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Here’s Why My Search for a Daily Driver Ended With a Subaru WRX

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

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve had my 2015 WRX Limited since July 2014.  I like it, but probably will go back to VW because the interior of my WRX is cheap. It’s fun to drive but I wish I would have gone the Golf R route myself. My previous car was a 2003 Jetta GLI and it was more fun and had a better transmission.

  2. Welcome to the crew, Justin!!   There are definitely worse fun-to-drive-yet-still-big-enough-for-family-duty cars than a WRX!  ….An ex-police Interceptor comes to mind… actually, that might not be a good example…

  3. You obviously don’t know much about the mk7 gti or I’m assuming you didn’t drive one. The said power numbers is actually what it lays at the wheels. I own one, with stage 2 tune & downpipe it makes 330whp & 390 wtq!  You will spend mucho dollars making your wrx do that. It’s by far the best all around quality vehicle I’ve ever owned!  There’s a reason all tabloids rave about it. 

    • The factory power numbers are certainly at the crank and not the wheels – no factory specifies numbers at the wheels – it just so happens the cars seem to be underrated by a decent amount.
      Tabloids?

      390 wheel torque, so the car is making 435ftlbs, to the Front Wheels…No Thanks.

      I do agree though, I would prefer current GTI over current WRX
    • I’m not a math expert, but assuming that’s WHP, and adding back in the usual 15% drivetrain loss, you’re only bumping that 210/220 hp output up another 30’ish HP.  Still below a stock WRX. 

      And stock vs. modded is never a fair comparison, I’d want to keep that VW warranty if I were him.

  4. Bought a 2013 BRZ in Feb 2013 – at the time I was married with two young children and a baby that was 3 months old…yes, new family of 5 with a car that seats 4.

    It has been challenging at times as my daily for the past 5 years (my wife can’t even drive it due to being a manual), my kids are now 11, 8, 5 and the backseat is becoming challenging.  We obviously can’t go anywhere as a family (my wife has always had a 3 row SUV, so we just take that vs my car), but I work from home, I can see the school from my house where I drop the kids in the morning (so no long rides).
    I have thought about replacing it many times, but every time I go to a dealer and drive something new, more powerful, w/ a nicer interior and w/ actual back seats I get in my car on the way home and none of them can match the driving experience.  I just love my car and the thought of dropping $40K on a new car when this one is beloved and paid off is a tough pill to swallow.
    Enjoy the WRX!  I’ve tried all the cars you mentioned including the Golf R, Focus RS, Audi S3 I just can’t do it yet 😉
    • I am in a very similar position as you. I have an ’07 manual G35 coupe. Wife can’t drive it, its a PITA to get my 11-month son in and out of the back seat but 99% of the time I just drive him the mile to daycare and back in it. I’ve owned it for almost 10 years and don’t want to give it up (or make car payments). I’ve been causally shopping cars for almost a year now and haven’t changed my mindset at all yet. 

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