Monday, 4 July 2016

REVIEW – Subaru WRX STi

Forgive me, but I’m going to go all nostalgic for a moment. When I first got my PS One, without doubt my favourite game was Gran Turismo 2. And in my garage of a hundred or so cars, were several Subaru Imprezas. This was the car for the PlayStation generation. Fast forward past the 22B, the bug-eye, the hawk-eye and the hatchback, to the car you see before you; the WRX STi. It's a boxer-engined, 4WD saloon with a bonkers bonnet scoop and an even more bonkers rear spoiler. I was a little bit giddy when it arrived at my house. So I grabbed the keys, and headed straight out on the road.

Looks – 9/10

The Subaru Impreza/WRX STi has changed appearance several times over the years. And I think the current iteration is one of the best. The car seems to suit a 4-door saloon best, although I didn’t mind the hatchback as much as others. The front end is aggressive, and looks daunting as it appears in your rear-view mirror, thanks to an angular front bumper. From the driving seat the bonnet scoop is barely noticeable, but from the front it looks big enough to inhale small children. There are broad arches front and rear, complimented by 18-inch graphite alloys. At the rear you get 4 exhaust pipes, a diffuser and the trademark large spoiler. The shark-fin aerial is a nice touch, and with my test car finished in World Rally Blue Pearl it looked superb. The Subaru turns heads wherever you go.

Inside you get half-leather and alcantara seats, although the front seats are no longer Recaro, which is a shame. The interior has lots of red throughout, from accents on the seats to stitching on the door cards and steering wheel. And the steering wheel is a thing of beauty; flat-bottomed, chunky and brandishing the STi logo it frames the red dials brilliantly. The information screen still looks a little old-hat now, but by the time you put the turbo boost gauge on it you don’t really care. The general feel of the interior is much better than previous years, with nicer plastics and a carbon-fibre effect trim. Sure, it’s not got the same feel as, say, a Volvo, but it feels much more premium than people expect from a WRX STi.


Handling/Performance – 8/10

The engine in the WRX STi is the same as was in the previous model, and that does put it on the back foot against more powerful rivals. It’s a 2.5-litre, turbocharged flat four. That gives you 300PS and 407Nm, accompanied by a familiar boxer ‘burble’. The gearbox is a 6-speed manual, and this is very involving for the driver. Get it off the line properly (easier said than done with 4WD) and you’ll it 0-62 in 5.2 seconds. The top speed is a licence-losing 159mph. There are three drive modes; Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp. The former is useful on the motorway and through town. You don’t end up in the car in front by breathing on the throttle and it almost feel civilised. Put it in sport sharp and the WRX STi is on maximum attack. Throttle response is lightning quick and allows you to haul yourself out of a corner with some force.

The WRX STi is a very capable car. The 4WD system is a proven one, and offers reassurance through ample grip. You can alter the centre differential which can make the car lean towards understeer or oversteer, and if you choose the latter then the Subaru becomes rather tail happy. The steering is nice and weighty, and allows you to point the nose exactly where you want it. Suspension is firm, but is composed on the uneven surfaces of a British B-road. On the motorway you can notice a little bounciness, but (despite being non-Recaro) the seats are comfortable enough to mitigate any spinal injuries. Stopping power is provided by large brakes with 4-piston calipers up front. This is a driver’s car, there’s no doubt about it. Find a good road and just eat up the miles. It’s not for commuters or long motorway hauls.

Economy – 5/10

Now many of you will say that “you don’t buy a Subaru and expect it to be good on fuel” and part of me does agree with you. However, other cars have shown that you can expect some level of economy. The combined fuel consumption for the WRX STi is 27.2mpg. I will admit that on a motorway run I managed to better this figure, but if you’re getting 30mpg then you’re doing well. Worse are the CO2 emissions; at 242g/km the WRX STi is in VED band L. And that means your road tax is a whopping £870 in the first year. Even after this, you will still begrudge the £490 each year. By sticking with the old engine, Subaru have left the WRX STi lacking the refinement of its competitors.

Practicality – 8/10

The WRX STi is, underneath all the bodykit, a decent-sized family saloon car. And that means it benefits from a large boot, ample rear legroom and 4-doors. But there are subtle details too. The rear spoiler may look a little brash, but it has been designed so that you can’t see it in the rear-view mirror. In intelligent mode, the aggressive Subaru is does not bite at the slightest prod of the throttle. Despite the firm suspension the car is actually comfortable on the motorway. And the WRX STi comes well equipped, with dual-zone air conditioning, keyless entry and go, cruise control and Bluetooth hands-free telephone all standard. I would have liked to see a satellite navigation included on that list. If you can ignore the running costs, and I know that’s hard, then the WRX STi is not a bad car to live with.

Fun – 8/10

There is no denying that a World Rally Blue WRX STi is a head turner. This car is a magnet for attention wherever you go. A popular request is to hear “what it sounds like”; that boxer burble is such a unique sound and the new car does well to emphasise it. The performance is addictive, and despite the outdated engine it still gives you a firm enough punch in the back to put a smile on your face. If you’re that way inclined, you can tweak the centre diff to suit your preferences, and the WRX STi can be turned into a rather tail-happy beast. Not ideal for the road, but I’d love to have a proper go on a track in the Subaru. The only issue with the Subaru is that there is a slight perception of yobbery. You can almost sense that some people are tutting as you burble past, and I would imagine it’s quite easy to attach the attention of the rozzers.

Concluding Remarks

So that brings my time with the WRX STi. In many ways it has become outdated compared to rivals in what has become a very cramped marketplace. More of them can now offer the same 4WD capability whilst bettering the Subaru for refinement and efficiency. And yet. There is just something about the Subaru. Maybe it’s the World Rally Blue Pearl paint scheme. Or that ginormous rear spoiler. But the WRX STi commands respect. It is the latest embodiment of an icon, and as such has an entire generation- my generation- gawping as it drives past. At £28,995 it undercuts some rivals, but the running costs would soon make it catch up. But should you wish to take the plunge, head over to your local dealer or visit the Subaru website. And you’d probably be glad if you did.

Total Score – 38/50

1 comment:

  1. I really fancy one of these. Illogical I know, as the competition has more than caught up and it's hard to make a sensible case for buying one, but then again it's a unique proposition and somewhat iconic. The biggest problem is that the engine is very outdated. Yours is one of the kinder road tests I have read, as most journalists have been quite harsh about it. It's a pity the standard (non-STI) WRX isn't available in the UK. It loses the spoiler, has more compliant suspension, and most importantly the more modern 2 litre boxer engine, which has almost as much power, better low rev torque and, big plus, much better economy. Probably a better car for most of us in the real world but sadly not available to us in the UK. Pity. Maybe all the new competition (Focus RS etc.) will bring used prices down a bit and make ownership a slightly more affordable option, but given the STI's rarity maybe not.

    ReplyDelete