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2015 Subaru WRX CVT review

Isaac Bober’s 2015 Subaru WRX CVT review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

In a nutshell New Subaru WRX comes as a sedan only and, for the first time in 10 years, gets an auto option. Chassis improvements mean better ride and handling.

Practical Motoring says It’s hard not to be impressed by the 2015 Subaru WRX, especially with the entry model costing less than its predecessor. It offers a more refined, mature and slightly roomier cabin, and the firmer suspension and vice-like grip put this new car a leap-ahead of its predecessor and mark it as one of the most exciting releases of the year.

SUBARU MIGHT PREFER TO hang its hat on its all-wheel drive crossover models, like the Outback and XV, but it’s the WRX that’s undoubtedly the brand’s hero car. That said, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the proclaimed giant-killer.

It’s worn a variety of faces, not all of them flattering and, after Subaru’s exit from the World Rally Championship in 2008, it lost a little of its lustre. But the cult superstar is back and looking better than it has for a long time and, for the first time in 10 years, with an automatic transmission (read CVT) which is the model we’re testing. Indeed, Subaru is predicting around less than a third of WRXs purchased in Australia will have a CVT and, after driving it, we reckon that figure will be higher, but more on that later.

The new, sharp creased, squared-off WRX offers a stiffer structure than its predecessor, with torsional rigidity and bending rigidity up by 40% and 30%, respectively. Lateral stiffness has been improved by 14% and spring rates, front to back, are up by more than 39%, the front stabiliser bar is thicker (up from 21mm to 24mm), resulting in a much sharper machine.

The new Subaru WRX

Under the bonnet is Subaru’s proven FA-series engine which in various states does service in the Forester XT and also, non-turbocharged, in the BRZ and Toyota 86. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged Boxer engine produces 197kW (at 5600rpm) and 350Nm of torque between 2400-5200rpm. This is run through, as standard, a six-speed manual transmission, or a cost-optional CVT (continuously variable transmission). Fuel consumption is 8.6L/100km (CVT) and 9.2L/100km (manual) and it’s able to drink 95RON unleaded.

While I’m yet to drive the manual WRX, although our Paul Murrell did at the local launch, I’d have to say that the manual variant would have to be exceptional to be better in everyday driving situations than the CVT-equipped version. Sure, the six-speed manual is probably more suited to the rally-inspired nature of the WRX, but the CVT is incredibly smooth and, besides a slight pause when you stand on the throttle (endemic of CVT), almost faultless.

The new Subaru WRX is back to form

And that’s because Subaru has worked hard to ensure the CVT behaves more like a conventional automatic, stepping through preset ratios rather than locking onto a particular rpm and then droning horribly under full-force acceleration.

The stiffer body and higher spring rates are felt the moment you trundle off down the road but the dampers keep everything nicely under control. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest this is the best riding and handling WRX ever and possibly the best riding and handling performance car in its segment, so you can ignore what you read elsewhere about the thing jostling across broken surfaces. It doesn’t, and given my daily commute takes in some of the worst road works being carried out in New South Wales, I reckon I should know.

The new WRX utterly refuses to dive or pitch under either hard brakes or hard acceleration, turns in beautifully and shows on-the-limit resistance to understeer. And that’s something you haven’t been able to say about the WRX in the past – indeed, the new WRX CVT offers a handling balance that’s lacking in some of its front-drive rivals.

While electric power steering systems can be a little ho-hum, Subaru has tuned the WRX system to perfection with impressive accuracy and speed, and enough weight and feedback through the wheel to satisfy even the most sporting of drivers.

2015 subaru wrx interior

Despite the wheelbase increase of 25mm to 2650mm, the new WRX is exactly the same length as its predecessor, although it’s 15mm wider at 1490mm. There’s also an extra 40 litres of bootspace, increased to 460 litres with the 60:40 split-fold seats in place. These changes make for a roomier interior, although getting child seats to sit tightly against the seat base and back is tricky (more in our full road test next week).

Interior quality is greatly improved in the new WRX and the hard plastic that is still used is largely hidden away in areas you’ll rarely touch. That said, my one enduring gripe is the sat-nav unit, the buttons are far too small to use easily and the quality of the map rendering is poor indeed.

There are two trim levels available for the WRX, plain old WRX which is priced from $38,990 (+ORC), or $1000 less than its predecessor, and the WRX Premium which we tested and lists from $43,990 (+ORC). The WRX offers driving lights, 17-inch alloys (space saver spare), rear spoiler, self-levelling LED headlights with auto off, flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports bucket seats for the driver and passenger, reversing camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming and more. Step up to the WRX Premium and you get an electric sunroof, leather seats, eight-way power adjust driver seat, rain-sensing wipers, in-dash sat-nav with Bluetooth and audio streaming.

Like the rest of the Subaru range, the WRX receives a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, receiving the highest score for any Subaru product (35.85/37). Other active and passive safety features include, all-wheel drive, seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag which is new to WRX), brake assist and brake override, reversing camera, traction and stability control.

Subaru WRX CVT Premium

Pricing $43,990 (+ORC) Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Boxer engine petrol Power/Torque 197kW/350Nm Transmission six-speed manual; CVT Body 4595mm (L); 1795mm (W); 1475mm (H) Weight 1504kg (manual) 1562kg (CVT)

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober