shield north of Kingston, Ont.

These are just the sorts of roads that anyone familiar with performance rally expects a WRX to master. Subaru made its name in the sport with dozens of international championships, and only recently stepped back from sponsoring both Canadian and World Rally Championship teams. The company makes much of these “rally roots” when discussing the new WRX.

The sedan is equipped with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive, along with new suspension and chassis engineering that together delivered reliable performance over some of the roughest roads to be found in Eastern Ontario. The car handles like a rally car, sucking up the bumps and steering through the muck with just the right amount of tail-wagging exuberance.

Driving hard, over roads that require a lot of second and third-gear up and downshifts, the six-speed manual transmission is precise and the clutch just forgiving enough. The brakes are equal to the task of slowing for a muddy hairpin turn, while there is enough torque in the 271-horsepower boxer engine to power out of that corner quickly.

The WRX has suede seating, 11-speaker sound system and an 11.6-inch touchscreen.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

The WRX provides an exhilarating and predictable ride in these conditions. It will definitely meet the needs of what Subaru says is its target buyer – young, professional men, averaging 36 years old, who pursue outdoor activities like skiing and mountain biking.

However, as a jack-of-all-trades, the WRX is less polished. In an urban environment, a manual transmission is not ideal. The updated CVT automatic transmission would be nicer to drive in traffic and even though it delivers better performance than it did before, it will never match the manual over the rough stuff.

Subaru doesn’t expect to convert its enthusiasts to the automatic, though. Of the five models being produced, three are manual and the manufacturer anticipates about 80 per cent of buyers will opt for three pedals. To contrast, only about one per cent of new cars sold are manual.

All five share the 271-horsepower engine, while Subaru’s semi-autonomous features are only available on the automatic models. The car is built on the new global platform, and because hatchbacks aren’t popular in the United States, this model year only comes as a sedan.

The car occupies a unique niche in the small-car marketplace. The Volkswagen Golf R is the only comparable all-wheel drive performance offering, but it is considerably more expensive at $46,995 versus $39,295 (for the all-dressed models) and is a hatch. Buyers with more cash could give the Golf R a look; it’s like a cross between the WRX and the discontinued WRX STi.

The WRX is available now, although if you want to specify trim and colour Subaru says to expect about a four- to five-month wait.

Ample legroom in the rear makes the 2022 Subaru WRX a comfortable family sedan.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

Tech Specs

2022 Subaru WRX

  • Base price/as tested: $30,995; Sport-Tech, $39,295
  • Engine: 2.4-litre, four-cylinder turbo
  • Transmission: six-speed manual
  • Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): Premium (91 octane) 9.0 Highway/12.3 City
  • Alternatives: Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N

Looks

Subarus have never been known for their looks, and the company even says aesthetics is secondary to engineering when they design cars. Nonetheless, the latest WRX looks the part it’s trying to play – the hood scoop, sculpted haunches and rugged trims all contribute to a practical, ready-for-anything vibe.

Interior

In the top-of-the-line Sport-Tech models, the WRX is fitted with suede seating, stitched logos in the headrests, 11-speaker sound system and an 11.6-inch touchscreen. Heated seats and ample legroom in the rear make the car a comfortable family sedan.

Performance

This Subaru has a near ideal pairing of power and running gear to make it a pleasure to drive on rough roads. In sedate city driving there is a bit of turbo lag, and it suffers from twitchy steering at slow speeds.

Technology

You have to opt for the automatic transmission to get Subaru’s full EyeSight active safety suite, with its semi-autonomous driving features. All models are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay equipped, and offer Sirius XM for free for three months. On the higher trims – Sport and up – Subaru has added its Starlink safety service, which includes remote functions and roadside assistance.

Cargo

As a sedan, the WRX is meant to carry the big stuff – sports gear – on the roof. The rack rails are ready for aftermarket racks, to protect the car and make mounting easier. The rear seats fold in a 60:40 split, opening the space to the trunk, and creating a decent amount (354 litres) of cargo capacity for flatter items.

The Verdict

The 2022 WRX lives up to its billing as a jack-of-all-trades. Yet it really shines in the space that Subaru knows best thanks to its rally heritage – rough roads. If you want a truly competent and extremely fun ride to the trailhead, or just for bashing around on back roads, this little sedan is the answer.

Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.