When I bought my Subaru BRZ, I was living the bachelor apartment life. Three years later, I found myself married with a house and two stepsons. The BRZ’s back seat is little more than a package shelf, no good for the new duties it was now called upon to carry out. It was time for my daily driver, like me, to grow up. But I wasn’t about to give up having a fun daily driver altogether. I didn’t need too much more space, but rather just enough to cram the kids and their sports equipment in the back.
I’ve been a fan of the Subaru WRX ever since the street version of Subaru’s World Rally Championship car hit American streets in 2002. The WRX, like me, has grown up a great deal since then. After Subaru’s withdrawal from the WRC in 2008, the WRX has morphed into more of an affordable sport sedan for the street rather than the raw earlier version that battled the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution on gravel and tarmac rally stages around the world. This actually made it an even more appropriate choice for my next car than an older version. Had I not been forced to buy a new car during the brief time between the previous and current generation, I might have ended up in a WRX instead of a BRZ from the beginning.
But the WRX has some stiff competition in the affordable sporty compact category. I had the pleasure of driving a Ford Focus ST press car for a week, which left me with an excellent impression. Even the old Focus handled quite well for what it was, and the modern ST variant only improved on it. Its 252 horsepower is close to the WRX’s 268, though delivered only through the front wheels — a definite advantage for the Subaru. Still, despite power being sent only to the front wheels, the Focus ST handled its power well, and I experienced little torque steer. The ride was firm but not harsh, and the back seat had plenty of room for the kids when I picked them up from daycare. Best of all, the rear hatch was far more practical than the WRX, which is now only available as a sedan after Subaru dropped the hatchback version for the current generation.
Of course, no discussion of hatchbacks would be complete without including the original hot hatch, the Volkswagen GTI. Ironically this was the least "hot" of my choices, making only 210 horsepower (or 220 with the Performance Package). But that was still more power than my BRZ, with far more practicality. The GTI had my favorite interior of the three cars. It’s the most comfortable, as well as the best laid out. It also had the most space in the back seat thanks to its flat roof, while both the Focus and WRX sloped down toward the rear, cutting off headroom. I never actually drove a GTI, but I did drive my friend’s Golf R, which is basically a more powerful, all-wheel-drive GTI. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I could extrapolate what taking away some power and the rear drive wheels would be like in a GTI.
If I required a transmission other than a manual, I’d have a GTI in my driveway right now. The WRX offers a CVT that is much slower than the manual version, and the Focus ST is only available as a manual. The VW offers a dual-clutch sequential transmission, combining the best of both the manual and automatic worlds. But since I was set on rowing my own gears, this was not a factor in my decision.
In the end, I bought a lightly used 2015 Subaru WRX. I bought it in spite of it not being a hatchback, which I prefer. I also bought it in spite of it having my least favorite interior of the three cars I considered. It all came down already owning a Subaru BRZ and my local dealer working out a better deal on a WRX than I could find on the other cars to keep me in the Subaru family.
Is the WRX the best car of the three? I’m not sure. What I do know is that the WRX is the best car for me. Its all-wheel-drive is better at squirting into small gaps in Boston area traffic than any 2-wheel-drive car. Subaru’s rally heritage still appeals to me, though I’m fully aware that both Ford and Volkswagen have also had their own share of rally success. Really, I could have been quite happy with a Focus ST or a GTI instead of a WRX. But sometimes there are factors outside of the cars themselves can that tilt the decision one way or the other. Find a Subaru WRX for sale