- Strong power
- Great grip
- Responsive steering
- Great crash-test scores
- Reasonable and practical
- No styling standout
- Dated cockpit
- Manuals don’t get active safety tech
- STI’s bone-jarring ride
features & specs
The 2021 Subaru WRX and WRX STI pitch drivers on heady performance without the usual styling excess.
What kind of car is the 2021 Subaru WRX? What does it compare to?
The 2021 Subaru WRX and its STI spin-off are performance four-doors with plain wrappers and hot turbo filling—a Crunch Wrap minus the heartburn. A turbo flat-4 sits in the middle of standard all-wheel drive to crank out cornering prowess by the mile, paired with another excellent track record, that of safety. The WRX is a rival for cars like the Benz CLA45 AMG, just not price—there it’s more like a Hyundai Veloster N or a Honda Civic Type R.
Is the 2021 Subaru WRX a good car?
It’s nearly ideal for those who want to pinball around mountain passes without a second look. We give it a TCC Rating of 6.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
What’s new for the 2021 Subaru WRX?
Premium-package cars get keyless start. A new WRX is in the works.
Until it arrives, the current car’s electrifying handling will have to do—since its four-door sedan body doesn’t get amped up about much. It’s a stolid shape, one that wakes up in STI livery with a big rear wing and big 19-inch wheels. The WRX’s cabin couldn’t be more straightforward: Its small touchscreen, big analog gauges, and cloth upholstery are in some ways a welcome throwback to simpler car times, but they don’t look the $40,000 part.
The WRX is equal part turbo-4 strength and all-wheel-drive finesse. In base spec, the WRX’s 268-horsepower flat-4 hardly breaks a sweat to deliver sub-six-second 0-60 mph times through a long-throw 6-speed manual and all-wheel drive with a 50:50 torque split. That’s the spec we’d pick—except for the omission of automatic emergency braking. If you’re daily-driving it, you’ll probably pick the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which paddles through its synthetic ratios eagerly enough, while splitting power through a more sophisticated center differential. In either case the WRX’s flat cornering attitude and its precise steering will have you tackling old corners with new interest.
Then there’s the STI, which storms out of the gate with a 310-hp flat-4, a different 6-speed manual, a stiffer suspension, an adjustable center differential, and uprated brakes. It’s a rally car tamed slightly for the street and it handles like one, from the razor-sharp steering to the brittle, bruising ride.
All WRXs get a plain-looking interior with room for four adults. The base sport seats in front can swap out for Recaro buckets that cinch and pinch too tightly for large bodies. The back seat’s snug, too, and the WRX’s trunk is small, at 12.0 cubic feet.
Safety scores, though, have been impressive. The NHTSA and the IIHS both give the WRX top scores, though the manual-transmission WRX lacks automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.
How much does the 2021 Subaru WRX cost?
The $29,345 WRX 6-speed manual has power features and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We like the $30,970 WRX Premium despite its CVT—it gets a power driver seat, leather upholstery, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen, with options for Recaro front seats and Brembo brakes. Costing more than $42,000, the STI edition is primed for track time, but it’s poorly suited for the street.
Where is the 2021 Subaru WRX made?
2021 Subaru WRX
When it’s wingless, the WRX blends into the crowd.
Is the Subaru WRX a good-looking car?
It’s average. The WRX is a stolid little four-door sedan without many standard add-ons or cues that call it out with performance-car caricature—that is, until it’s a WRX STI. It won’t raise many eyebrows, though it’s not quite subtle either.
We give it a 5 here, straight up the middle.
The WRX adapts its three-box sedan shape to its mission with stand-out side sills, big front air intakes, and the deep rear diffusers that are a hallmark of tuner cars. Still it could masquerade as an everyday citizen, were it not for the available wing on the options list. In STI trim it gets that wing and 19-inch wheels that toughen its stance; a smaller lip spoiler can be swapped in for the incognito crowd.
Inside, the WRX cockpit has a set of clearly legible gauges, a beefy three-spoke steering wheel, and a straightforward layout that leaves nothing to confusion. A 6.5-inch touchscreen sits in the middle, but most WRXs will get the upgrade to a 7.0-inch screen. It’s a prosaic space, one with minimal clutter and without the gadgetry and bling that get confused for value in higher-priced performance editions. This one’s stripped down and ready to work—and more convincing at a $30,000 price than at more than $40,000 for the STI.
2021 Subaru WRX
If it’s grip and grins you want, you came to the right place.
The WRX isn’t on any shopper’s list for its high-tech safety gear or its eye-pleasing interior. It’s all about the horsepower and the free hugs it gives to every curve in its view. We give it extra points for its terrific acceleration, ride, and handling, to land at a 9 for performance.
Is the Subaru WRX 4WD?
Every Subaru WRX comes with all-wheel drive—though different versions have distinct setups.
How fast is the Subaru WRX?
It’s very to exceedingly quick. WRXs can hit 60 mph in the five-second range, while the STI can shave a half-second or more from that time.
The WRX’s quirky flat-4 thrum signals there’s something different under foot. Fire it up and the 2.0-liter flat-4 flips the access switch to 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Tip into the manual transmission’s launch gear, and the WRX’s turbo spools up to hustle power to all four corners. Manual-equipped cars get a viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system that splits power equally between the front and rear axles; they also get a brake-based torque-vectoring system that clamps the inside wheel in corners to help the car cut through more quickly. The stick has a long throw but easy clutch engagement—and it makes available a set of unflappable Brembo brakes, which you’ll both want and need.
With the CVT, the WRX takes the same horsepower output but a different tack to traction. In this instance, it gets a center differential with an electro-hydraulic clutch that distributes power. We’re more enthusiastic about the manual’s responses; with the CVT, the WRX feels less willing, though it does come with paddle shift controls that click through pre-selected ratios to simulate an automatic transmission. It’s not a bad solution, and it’s made better by driver-selectable modes—Sport and Sport Sharp—that hold ratios longer and give the throttle a more zingy touch.
The WRX’s steering and traction are exemplary, and it’s one of the easiest cars to drive quickly, no matter how much experience the driver has. That said, the latest WRX has been softened to adapt to changing tastes. It’s in its glory when tackling hairpins and esses, but there’s more body lean than in past generations, and while the steering’s still crisp and responsive, it’s not as tack-sharp as it’s been.
Subaru reserves that behavior for the STI model, which pumps up output to 310 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. With its own 6-speed manual and much stronger output, it’s noticeably quicker than the base car. It also gets a different all-wheel-drive system, one with a center differential that can be adjusted by the driver to alter the torque split from front to rear while on the go. The STI’s the rally-driving specialist—but it’s brutal on anything other than glass-smooth roads.
2021 Subaru WRX
Comfort & Quality
The WRX wraps four adults in a plainly durable cabin.
The WRX sedan has the space it needs for four adults, but it’s a little shy on trunk room and its cockpit’s mid-grade for the price. We give it a 6 here, with a point extra for excellent front seats.
Subaru fits well-bolstered front seats to the standard-issue WRX and wraps them in cloth upholstery; leather comes with the Limited trim, but we’d rather take the Premium package’s Recaro front seats, which also skips the sunroof to create more head room. They’re confining for bigger drivers, marvelously grippy for most of us—try them on for size before you buy.
The WRX’s back seat has good head and leg room for its size thanks to an upright sedan silhouette. Three people can fit on the third bench for short trips, but two adults will be more comfortable, for longer stints.
Trunk space factors in at just 12 cubic feet, but the rear seats can be folded for more space and for trunk access. We wouldn’t call the WRX interior luxurious at all—it’s pleasant enough with its brightly finished plastic and carbon-fiber trim.
2021 Subaru WRX
Crash tests show off an unexpected side of the WRX.
How safe is the Subaru WRX?
With a five-star rating from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS, the Subaru WRX performs as well in crash tests as it does on the track. We give it a 9 here—provided you choose the CVT.
With the CVT, the WRX also gains active lane control and adaptive cruise control. LED headlights with automatic high beams are available. All WRXs have excellent outward vision.
2021 Subaru WRX
The WRX doesn’t score many points outside its compelling powertrain.
The Subaru WRX lacks some safety and tech features and it’s entirely related to its performance-car mission. On the missing list: standard automatic emergency braking, a big touchscreen for infotainment, and a warranty longer than the WRX’s average 3-year/36,000-mile plan. We give it a 5 for features.
Which Subaru WRX should I buy?
The $29,345 WRX comes with the 6-speed manual, automatic climate control, power features, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It’s a bargain as a weekend toy.
Still, we’d spend $30,970 for the WRX Premium, which gains a power driver seat, a power sunroof, leather upholstery, LED lighting, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. For a few thousand more, Recaro front seats, Brembo brakes, and a CVT and advanced safety features join the party.
How much is a fully loaded Subaru WRX?
The WRX STI soars to more than $42,000 with a rear wing and a CVT—and you may as well add on $2,250 for the fab Recaro front seats.
2021 Subaru WRX
Stay off the boost and the WRX can be more frugal.
Is the Subaru WRX good on gas?
The WRX’s relatively small flat-4 engine can deliver decent gas mileage, if you can stay out of its deeper reserves. We give it a 4 based on EPA ratings of 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined for the manual-shift version. With the automatic, the WRX registers 18/24/21 mpg—and with the STI, it’s rated at 16/22/19 mpg.