The 2019 Subaru WRX is back for the latest model year with a few changes, but the overall formula remains the same: a turbocharged boxer engine, all-wheel drive, and a rally heritage that allow it to go fast on more than just tarmac. At the same time, the WRX continues to look pretty spartan compared to some rivals. Make no mistake, your money is spent almost entirely on the go-fast parts, and almost nothing else.

Best Value

The 2019 Subaru WRX is best had at the base trim level, as it's a car that's for driving pleasure above all else while offering enough usability to justify its purchase as a daily-driver. Adding new features doesn't make the Subaru feel nicer, even with 10-way adjustable heated leather seats. All of those niceties add weight, which slows you down. Additionally, skip the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the Subaru EyeSight suite of driver assistance features. The WRX is for driving, so why spend money on things that would help take that experience away from you?

In fact, the only thing really worth spending money on is the $1,770 STI Performance Exhaust System that allows the engine to make more power while giving you a cool exhaust note. Skip everything else and keep your price below $30,000

  • Model: 2019 Subaru WRX
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder
  • Output: 268 hp / 258 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 21 City / 27 Hwy
  • Options: STI Performance Exhaust System ($1,770)
  • Base Price: $28,080 (including an $885 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $29,850

Performance

Subaru WRX

The Subaru WRX is focused on performance and performance alone. To that end, it's equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer engine that puts out 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque along with standard all-wheel drive. While that's about on par with most other sport compacts at that price point, the way it delivers that torque between 2,000 and 5,200 rpm makes it seem much faster at the right speeds. Unlike most sport compacts, the WRX handles great on all surfaces, including gravel, dirt, and snow, owing to a softer rally-inspired suspension. Despite that, the WRX retains the ability to maintain insane grip on the road.

The most confusing thing about the WRX is the inclusion of a CVT as an option. Sure, there are a lot of people that may not know how to drive a manual, but there's no reason to choose the CVT. It's competent, and does deliver power in an efficient manner, but it's absolutely antithetical to the entire idea of the WRX. You don't get that extra level of connection with the car, and they even swap out the mechanical differential with a 50:50 power ratio for an electric one that fakes it when you go for the CVT. Most egregiously, they even gave the CVT, a transmission typified by its lack of gears, paddle shifters so that you can "shift" the non-existent gears.

Subaru WRX models with the CVT are for people who want to pretend that they like driving. Learn how to use three pedals and buy the manual. It's absolutely worth it.

Style

Unlike it's big STI brother with a giant wing, the WRX is a fairly plain-looking vehicle. Its pedestrian Impreza genealogical roots shine through, and you're more likely to turn heads due to the exhaust note than anything else. There's some styling sprinkled throughout, but most average people won't think it's more than a four-door sedan. Compared with its bug-eyed ancestors, we're left wondering whether or not they designed a generic car and then tacked on a few sporty elements.

Inside, it follows the same story. It shares the same dashboard as the Forester, which isn't bad or good looking at all. It's plain and fairly uninteresting, but that's been the WRX way for a very long time. That being said, they've thrown in some carbon fiber, suede, and some optional two-tone Recaro seats for a more performance-focused feel.

The Best and Worst Things

The best thing about the WRX is the grip that it gives you. Unlike most front-wheel-drive competitors, the all-wheel drive allows for high-speed off-road driving, making it a fantastic option for competing in rally cross events. Or, if you live somewhere that gets snow, you'll be able to partake in parking lot shenanigans that others will be envious of.

The biggest downside to the WRX is that it's unrefined. It eschews luxury for performance, so you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. Additionally, unlike most rivals, the WRX still isn't offered as a hatchback which would make it much more practical.

Right For? Wrong For?

Subaru WRX

If you want a fast car for less than $30,000, the WRX is probably your best bet. Additionally, the WRX will be fast on almost all surfaces, allowing for all-weather and off-road fun with little modifications.

If you're looking for something with an automatic transmission, pass on the WRX and the CVT. It gets worse gas mileage, and it just isn't engaging with the road. Instead, look at the Volkswagen GTI with its excellent DSG transmission.

The Bottom Line

The Subaru WRX is a legend, as it has built a name for itself with its rally-car-inspired performance. With all-wheel drive and a turbo-four engine, it's a force to be reckoned with in most performance aspects. However, it's a car that requires more sacrifices than most competitors, as the niceties are largely neglected in favor of more performance parts. But if you can live with that, it's one of the best choices you can make at this price point.