That's not to say the standard WRX is in any way unenjoyable, however. The 265-horsepower output enables quick acceleration in nearly any gear of the five-speed manual transmission. The STI's 305-horsepower rating is even more fun, though, and is paired with a six-speed manual. No automatic transmissions are available, as it should be.
The WRX's exhaust note is throaty, but muted; it's a performance version of a normal car. The STI's, on the other hand, is more raw and omnipresent. That can equate to either more enjoyment or more annoyance, depending on the perspective of the occupants.
The SI-Drive controller in the STI also ups the performance a notch, with Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp modes available. Each makes throttle response progressively more direct, while the DCCD system allows the driver to bias power rearward when the situation requires. Larger Brembo brakes on the STI enhance stopping power and fade resistance, aided by the Super Sport ABS system, which helps to reduce understeer. The STI's stability control system also includes a "traction" mode, which continues brake use but eliminates throttle cut to improve performance. For the maximum in driver control, the system can be disabled completely.
Both the WRX and the STI exhibit very good cornering and transitional performance, though the front-heavy weight distribution and suspension design contribute to the potential for understeer. Subaru has attempted to engineer around that, primarily in the STI, with the addition of unique springs, bushings, stabilizer bars, and ride height, plus a pillow-ball bushing setup at the steering pivot points.
Whichever you choose, WRX or STI, there's a lot to love and a little to be wary of with the handling, power, and performance of each. Choosing sedan or hatch is a matter of utility, however, as all models perform very closely to one another.