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First drive: Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.

First drive: Subaru WRX STI
Subaru's latest WRX STI is an old-school machine that struggles to fit in.

   



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Subaru WRX STI

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No longer badged 'Impreza', now simply the WRX STI, Subaru retains a mad offering in its line-up. With four-wheel drive, 2.5-litre turbocharged boxer power and a £28,995 price tag, its appeal is limited to a few die-hards, but there's still some fun to be had.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Subaru WRX STI
Price: £28,995
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged 'boxer' petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 242g/km (Band L, £485 per year)
Combined economy: 27.2mpg
Top Speed: 159mph
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Power: 300hp at 6,000rpm
Torque 407Nm at 4,200rpm

What's this?

Something of a throwback, albeit revised for 2014. Subaru has a legacy of producing four-wheel drive, turbocharged boxer-engined cars, and the WRX STI is the latest one to fill that exacting brief. Its predecessors were badged Impreza and won countless rallies, though the STI does without the competition heritage and, unquestionably, without such a wide audience for such an uncompromising machine. The WRX STI's high fuel consumption and CO2 emissions count against it, though there's still an enduring appeal for this ludicrously capable machine among a tiny group of die-hard Subaru enthusiasts.

How does it drive?

It's very much like its Impreza predecessors; that's to say it needs a fair bit of dedication to get the best from it. Against more modern mega hatchbacks like Volkswagen's Golf R, the 2.5-litre turbocharged boxer engine's response feels languid, it doing very little until at least 3,000rpm is passed by the rev-counter's needle. Get the boxer engine up there and it's undeniably potent, but it all feels very old school and unsophisticated among more polished, faster reacting rivals.

The steering has a faster rack, the body is stiffer and there have been detail revisions to the suspension, but it never all gels to create a cohesive driving experience. The suspension is busy, if not intrusively so, but you're always aware of its stiffness affecting the ride quality. On top of that, while the steering is direct and quick there's no real feel though the rim. Add that rev-hungry engine and a gearshift that's been changed for length of movement, if not accuracy, and the STI feels like it needs manhandling to get anything like the best from it. That, to some, is arguably part of its appeal, but an STI driver will be concentrating hard and kept very busy to have any hope of hanging onto the tail of something like a Renaultsport 265 Mégane.

If they do, they'll be doing well, and stopping for fuel regularly, as the boxer engine's thirst is prodigious when you wind it up. It'd all be forgivable if the Subaru had moved on in other ways, but the cabin is still a mix of hard, shiny plastics with, admittedly, the occasional concession to soft-touch tactility. The aftermarket-looking double DIN infotainment jars in the dash, and is a fiddly thing to operate too. It all feels like it'd survive the apocalypse though, so if you're one of those conspiracy-believing survivalists with a basement room full of tinned beans the WRX might be for you, but for everyone else it's all very last decade.

Verdict

The WRX STI might have been significantly overhauled for 2014, but it still feels like a relic. It isn't without some charm, but that appeal is limited to a small few. The compromises it comes with can't be ignored or taken as payoff for the outrageous performance. Others match and better it without so much compromise; the WRX STI has stood still while hot and mega hatches have caught up and surpassed it as point-to-point tearaways.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

2 2 2 2 2 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

2 2 2 2 2 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 15 Oct 2014



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2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 

2014 Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.
 






 

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