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2021 Subaru WRX Review

The 2021 Subaru WRX ranks near the back of the compact car class. It offers potent engine performance and surefooted handling, but suffers from a stiff ride, poor fuel economy, and a low predicted reliability rating.

Pros & Cons

  • Agile, surefooted handling
  • Powerful engines
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Firm ride
  • Noisy and cheap interior
  • Lousy predicted reliability rating

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Subaru WRX's #11 ranking is based on its score within the Compact Cars category. Currently the Subaru WRX has a score of 7.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 40 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.2

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.3
Performance: 7.8
Interior: 6.1
Safety:
This model has never been fully tested for safety. Its overall score is being calculated without safety.
N/A
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Subaru WRX a Good Car?

The 2021 Subaru WRX is a good car in some respects and a bad car in others. First the good. It's a blast to drive on winding back roads thanks to its taut suspension and standard all-wheel-drive system. It grips and grips no matter the road surface. The WRX’s turbocharged boxer engine has a lot of character, and – when kept on boil – it can slingshot this sedan up to speed with authority. The interior is reasonably spacious for a compact car, and the front seats are comfy. The infotainment system is fairly easy to use as well.

The main issue is that the WRX can be pretty unforgiving as a daily driver, even by sports car standards. The transmission requires finesse to shift smoothly, the ride can be harsh and jittery on rough pavement, and fuel economy is bad. The interior is noisy and trimmed with subpar materials. Additionally, the WRX rates poorly for predicted reliability.

Why You Can Trust Us: 40 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 40 Subaru WRX reviews, as well as data points like reliability ratings and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible. This 2021 WRX review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2015.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Subaru WRX?

The 2021 Subaru WRX is worth considering if you want a four-season sports sedan or if you simply enjoy a raw and unfiltered driving experience. The WRX and its STI variant are more visceral than most. That said, there are better alternatives in this segment for those who aren’t willing to compromise on ride comfort and interior refinement. If that's you, take a look at rivals such as the Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Hyundai Veloster, and Volkswagen GTI.

Find a 2021 Subaru WRX for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Subaru WRX: What's the Difference?

There aren’t any major differences between the 2020 and 2021 WRX models.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 WRX »

Here are the key changes for the Subaru WRX over the last few years:

  • 2015: all-new model (previously known as the Impreza WRX)
  • 2016: EyeSight safety features became available
  • 2017: no notable changes
  • 2018: updated suspension and steering; limited-edition Type RA model introduced
  • 2019: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto debuted and made standard
  • 2020: no notable changes
  • 2021: no notable changes

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 WRX, 2019 WRX, and 2020 WRX reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Subaru WRX Cost?

The 2021 Subaru WRX has a $27,495 starting price. That’s quite pricey for a compact car, though it is in league with other sporty compacts like the Volkswagen GTI. The high-performance WRX STI has a base MSRP of $37,245.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

Subaru WRX Versus the Competition

Subaru WRX vs. Subaru Impreza

The Impreza is Subaru’s other compact car, and it fills a different niche than the WRX. The Impreza is available in sedan and hatchback body styles, the latter of which provides lots of cargo space, which is a weak point of the WRX. The Impreza’s boxer engine is pokier but far more fuel-efficient than the WRX’s, and its interior sports fresher styling and higher-end materials. The Impreza also has a much lower starting price, at $18,795. There is some common ground though. Both models come standard with all-wheel drive and offer many of the same safety features.

Neither are top picks in this fiercely competitive class, but the Impreza stands out as the better daily driver, while the WRX makes more sense for enthusiasts and thrill-seekers.

Compare the WRX and Impreza »

Subaru WRX vs. Volkswagen GTI

The Volkswagen GTI is a better overall car than the WRX. The GTI boasts a higher predicted reliability rating, better gas mileage, nicer cabin materials, and more cargo space. It’s agile and fun to carve around turns, yet it still rides comfortably, even on uneven road surfaces. The GTI also comes standard with far more active safety features, though it is priced slightly higher than the WRX. As long as you can live without all-wheel drive – the GTI is front-wheel-drive only – we think this VW is a better pick.

Compare the WRX and GTI »

Compare the WRX, Impreza, and GTI »

WRX Interior: Hits and Misses

WRX Cargo Space

The WRX has 12 cubic feet of trunk space. That’s on the small side for a compact car, though the trunk is still roomy enough to fit a pair of golf bags or a couple carry-on suitcases. The rear seats can fold in a 60/40-split, making it possible to stow skis and other long items. We suggest opting for a hatchback like the Honda Civic or Volkswagen GTI if you need more storage space.

How Many People Does the WRX Seat?

The Subaru WRX is a four-door sedan with five seats. The front seats are nicely cushioned and provide great hip-hugging support for sporty back-road jaunts. There’s sufficient headroom and legroom for taller occupants up front, and the WRX’s large windows provide great visibility to the front, sides, and rear. The rear outboard seats are spacious enough for two adults to fit in reasonable comfort.

Cloth upholstery and manually adjustable front seats are standard. Leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, and bolstered Recaro front sport seats are available.

WRX and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat.

WRX Interior Quality

The WRX’s cabin feels sturdy and durable but also rather cheap, owing to its many hard plastic surfaces. The overall appearance has begun to look dated as well, especially next to fresher rivals in this segment like the Mazda3. Worse still, the interior lets in a lot of road and wind noise.

WRX Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The WRX is outfitted with Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system. The touch screen has simple menus, and it’s complemented by buttons and knobs for the audio and climate controls, making it easy to adjust these settings on the go. The system also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allows users to integrate their smartphone interface with the touch screen. The display is slow to respond at times though, and the car's standard speakers sound a bit tinny. Consider upgrading to the available Harman Kardon stereo if you’re an audiophile.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and satellite radio
  • Available infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, navigation, and a Harman Kardon sound system
  • Additional standard features: remote keyless entry and automatic climate control
  • Other available features: proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and a moonroof

Read more about interior »

WRX Performance: Stings Like a Bee

WRX Engine

The 2021 Subaru WRX is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged flat four-cylinder boxer engine that produces 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive are standard; a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional.

This boxer engine is a bit trickier to unleash than some of its contemporaries. The WRX can feel a little lethargic when it first gets going from a stop due to lag before the turbocharger spools up. But once revs climb and boost pressure builds, the WRX surges forward like a rocket. Zero to 60 mph takes just under six seconds. The six-speed manual transmission requires frequent shifting to keep the engine in its power band. Additionally, the engagement point of the clutch can feel like a moving target, making it hard to shift smoothly. The CVT is more forgiving; it’s responsive, and it simulates gear changes like a traditional automatic.

The WRX STI packs a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four with 310 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque, and it is paired exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission. The STI launches with a bit more vigor – zero to 60 mph takes five seconds – but turbo lag is still noticeable.

WRX Gas Mileage

The Subaru WRX gets poor fuel economy for a compact car; it's even on the low end compared with performance-oriented rivals. The WRX returns an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway when paired with its manual transmission. Opting for the CVT drops these ratings to 18/24 mpg city/highway. The WRX STI is rated at just 16/22 mpg. Notably, both models require premium gasoline.

WRX Ride and Handling

The Subaru WRX stands out as a true four-season sports sedan. Its steering is responsive and well weighted, the suspension keeps the WRX feeling stable and composed around turns, and when the snow flies or the road turns to gravel, the all-wheel-drive system manages to find grip and send power to whichever wheels have the most traction. The brakes provide strong stopping power as well.

The tradeoff to the WRX’s agility is a firm ride quality, especially with STI models. Bumps and potholes in the road tend to jolt the car around, which can be tiresome on longer road trips and day-to-day commuting.

Read more about performance »

WRX Reliability

Is the Subaru WRX Reliable?

The 2021 Subaru WRX has an awful predicted reliability rating of two out of five.

Subaru WRX Warranty

Subaru covers the WRX with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

WRX Safety

WRX Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Subaru WRX an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with five stars in the frontal crash, side crash, and rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 WRX, but the organization gave the nearly identical 2020 model the highest rating of Good in all six crashworthiness tests.

WRX Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera

Available advanced safety features:

  • Forward and reverse collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Automatic high beams
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert

Read more about safety »

WRX Dimensions and Weight

The WRX is 15.1 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,294 to 3,514 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Subaru WRX Built?

Subaru builds the 2021 WRX in Japan.

Which Subaru WRX Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Subaru WRX comes in five trims: base, Premium, Limited, STI, and STI Limited. The base model WRX offers enough performance to satisfy most enthusiasts, but it’s pretty skimpy on standard features for a car that costs more than $27,000. You’ll need to upgrade to the Premium trim if you want amenities like heated seats, blind spot monitoring, or an automatic transmission.

The WRX STI is truly knife-edged in terms of its ride quality, handling, and acceleration. This makes it a great sports sedan for track day events but a fairly uncomfortable car for everyday driving.

Subaru WRX

The entry-level Subaru WRX has a $27,495 starting price, and it comes equipped with a 268-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and all-wheel drive. Standard features include a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two USB ports, Bluetooth, satellite radio, remote keyless entry, automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, a rearview camera, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Subaru WRX Premium

The WRX Premium starts at $30,045. This trim gains a 7-inch touch screen, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, heated front seats, a moonroof, fog lights, and 18-inch wheels. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional for $1,900, and these CVT-equipped models also come with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety features, which includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist.

Subaru WRX Limited

The WRX Limited starts at $32,095. This trim adds leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat, adaptive LED headlights, and LED fog lights. As before, the CVT and EyeSight suite is a $1,900 option. Additional add-ons include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a navigation system, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon stereo.

Subaru WRX STI

The WRX STI starts at $37,245, and it packs a 310-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This trim includes all of the WRX Premium features plus adaptive LED headlights, a large rear wing, stiffer springs and shock absorbers, upgraded brakes, 19-inch wheels, and three limited-slip differentials (front, center, and rear). Notably, the WRX STI is only available with a manual transmission.

Subaru WRX STI Limited

The WRX STI Limited trim retails for $41,945. It gains racing-inspired Recaro front seats, navigation, a Harman Kardon stereo, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

See 2021 Subaru WRX specs and trims »

The Final Call

The Subaru WRX is one of the few "driver’s cars" on the market. It’s very rewarding to weave along twisting back roads, thanks to its buttoned-down handling and characterful boxer engine. But it can also be unforgiving in day-to-day driving. The ride is firm, the interior is noisy, and gas mileage is terrible. The WRX also rates poorly for predicted reliability. Before you buy, give a look to less-extreme alternatives such as the Mazda3, Honda Civic, Hyundai Veloster, Volkswagen GTI, or Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 2021 Subaru WRX doesn't offer a modern aesthetic or a smooth ride, but it does have standard all-wheel drive and the ability to entertain driving enthusiasts. … Too bad its engine is hindered by noticeable turbo lag and odd surges in acceleration; these issues make the WRX feel both slower than it is and difficult to drive smoothly. Those who don't mind bouncing over bumpy roads will appreciate the Subaru's racy suspension, because it makes the sedan more fun to drive on twisty roads. We're not sure whether those people will also appreciate the WRX's outdated interior and accompanying noisiness, but it's all part of the rawness that makes the Subie either endearing or annoying—depending upon your point of view." -- Car and Driver
  • "While the WRX models aren't as quiet or refined as their competitors, you won't find sport sedans with more power and all-wheel drive for less money. But there are some competitors worth considering." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "No matter the configuration, the Subaru WRX is an absolute riot that'll have you searching out excuses to go for a drive. While it's not the most polished or grown-up car in its category or price range, its rawness, speed and rally-car heritage continue to make the WRX a beloved and cherished choice for anyone who likes affordable performance cars." -- CNET (2019)
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