Crashing the compact car market about a year or so late is the 4-door variant of the Impreza WRX. It's got all the wonderful goodies of its hatch sibling, just packaged in sedan clothing. Regardless of what body type you do go with, we are reminded of why in a market such as ours, the Impreza WRX presents a very unique proposition. More on that later.
Exterior-wise, everything happens in the backside, as the differences from that of the hatch can be seen here. The sedan gets a more trapezoidal tail-lamp arrangement that has a predominantly red lens, as opposed to the hatch's more oval clear lens type. On the trunk sits a subtle ducktail spoiler, denoting this model is above the base 2.0R model. Both models of the WRX get twin tail-pipes which we have to dutifully applaud.
Having a proper trunk, the WRX sedan allows for better cargo carrying duties since the hatch is really lacking in this area. Especially with occupants on board, the hatch will be hard-pressed to swallow just a single large Coleman drink cooler. The only advantage in this department would be if the rear seats were folded down in the hatch, since the 2-box set-up can be made to accommodate greater volume inside. Having said this, the WRX sedan still has a pretty diminutive truck space compared to cars in its segment such as the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. A great convenience feature though is the automatic lift button for the trunk found in the key-fob, which will be highly appreciated when exiting the grocery with hands full of shopping bags.
In true-WRX fashion, it's in the performance department where this baby truly impresses. Endowed with the identical 2.5L turbocharged boxer mill as that of the hatch, the WRX sedan punches out 230 PS @ 5200 rpm and 320 N-m @ 3200 rpm. That's enough muscle for a 0-100 km/h dash of 5.8 secs.
City driving has become much more pleasant for the WRX, especially considering that this model comes with a manual gearbox only. Those familiar with the older WRX sedan would attest to the heaviness of the clutch seemingly designed for Olympic weightlifters. Given Manila's less than perfect traffic conditions, you were prone to have a fatigued left leg once you got to your destination.
Proving to be a car not just for stoplight drag races, our time with the WRX was spent mostly in the motorway. And boy was that time well spent! The sedan is simply a joy on long journeys, with that 4-cylinder delivering unimpeded power. There is an apparent artificiality with thrust delivery, because it's hard to fathom such smooth power coming from a relatively small motor. The sweet spot is between 2500 rpm to just below 6000 rpm, where the WRX begins to run out of breath. You don't need to run the motor to the top of its lungs like a Honda Type-R engine, making it more rewarding because the oomph is simply right there.
Very stable and confidence inspiring at highway pace, the WRX sedan was able to reach 220 km/h on the speedo without straining a vocal cord, but we didn't push past that as we were doing this in 5th gear at 6000 rpm. Like we mentioned, there's not much left after this point. For more economical usage, just pop it in 5th gear, keep it at a low 2800 rpm, and the car will happily cruise at 110 km/h, brisk enough while ensuring you won't get ticketed for speeding. Those concerned with the car's thirst for premium petrol should be warned of course. Our stint on the highway and clear country roads delivered an acceptable 7 km/L. But keep that accelerator planted and fuel economy dives to about 5 km/L. Worth mentioning also are the brakes, which deliver superbly when slowing down from triple-digit speed, feeling more like they were culled from more expensive European cars. But some sources say they heat up quickly inside the track, so pad upgrades might be worth looking into for those who frequent track days.
Within the WRX sedan, drivers will find a solid interior. It's not spectacular by any measure, but at least it doesn't feel dirt cheap. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather, while handy controls for various functions can be found here also. The front bucket seats are firmly bolstered, comfortable for long hauls and providing good support for backroad twisties. Room for 5 is definitely adequate. A little more use of leather rather than just fabric would have been great, while equipping the seats with power controls would also be a plus.
We can't help but harp for the U.S. model, which in 2009, got significant revamping due to poor feedback from the year before. Subaru beefed up it's WRX offering in the states by dumping in a bigger turbo, spiking up the boost, and stiffening up the suspension with thicker anti-roll bars and firmer springs. Too bad folks, as our friends over at Motor Image Philippines said we won't be getting that model here.
Regardless, there is still a lot to like with this car. Priced locally at PhP 1,728,000, there is currently no vehicle that can stand toe-to-toe with the WRX sedan given performance and price. Given its natural competitors, which would be those belonging to the compact sedan class, you would typically have the Mitsubishi Lancer EX GT-A (PhP 1,290,000) or Honda Civic 2.0 S-L (PhP 1,100,000) as its rivals. Yes, these cars come out cheaper than the WRX sedan, but they are significantly down on power (both having less than 160 bhp) and excitement (both don't have all-wheel drive). At the same time, the WRX sedan costs significantly less than its premium compact sedan counterparts. Take for instance the benchmark BMW 3-Series. Price of admission begins at PhP 2.7 million, a lot more moolah than the Scooby while not even offering the same level of performance.
So considering the options sports-sedan buyers have locally, the WRX sedan is somewhat in a class all its own. Until cars like the Lancer Ralliart or the Ford Focus ST (if ever) hit our shores, the WRX sedan is pretty much without peers.