Most people would find no reason to buy a WRX STI over the WRX. For starters, the latter features the newer FA20 engine over the old, and not mention aging EJ-series engine. On top of that, the WRX is around half a million pesos cheaper too. It's not like you can easily distinguish one from the other either; both cars share the same body albeit with minor design changes inside and out.
Now, I am not talking you out of buying a WRX STI if you want to. In fact, the WRX STI continues to be a hot-selling model for Motor Image Pilipinas. This is despite the WRX looking like the more logical choice to buy. Odds are, you will likely see as much of them as there are WRXs on the streets today.
After getting our hands on the 2019 WRX 2.0 MT earlier this year, we wanted to see just how much more car you'll get with updated 2020 WRX STI. While they may look similar on the outside, the WRX STI is a completely different animal compared to the WRX.
But before I get ahead of myself, perhaps we should take a closer look at this 2020 WRX STI.
To clear things up, the 2020 WRX STI is not an all-new model. It is still based on the updated WRX STI launched in 2017 which brought about minor styling changes both inside and out. If you're wondering what it looks like, we also reviewed that specific model last year in Premium trim. But for today, we’re looking at the WRX STI in standard guise which comes with new tech and goodies.
Despite being a facelifted model, the design changes over the pre-facelift model are not so obvious. The body lines on the side and rear are still the same as when it was first launched in 2014. That said, the wider fenders and wider track continue to give it an aggressive and sporty look. Most of the changes to the updated model can be seen on the front bumper, which now feature larger intake vents and new blacked-out trim pieces. In order to distinguish the WRX STI from the WRX, the former does come with fog lights. As this is the non-Premium variant, you do get the signature STI rear wing.
Like the exterior, the cabin itself remains largely unchanged. If you've been inside the pre-facelift WRX STI, you’ll still be greeted by the same dashboard, controls, and sport seats. There are some new trim pieces, and the rearranged steering wheel controls are a welcoming update. My favorite update, however, would be the new touchscreen infotainment system. The new head unit now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard; very useful features to have in any car.
Since it isn’t the Premium variant, you do lose out on the upgraded speakers and upscale trims. Unless you happen to be an audiophile, you won’t really notice though. The ones equipped on the standard WRX STI are already good as it is. In place of the better sound system, you do get a sunroof – a feature previously offered only on the Premium variant.
But the biggest, and probably most important upgrade on the 2019 WRX STI would have to be the new front camera. No, it’s not the same as having Subaru’s EyeSight system. Instead, it gives you an idea as to how close you are to the vehicle or object in front of you with the push of a button. Those who have a hard time seeing over the large hood scoop will definitely appreciate this new piece of tech.
Powering the WRX STI is the ever-reliable turbocharged 2.5-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine – more popularly known as the EJ25. Like before, it continues to make 300 PS and 407 Nm of torque. No CVT or automatic transmissions here, as it is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission. This being a Subaru, all-wheel drive is standard. But, you can adjust the center differential in order to suit various driving needs.
Start it up, and you’ll be greeted by the signature rumble that the WRX STI has been known for. Interestingly, it sounds a bit louder than the pre-facelift model. To some, the louder exhaust might be annoying, but most would probably find it very welcoming. Setting off, the clutch is a bit on the heavy side. After a few minutes of driving, you will eventually get used to the weight. Going through the gears, the shifter feels good and has a short throw, allowing for fast upshifts and downshifts.
Daily driving the WRX STI is possible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The ride is on the stiff side, and your passengers may find it downright harsh when you're driving through Metro Manila’s pothole-filled roads. There’s also the heavy clutch which is quite difficult to use especially in slow moving traffic. The lack of an electronic power steering also makes it a bit heavy. In short, you might feel tired after braving rush hour traffic in the WRX STI.
Bring it up the twisty mountain roads and long provincial highways, and the magic of the WRX STI comes alive. Driving a bit spiritedly, you have the power to easily overtake slow moving traffic. All-wheel drive gives you a ton of grip, which gives you more confidence to have fun. Meanwhile, the non-electric steering gives you a lot of feedback on the road. I like how Subaru gave the new model a quicker steering ratio as well, allowing for sharper turn-in.
As for the engine, there is some lag in the lower RPM range, but any boosted engine has some form of that. Once you get to 3,000 RPM though, the turbo kicks in and the car slightly pulls you back into your seats. Keep your foot planted, and you can easily hit the speed limit (and more) within a few seconds. You won’t be too worried about going fast too. The large Brembo brakes can easily stop you in a dime.
To say that the WRX STI gives you an adrenaline rush every time you drive it would be an understatement. The rumbling boxer sound alone makes you want to drive hard all the time. Well, if you do plan on redlining every single gear, be prepared to gas up often. On the expressway, I managed to average around 11km/L with easy driving. However, in the city, I only managed to average to do around 5km/L. Even without traffic, this significantly dropped when I went on a spirited drive up the mountains.
At Php 2,648,000, the 2019 WRX STI is one of the most affordable ways of getting a performance vehicle with 300 horsepower on tap. At the same time, it is also a bit practical since it has four doors, a respectable trunk space, and loads of creature comfort. Not to mention this 2019 model also gets upgraded tech. There are also loads of aftermarket performance parts available, allowing you to build the car as you see fit.
Sure, the WRX has power and looks to match, but the WRX STI has a lot more character, presence, and driving feel. And those three reasons alone are enough reason to make it better than the WRX. On top of that, this could be your last chance of buying an EJ-powered WRX STI. Subaru Japan has already announced the WRX STI Final Edition, which means we will soon be saying goodbye to the EJ-powered WRX STI as we know it.