Drive

2015 Subaru WRX is quick off the mark and quicker to please

2015 Subaru WRX

• Type. Four-door, all-wheel drive compact sports sedan

• Engine. 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four (268 hp)

• Transmission. Six-speed manual; continuously variable automatic (CVT)

• Price. $31,645 base, $35,445 as tested.

I got the keys to the 2015 Subaru WRX, and made my way quickly to the car, almost skipping. This was going to be good.

I jumped in and ... it’s an automatic. Really? Come on!

I got over it quickly, though, as this is an awesome compact sports sedan — even with the continuously variable automatic transmission.

The new Sport Lineartronic CVT actually creates a new tone in the WRX pallet; slightly less involved, but better suited to everyday driving, like commuting and general schlepping.

The “manual” mode of the CVT allows you to select your own (simulated) gears, in six- or eight-gear allotments, with paddle shifters. But just letting the CVT do its own thing is also very satisfying.

With the prodigious torque (258 lb.-ft.) available from the new direct-injection, twin-scroll, inter-cooled and turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, the WRX is a weapon you’ll want to point and shoot, and often. A little muscle car if you will.

Subaru’s WRX and WRX STI have never prioritized interior materials and design, but this generation features a cabin that is clean and classy, and shouldn’t disappoint anybody.

I really like the new D-shaped steering wheel, the high-grip seat material, and 4.3-inch monitor, mounted top-centre on the dash, which displays turbo boost in a cool, virtual analogue gauge.

Some will lament that WRX is no longer available as a hatch model, but the rear seating area is significantly increased.

Every new design these days is bound to feature a new “bold and aggressive front-end appearance,” whether the vehicle is a minivan or a supercar. To my eyes, the new “aggressive” front look and “wide body” of the WRX perfectly matches what it can deliver.

The functional hood scoop, sculpted into the new aluminum hood, is lower and wider for better intake efficiency and driver visibility — and looks killer.

The new 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels are said to add to the aerodynamic efforts, which also include front and rear spoilers and under-car elements. I thought the dark gun-metal wheels and dark grille really set off the crystal while pearl paint on my tester, which was the mid-level WRS Sport trim, which includes a trunk spoiler, sunroof, LED low beams and fog lights.

You have to go to WRX Sport-tech if you want the navigation system, which is combined with a bigger and better screen, and a louder stereo.

Although the WRX STI has a direct competitor with the Mitsubishi Evolution, this regular version of the WRX is pretty much the only thing in its price and power class. The refinements and CVT option for the 2015 version make it even more distinctive.

It’s an intriguing choice for an auto enthusiast who is looking for performance with a bit more livable personality for everyday use.

Market position

Compact sports sedan for auto enthusiasts. Less-expensive sibling of rowdier and more powerful WRX STI. Goes rallying in the hands of both factory and private race teams. As with all Subaru models, features “boxer” engine and full-time all-wheel drive, the latter now with torque vectoring for greater handling.

Points

• The WRX is based on the new-generation Impreza platform, which offers more interior room and refinement, and a stiffer chassis.

• All-new engine features direction injection

• First-ever 6-speed manual or Sport Lineartronic (CVT) automatic for the WRX.

• No longer available in a hatchback version.

Safety features

IIHS Top Safety Pick; seven airbags, including driver’s knee bag; 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist; stability and traction control; full-time all-wheel drive; engine immobilizer anti-theft system; whiplash-reducing front performance seats.