It wasn’t too long ago when the world of rally cars had a significant influence in the automotive world. Subaru and Mitsubishi were the two titans in this war with the two Japanese firms always traying to outdo one another with the Impreza and the Lancer. However, these times have long since faded away, and with the Lancer gone and the WRX STI also pushed to the proverbial dustbin. Can the 2022 Impreza WRX still deliver fun to drivers while also complying with the changing times?
Half Baked WRX Styling A Far Cry From The Old Days
#highschool vibes with this @subaruofamerica #subaruwrx I still remember when the #rivalry with #mitsubishi was #bignews #morevids are coming soon including a look at #starlink #fyp #subaru #subaruimpreza #sportscars #allwheeldrive #subaruallwheeldrive
Subaru designers updated the WRX with new styling for 2022, but it’s rapidly evident that there were two separate committees crafting certain aspects of the design. The front fascia is reminiscent of current models like the Outback and the Forester with the creased headlights and bigger front grille providing a bold aggressive motif. The chiseled front fenders are also a nice touch, and the hood scoop is a welcome and functional nod to the past but as you make your way towards the rear of the car things begin to noticeably deteriorate.
The gray cladding along the sides is meant to provide the WRX some protection from stones and rocks when it goes down rougher roads, but it horribly clashed with the blue paint that adorned our tester. The rear of the car is the worst offender here and the odd looking taillights enhanced the disjointed feel of the WRX’s styling despite the . That said, the core of WRX buyers will love the cladding and look for the WRX to still garner plenty of demand from loyalists though newcomers might need some convincing at first before they give this souped up Impreza a chance. Thankfully, the 18-inch black wheels on our tester work well with the blue paint and helped make up for some of the cladding’s shortcomings. As a whole, the WRX is a mishmash of traits but here’s hoping that the STI (whenever it comes) will help add some missing pieces to this oversized jigsaw puzzle just like how it did for the iconic bug-eye Impreza and some of the older ones too.
Comfortable WRX Interior Makes Any Adventure Enjoyable
Slip inside the WRX, and the atmosphere is more balanced and comfortable. While our tester will never be considered a true luxury car, this generation of STI still manages to make the grade in multiple categories. A large 11.6-inch infotainment system dominates the center stack and is accented by vertically mounted air vents. The STARLINK system works well and you get more screen estate than the Mazda 3, but the graphics do look a bit dated and there were times where we experienced some lag when navigating around various menus.
The WRX exclusive seats are a good balance of support and comfort and occupants also get plenty of front head and legroom too. The rest of the cabin also features extensive padded surfaces with the cheap chintzy plastics being reserved for unseen areas especially the lower portions of the doors. The rear seats are tight for tall folks, but they are still good places to spend time in especially for shorter people. For comparison, the Mazda 3 has less headroom and even manages to have tighter legroom too. Our main issue centered around some of the controls that exist here in the WRX and we wish there were more hard controls for certain functions. For example, the bulk of the climate controls are trapped in the screen, with the temp adjustments being the only physical controls for that particular function.
That’s in stark contrast to some of its rivals especially the Mazda which offer physical analog controls for climate and other key functions. That said, we will take a moment to appreciate the old-school feel of the pure analog gauges. Some buyers will balk at Subaru for not offering a fully digital instrument cluster, but in this case we like it especially since it fits with the WRX’s rugged character.
Performance Hardware Hits All The Right Notes
Thankfully, the WRX is not all about coddling or digital doodads, instead its all about driving fun and we’re glad to report that this Subie still gets it right when it comes to providing the rally inspired experience that countless fans expect. Like other iterations of the WRX, this one is powered by a turbocharged flat four. This time though, it’s the same flat four used in the Outback XT and the Ascent which means 271 hp (a gain of only three hp) and 258 lb-ft of torque. While the power gain can be measured on one hand, the engine feels better in the low end of the powerband and the amount of boost on hand is a welcome treat especially when pushing through a corner.
A six-speed manual is the base transmission offering here (an automatic CVT is optional) and while the shifts themselves are good, we would still go for the CVT if we had our choice at the dealership. That’s largely due to just how vague the clutch is especially in urban commuting. This vagueness makes it very hard to find the takeoff point and there were times where we had shaky shifts. You master it after some practice but buyers used to having more defined liftoff points in the clutch are best served elsewhere. In contrast, the CVT eliminates this headache, and not only do you get steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, but also three different driving modes and adaptive dampers. While the trick suspension undoubtedly helps add some poise to the WRX, the base suspension still managed to do a good job of keeping our tester poised in twisty terrain and as a result, it’s very hard to recommend the dampers especially with how marginal of an improvement they bring to consumers.
Our low point though is with the steering. We wished that there was more feel in the tiller, and the clumsiness in the new double pinion rack made it very hard to determine what the front tires were doing with the road. Subaru claims that the setup is supposed to improve feel, but just like the promises of greatness that come from Detroit Lions managers every pre-season we’re not buying it and we really hope that the company will eventually address this especially when you consider the fact that the rest of the suspension is top notch and would greatly benefit from an improved steering system.
While the current automotive buying landscape is still navigating through the rough waters brought about by COVID-19, Subaru is still positioning the WRX as a value play with the base model starting at $30,065. However, move up to a Limited like our tester and the price becomes more eye watering with the default version of this model starting at $36,955. That’s alot of green for a bargain focused performance machine but it’s not as bad of an optic as the range topping GT model which starts at $43,990 with destination included.
Both the Honda Civic Si and the Elantra N are less expensive than the Subaru and they also get higher gas mileage too with our tester only managing a paltry 19 mpg in city driving and an equally modest 22 mpg in combined driving. The Impreza out muscles them in raw power but flaunting your muscles is only one part of the equation and erratic gas prices make such feats of exuberance a pricey endeavor.
The big demerit though is in another key category, safety. Subaru’s EyeSight system is an enviable suite of safety features that adds goodies such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, and Automatic Emergency Braking. However, all of what we just described is only available on the CVT with manual models like our example missing out on all of it. That’s a very strange decision especially since the Civic Si and (soon to be launched Type R) have had all these features on pure manual only layouts since 2020 and Hyundai is not too far behind either with the equipment it offers on the Elantra N. There’s blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, but the duo feel like lightly seasoned appetizers, in comparison to the full meat and potatoes that buyers get when they go to a CVT equipped model.
That said, the Limited will still have its fair share of fans and if you’re willing to live without active safety features and perhaps embrace some of its quirks, then the Limited is a solid choice for buyers especially in WR Blue. Because when it comes to light trail running and on pavement fun few can beat the 2022 WRX. Here’s hoping that the STI returns to the throne to head off the challenge brought on by the upcoming Civic Type R.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.