REVIEW | 2018 Subaru WRX will drive you wild through the bends

Despite being out-dragged by the modern hot-hatch fraternity, the Subaru WRX remains a relevant piece of performance metal across real-world roads, writes Thomas Falkiner

02 December 2018 - 00:05 By Thomas Falkiner
The Subaru WRX.
The Subaru WRX.
Image: Supplied

Oh, wow, a WRX! Are these things still as crazy fast as they used to be?

It's amazing how a reputation can stick. Back in the day the WRX was a proper giant killer: a straight-line force to be reckoned with thanks to Subaru equipping it with high-boost turbocharged motors that allowed them to punch above their weight.

These days, however, the competition has caught up and the WRX is no longer the supercar-crushing anomaly it used to be - especially in a world full of hot-hatches like the Renault M�gane RS, Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Type-R and Ford Focus RS. So, yeah, it's reasonably quick, but not in a way that conjures up any great feelings of wonder or awe. Look elsewhere if that's what you want.

Somebody said these things are thirsty - is this true?

Thirsty? I'd say the WRX is continuously parched. Seriously, it drinks fuel like an alcoholic who's just escaped from the rehab centre. Around town, driven with moderate care, the best I could manage was 17.4l/100km - or roughly 240km on a single tank. With some highway driving thrown into the mix the onboard computer dropped down to 14.6l/100km. I've driven V8s that are lighter on fuel.

The interior of the 2018 Subaru WRX
The interior of the 2018 Subaru WRX
Image: Supplied

Does it handle? Please tell me it does something right.

This is the best thing about it. Despite that unholy thirst for fuel and semi-forgettable acceleration, the WRX redeems itself through corners where ferocious levels of mechanical grip (courtesy all-wheel-drive and sticky Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres) and almost zero body roll make it a most joyful dance partner.

Yeah, you've got to spend a whole lot more money to garage a car that corners as flat as this. It's mouth-droppingly impressive. So while most rivals will escape your sights down the straights, you'll be the one smiling when the road starts to squiggle and switchback - especially if you've got a bit of talent behind the wheel. Almost at complete odds with its cornering prowess the WRX never feels uncomfortable across uneven surfaces.

Firm, yes, but never crashy or uncontrolled, which is quite a feat. Finally, braking performance deserves a mention: those special Jurid brake pads ensuring firm and progressive pedal feel during bouts of spirited street driving. They're nicely resistant to fade too, which inspires even more confidence in this machine's tremendous dynamic talents.

Let's address the elephant in the room - how's that CVT gearbox?

Awful. The Lineartronic transmission is fine in a humdrum Forester or XV but it has no business being in a WRX for the following reasons. One, it makes a terrible droning noise. Two, it actually makes the car slower. Three, it makes the car drink more fuel. Four, it makes the car slower to react to throttle inputs and, five, it worsens the already noticeable effects of turbo-lag. Luckily you don't have to have it.

For a whopping R50,000 less you can bag yourself a Subaru WRX with a manual gearbox, which, at R581,400, makes it both a viable and interesting alternative to members of the now predictable hot-hatch brat pack. Particularly if you favour your driving thrills served where it really matters: through corners.

Fast Facts: Subaru WRX CVT

Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder boxer turbo

Power: 197kW at 5,600rpm

Torque: 350Nm at 2,400rpm

Transmission: CVT

0-100km/h: 6.3-seconds (claimed)

Top speed: 240km/h (claimed)

Fuel: 14.8l/100km (achieved)

CO2: 199g/km

Price: From R631 400