At The Wheel

Poor Man’s Porsche

Mat Ranasinghe describes an important car in the world of motorsports and rallying

The business, which was headed by Chikuhei Nakajima, started up around 1915 as an aircraft parts manufacturer. Then in 1932, it became known as Nakajima Aircraft Company and was a major manufacturer of aeroplanes for Japan’s World War II efforts.

Following the war, the enterprise produced motorcycles using aeroplane parts. And the Fuji Heavy Industries’ brand Subaru truly began shining after its Legacy Turbo began making its mark on the rallying scene.

Later, it was replaced by the nimbler Impreza WRX (World Rally Experimental) – a compact five seater sedan. In the hands of drivers such as Scotsman Colin McRae and New Zealander Possum Bourne among others, the new WRX went from one victory to another.

Subaru’s subsequent journey had many ups and downs, mostly due to number crunching decisions by bean counters! To understand this better, one must look at what the marque did to the Forester, which was first released as an all-wheel drive turbocharged compact SUV. It later lost the vital turbo and wiped out an entire bloc of enthusiastic owners.

Meanwhile, brands such as Mercedes-Benz (with its GLA 45 and GLC 63) and BMW (offering the X3 M) came up with high-performance variants specifically targeted at enthusiasts.

On the other hand, the WRX has been relatively insulated from these poor decisions. Unfortunately, the 2023 WRX VB has dropped its STI variant.

In terms of styling, we feel the VB is an improvement over the VA series and markedly so compared to the 2007-14 models. The thin elongated headlamps have an interesting cutout integrated with the bumper.

It has a wide-open front scoop set into the hood (sitting atop in earlier generations), allowing a substantial amount of air to be drawn in to cool the top mounted intercooler. The lower section of the front bumper has black plastic trim with integrated foglamps.

On the sides, the WRX has ventilated plastic cladding surrounding its wheel arches – a divisive topic of conversation. At the rear, the new LED lamp clusters are attractive with a crystalline effect on the red areas. There’s a glossy black trim that connects the two tail lamps, which we feel would have looked better with an LED light strip.

A subtle ducktail spoiler indicates that the WRX means business. The bottom of the rear bumper has more of the black plastic cladding with integrated diffusers and a quad exhaust setup.

Stepping into the updated cabin, we see a practical dash layout with redesigned horizontal air vents on either side plus vertical ones flanking a portrait style 11.6 inch multimedia Android Auto/Apple CarPlay touchscreen infotainment system with integrated air conditioning controls.

The black/grey Ultrasuede/leather combination seats look good. And the dash also has some Ultrasuede panels with contrasting red stitching. Higher end models get 12.3 inch digital driver’s instrument clusters while the others have antiquated analogue displays.

There is a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines together with the usual safety features. The manual version misses out on adaptive damping and active cruise control. Boot space is somewhat hampered by a narrow triangular opening. The wagon doesn’t suffer from this shortcoming and boasts a 492-litre boot that expands to 909 litres when the second row of seats is folded.

When we took the WRX for a nice hard run, we realised that it is a car made for drivers – whatever its shortcomings may be. Sure, there was some understeer during hard cornering and perhaps the suspension is a little stiffer than a regular family sedan but we soon forgot about all of that and wore broad grins on our faces. The ride/handling balance is amazing; and as a non-STI version, the suspension is designed for everyday street use.

We recommend the WRX for the family enthusiast buyer who yearns for an exciting drive – and yet, needs the practicality of four doors or the utility of a wagon. It’s our happy place, and it’s not hard to see and feel why!




This is a new generation of Subaru’s legendary WRX for the model year 2023 (MY23). Subaru’s compact sports sedan must live up to its predecessors that were massively successful. It’s the second generation of WRX to be independent of the Impreza nameplate upon which earlier versions were based. We’re unlikely to see the more potent STI variant. Available in either sedan or wagon body styles, it has almost every need covered. Pricing seems to have crept up by a significant amount and the WRX is now priced above the previous generation’s STI..


2.4-litre turbocharged, horizontally opposed petrol 4-cylinder boxer mated to a CVT with eight simulated cogs (Subaru Performance Transmission) or a six-speed manual. No EV drivetrains – although there are rumours of the next STI being hybrid or electric (EV).


9.9 litres/100 kilometres from the CVT and 8.5 litres/100 kilometres from the six-speed manual.


202 kW (271 hp) and 350 Nm.


Symmetrical all-wheel drive (drive from the engine is sent equally to all four wheels). It’s missing the previous STI version’s Driver Control Centre Differential (DCCD) system with adjustable torque split.


While we love how the WRX has grown over the generations, we disagree with the constant formula changes. Don’t forget that Subaru has a steady track record of creating legends… and then killing them!

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