2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
And on that note, there's one very significant downside to the WRX and the STI. Neither of them can be had with any kind of automatic transmission. Mitsubishi's twin-clutch (TC-SST) unit that's offered in the Lancer Ralliart and Lancer Evolution would be our pick, if you have to have it. Otherwise, the linkage and feel of the five-speed (WRX) and six-speed (STI) manual transmissions isn't bad.
What is bad? Mileage. Over a week and about 100 miles of around-town driving, not all with a lead foot, the trip computer indicated just over 17 mpg—not very impressive at all for a four-cylinder vehicle that weighs less than 3,400 pounds. Seriously, you'll be lucky to see anything close to 25 mpg with the cruise control locked to the speed limit.
Excellent visibility, driving position
Outward visibility in the STI is better than most other new vehicles, let alone those with a performance tack. The seating position is low but upright—at once feeling sporty yet affording a nice view outward in all directions.
The 2011 Subaru WRX STI starts are $35,995, not including destination, and our test 2011 STI, optioned with the touch-screen navigation system and satellite radio, totaled more than $39k.
That's a high price, and if you don't need to worry about that, you should go for the STI. But for the rest of us, at about ten grand less, the base 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX offers quite the bang for the buck.