For 2008, Subaru’s small-car family, the Impreza, has been completely redesigned, as have the two Impreza-based performance models covered in this review, the WRX and the WRX STI. The 2008 Subaru WRX is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback (which the automaker and some reviewers have called a wagon), but the high-power STI is only offered as a hatchback. With either body style, the WRX has an unusual look that draws critiques from car reviewers.
Particularly critical about the styling and new design, Automobile laments, “Gone are the frameless door glass and the chunky flared fenders. Gone, too, are the quirkily styled front end and the seemingly tacked-on hood scoop, replaced by far more mature and bland-looking items.”
Other reviewers are a bit kinder. Cars.com says that the new WRX looks “different than any other Subaru and a little odd in the front, but I must say it works better when you see it in person than it does in photos.” The reviewer is especially fond of some design details on the WRX sedan, including its taillights, which he describes as “relatively simple” and not under clear lenses.
CNET likes the exterior styling of the WRX and compares its side styling to the BMW 3-Series. The reviewer notes the sheetmetal’s “smooth flame-surfacing, broken up only a little by the beltline and a rib.”
Several other reviewers are decidedly negative regarding the WRX’s styling and how close it is to that of the standard Impreza. "The new WRX looks downright plain Jane compared to its big brother,” says Autoblog. “The STI looks like it spends its days at the gym while the WRX appears more like a long distance runner, slimmer and trimmer. Where previously even the base WRX had fenders that bulged like a ProDrive special, the new model shares its side body panels with the standard Impreza."
On the STI version, Edmunds says, “Substantially wider fenders are rendered in steel on a unique unibody and complement a track that’s wider than that of the WRX by 1.3 inches in front and an amazing 2.5 inches in the rear.” Cars.com notes, “One improvement in the model’s look is a better-integrated hood scoop, which draws in cooling air.”
More reviewers either like or are ambivalent toward the interior styling itself. “As we would expect from the sporty version of the Impreza, the WRX includes sport seats for the driver and passenger. These seats have fixed headrests and a sculpted look that goes well with the general interior theme,” states CNET. “The dashboard curves in to meet the center stack, somewhat like the cabin of the Subaru Tribeca.” CNET also notes “the interior also has a clean look, with few buttons marring the curving surfaces.”
TheCarConnection.com’s editors rank in the minority here, as we appreciate the styling and sheetmetal of the new WRX hatchback more than we do the sedan. No doubt, the STI, with its wider flanks, looks the performance part more aggressively than the WRX, and it just seems better proportioned. TheCarConnection.com considers the interior design of the WRX a modest evolution in terms of overall appearance, but its swoopy instrument panel, which feels cohesively styled with the hatchback’s exterior, is a leap ahead.