The Subaru WRX is a fast and fun subcompact that has been raising US consumers’ pulses since 2002, and is a staple of all forms of motorsports. One of its performance benefits doubles as making it a safe and capable all-rounder; its all-wheel drive system is up to the task when faced with less-than-ideal road conditions. It is a large step above its standard Impreza sibling, and is not as much of a performance machine as the Subaru WRX STI, but it's still a solid, fun all-rounder.
- All-wheel drive (AWD) traction.
- Fun driving dynamics.
- Good tech across all trims.
- Great power.
- AWD and high curb weight greatly reduce fuel economy.
- Driver aid safety tech is only available on CVT-equipped models.
- Design looks a tad tired.
Would we buy one? Absolutely.
The WRX’s trim levels: Base, Limited, Premium.
Vehicle Type: Four-door, five-seat sport compact.
Price Range: MSRP from $28,395 to $34,895, including $900 delivery fee.
Powertrain: Turbocharged, 2.0-liter flat-four engine, producing 268 horsepower and 258 pound-foot of torque.
Drivetrain: The 2020 Subaru WRX comes with either a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard, or Subaru’s Sport Lineartronic CVT, which is a $1,900 option and only available on the Premium and Limited trims. All-wheel drive is standard across all trims.
Competitors: Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai Veloster N, Volkswagen Golf R, and to a lesser extent, the VW GTI and Honda Civic Si.
Overall Score: 9/10
Safety Features: 9/10
Subaru’s ad campaigns often emphasize safety, and the proof is in the testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2020 model year Subaru WRX as a Top Safety Pick, as it scored a rating of Good across almost all categories. The Headlights category is the only place where it scored a rating of Poor. Models equipped with Subaru’s optional EyeSight Driver-Assist System reach the level of Superior in Frontal Crash Protection: Vehicle-To-Pedestrian. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the WRX a five-star overall safety rating and scoring just four stars in the Front Driver Side Front Crash test.
Available on all CVT transmission-equipped models is Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. This suite of driver aids includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep and sway assist, pre-collision braking, and pre-collision throttle management. The latter is something unique to Subaru’s technology that is not as common among other brands; it detects objects in front of the vehicle that the driver is likely to hit, and reduces engine power to help minimize impact force and front-end damage.
The 2020 Subaru WRX is a great value against its competition, as it is the only car in the segment that has full-time, rear-wheel-biased all-wheel drive. This is different from the Golf R’s all-wheel drive system, which is front-wheel-biased and only sends power to the rear wheels in the event of a low-traction scenario.
A starting price of just over $28,000 is tantalizing, considering it makes good power and this full-time all-wheel drive system for added grip and agility. It’s priced very close to the Veloster N, which is only front-wheel drive and has less convenience, driver aid, and safety tech. The Honda Civic Type R starts quite a bit higher at $37,495, has front-wheel drive, though it has a substantially larger amount of driver-aid and safety tech.
Tech Features: 8/10
The 2020 WRX’s base convenience tech is very good, and only gets better once higher trims are selected. This base tech and amenities include Subaru’s Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control (this livens up or chills out engine response depending upon the selected mode), remote keyless entry, automatic climate control, Incline Start Assist (useful for manual transmission-equipped models), sport steering wheel, a 5.9-inch infotainment screen, aesthetically-pleasing aluminum alloy pedal covers, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual USB ports, and a rear vision camera. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity are also standard.
The Premium trim ups the ante with an All-Weather package that includes heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer, and fog lights. It also features Subaru’s upgraded Starlink 7-inch infotainment system, that includes the base’s features but adds SiriusXM satellite radio.
Up above the Premium is the Limited, which adds on push-button start, leather upholstery, keyless access, 10-way power adjustable seats, 19-inch wheels, steering-responsive LED headlights, and bright LED fog lights. Optional upgrades to the WRX Limited include a package that has a wide assortment of niceties: Harman Kardon stereo sound system, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.
We would have scored the WRX a tad higher in this category, but it iss unfortunate that the aforementioned EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is not available on manual transmission-equipped models. Similar driver aids are available on manual transmission-equipped Hondas, such as the Civic Type R and Si. Most consumers who are in the market for the fun-to-drive WRX are enthusiasts in search of cars with increasingly hard-to-find manual transmissions.
The 2020 base WRX features some dimensions that would benefit a larger variety of body types. With 39.8 inches of headroom up front (37.2 with moonroof), 37.1 inches in back, as well as a massive 43.4 inches up front and 35.4 in back, it definitely favors front seat occupants, but overall space is pretty good. Trunk capacity is 12 cubic feet, which is ok for the segment, though it makes the Civic Type R seem like an oil tanker with its 25.7 cubic feet (46.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded).
The WRX’s high card for practicality comes in the form of its full-time (or, permanent) all-wheel drive system. Subaru has a lengthy history of professional rally racing, which demands all-wheel drive for dealing with all kinds of off-road surfaces, not just the smooth tarmac of a racetrack. This system gives the WRX great traction in slippery conditions such as snow and rain, as well as light gravel and dirt. Enthusiasts can drive spiritedly on a dry mountain road, then ascend up to higher, snow-packed mountain road, and not have much to worry about.
Styling & Design: 8/10
This generation WRX has been around for a few years (since 2015), and it shows. Subaru hasn’t done much besides offer some different paint colors and wheel designs as the years tick on, and the interior design, while simple and clean, is a bit bland.
Though, the driver's seat does have an excellent position, and visibility is great.
Overall, it is not a bad-looking interior and exterior; it’s just not very remarkable.
Driving Experience: 10/10
Luckily, the 2020 Subaru WRX’s driving experience is quite remarkable.
With its athletic 2.0-liter turbo flat-four, it can lunge to 60 MPH from a standstill in just 5.6 seconds, which is right around where the competition is. Though, the feeling of launching an all-wheel drive WRX feels a bit different; it just takes off with no drama thanks to all four wheels putting in the work. This makes it feel faster than it actually is.
In the twisties, reviewers reported that the WRX is good fun; excellent mid-corner and corner-exit grip, stable, planted ride, sporty exhaust note; everything enthusiasts want in a car like this. The WRX’s sport-tuned suspension with independent rear double-wishbone design is largely to thank for this.
An optional $2,850 Performance Package is available for the manual-transmission WRX Premium trim. This includes sporty Recaro seats that are eight-way power adjustable, a sunroof delete (presumably to save weight), spoiler, and high-performance Brembo brakes with red calipers at all corners. This all means better stopping power; models equipped with this package can come to a stop from 60 in just 110 feet, compared to 113 on models without the Brembos.
Fuel Efficiency: 8/10
The 2020 WRX is lacking when it comes to fuel efficiency. Six-speed manual models reach an EPA-estimated 21 MPG City and 27 MPG HWY, whereas CVT-equipped models reach 18 MPG City and 24 MPG HWY. Normally, CVTs improve fuel economy, though such is not the case here. This is on the low end for the segment, though, considering its larger weight, excellent rollover protection, and all-wheel drive, one could say it os not that bad of a trade-off for excellent safety ratings.