Save The Manuals
The Subaru WRX is one of the most affordable sports sedans on the market, offering plenty of horsepower and performance at a price tag that starts a little under P2 million. You may be surprised then to find out that the WRX one of Subaru’s strong sellers in our country–something that’s quite unusual for a performance-oriented machine. As such, Subaru has given it a few updates for the 2019 model year. However, it’s most major update is this, the Subaru WRX MT. Yes, the manual is back in Subaru’s iconic sports sedan.
As far as looks go, they largely remain the same since its last update for the 2018 model year. It’s starting to look a little dated at this point, but it still looks pretty sharp and sporty nonetheless. There’s a set of black alloy wheels, quad exhaust tips, side vents, and a rear diffuser. This variant we have here isn’t flaunting any light-emitting diodes up front. Instead, it gets rudimentary halogen headlights. That’s the sacrifice you’re paying when opting for a more engaging transmission.
Interior upgrades are limited but appreciated, the most noticeable of which is the new Starlink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Everywhere else, the plastics are soft on the dashboard and the top of the doors, but compared to the rest of the Subaru line-up, the WRX’s interior isn’t as upmarket as its latest models. Still, ergonomics are top-notch and as always with a Subaru, visibility is excellent all around.
Let’s dive deeper into the WRX’s new Starlink infotainment system, which improves upon the pre-2019 WRX’s infotainment system. It’s more responsive and offers a greater range of functionality. With this new infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard. In conjunction with Starlink is the WRX’s multi-information display mounted on top of the dash, which can showcase various information, including a boost gauge for the turbo.
Costing P128,000 less than the CVT variant, this Subaru WRX MT had to make a couple of sacrifices in terms of features. This includes the loss of passive entry with push-button start, swiveling automatic LED headlights, forward-facing camera for use in blind junctions, leather upholstery, and power-adjustable driver’s seat. Of course, being a manual, EyeSight wouldn’t work very well here in practice, which is why the WRX does not have any form of advanced driver safety and convenience features. If you still want all those features for a little less driver engagement, you can still stick to the CVT variant, in which I wouldn’t blame you because #manilatraffic.
Whichever variant or transmission you choose gets Subaru’s FA20 4-cylinder boxer engine with turbocharging and direct injection, producing 268 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 350 Nm of torque @ 2,400 to 5,200 rpm. It’s basically the same engine from the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, albeit turbocharged. Of course, in typical Subaru fashion, all the power goes through all four wheels.
Take it out into the open road, and the Subaru WRX MT truly lives up to its iconic status. The 6-speed manual makes it more engaging to drive than its CVT-equipped sibling, though the cable-style shifter often feels vague and not as engaging as the STI’s and BRZ’s. The engine’s peak torque kicks in as low as 2,400 rpm so you don’t need to downshift that much when overtaking slower vehicles. Also, the engine note permeates well into the cabin, echoing that distinct boxer rumble that really livens up the experience. The precise, accurate steering that offers plenty of feedback from the road just adds to the already engaging experience, letting you know what’s happening with the front tires.
Now as for handling, there’s no denying the advantages that the WRX’s Symmetrical AWD system provides. It claws on to the road with ease, rotating quickly in a corner with no slip. By default, the AWD system splits power 50/50 for the front/rear wheels, but the system has the ability to send all the power to the rear wheels if needed.
Now, because the WRX (along with the WRX STI) is still utilizing the fourth-generation Impreza’s platform that came out in 2011, it doesn’t provide the same level of rigidity and refinement that the new Subaru Global Platform offers. Road noise is prevalent, especially at highway speeds, plus the body shakes and rattles when going through very rough pavement. Though it must be noted that its rough nature gives the WRX a bit of character–one that die-hard Subaru fans often look for in the WRX and WRX STI.
With this level of driver engagement and performance, you don’t expect fuel economy to be a priority when driving this car. Still, I was able to achieve 8.3 km/l after using the car for a full week, which is quite good considering the amount of performance this car has. Granted, I do not live in Metro Manila so the perks of having traffic only during rush hour enable me to give slightly better fuel economy figures than others.
Having said all these, there are a few situations where the WRX MT is a bit better than the STI at least in my experience. The WRX’s meatier torque band in the lower RPMs means the engine’s more usable in daily driving situations, while its lighter clutch engagement makes it friendlier during stop-and-go traffic. Also, its suspension is less stiff, making it a better long-distance cruiser.
Of course, being a Subaru WRX, it still has to do sedan duties, such as ferrying people and stuff. In that regard, the WRX is still quite good. Rear seat space is good for three adults thanks to a good amount of legroom and headroom. Trunk space is big enough for most needs, but if this still isn’t enough for you, then we recommend getting the Subaru Levorg, which is essentially a wagon version of the WRX.
In a world where tall SUVs and hatchbacks trying to be SUVs are what’s popular these days, we’re glad the Subaru WRX MT exists. Sure, the WRX may be getting quite long in the tooth, but there’s just nothing quite like it at its price point. With our horrendous traffic, the manual variant won’t be a volume seller. Yet, despite all odds, Subaru is keeping the traditional manual alive amidst a world brought by electrification and autonomous driving.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.3 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.