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Road Test and Review - 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
May 13, 2013
7 min. Reading Time

Each generation of young gearheads has a car that they dream about buying the day they finally save up enough money to own a ride of their own.  Something fast, something stylish, but most importantly, something attainable.  For those who are into muscle, for the past few decades this vehicle has been the Ford Mustang, while those who prefer sport compact scene have lusted over cars like the Honda Civic Si.

Until recently, that is.  While the Mustang is still stirring hearts, the Civic Si has lost some of its mojo and found itself taking a backseat to a turbocharged pocket rockets like the 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX.  The Impreza WRX - along with a rag-tag gang of ruffians like the Volkswagen GTI, the Mazda MAZDASPEED3, and the new Ford Focus ST - has turned up the volume when it comes to power and technology, offering the kind of performance that would have seemed unthinkable in a $25,000 automobile only ten years ago.  What's more, with its practical sedan and hatchback body styles, the Subaru Impreza WRX has been able to expand past the youth market and tap into an older demographic appreciative of its fun-to-drive character and its ability to sub-in as a commuter car when not teaching lessons at the local road course.

2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Models and Prices

The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan starts out at a base MSRP of $25,795.  For your money, the Impreza WRX Sedan gives you features such as a USB port for its six-speaker stereo system, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate control, 17-inch rims wrapped in performance rubber, leather for the steering wheel and shift knob, and a trip computer.  Stepping up to the WRX Premium (MSRP $28,295) adds fog lights, a moonroof, seat heaters for forward occupants, while the WRX Limited (MSRP $29,295) ups the premium quotient via HID headlights and leather seats.  The Impreza WRX can also be ordered in STI trim, which for the purposes of this review is considered as a different model.

The vehicle I drove for a week was a base Canadian-market Impreza WRX.  For all intents and purposes this model is identical to the U.S. edition, with a few minor changes such as standard heated seats.  My zero-option car retailed for the sticker price of $25,795.


2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Design

  • The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan carries over from the previous year.

One of the best things to ever happen to the Subaru Impreza WRX occurred last year when all versions of the car were given the STI's widebody styling treatment.  While this effectively eliminated whatever sleeper effect the somewhat plain sedan might have once enjoyed, it significantly turned up the visual appeal of the compact car by way of its bulging fenders, rear air splitter, quad exhaust tips, aggressive front bumper, and prominent hood scoop.  The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX looks like it's ready to beat you up, steal your homework, and then win a couple of rally stages, all in the same weekend.  This is definitely an appealing image for the car to project - not just for me, but for the thousands of fans that have been drawn to the WRX thanks to its World Rally Championship heritage.

The interior design of the 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan is considerably more subdued, with none of the glamorous tech of competitors like the Focus ST or the high end trappings of the VW GTI.  That being said, it's entirely appropriate to the automobile, and at no point did I feel like I was being shortchanged by the car's cabin.  In fact, the relative austerity of the WRX only added to the car's no-frills performance personality, and helped me sink deeper into the fantasy that I was on my way to a tree-lined gravel stage somewhere in the Finnish wilderness.  My one complaint:  the car's interior rear deck slopes up to meet the back glass, narrowing the field of view and making it difficult to judge where the car's corners are when reversing the sedan.


2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Comfort and Cargo

  • The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan carries over from the previous year.

The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX features well-engineered seats that not only do a good job of handling the ergonomic needs of longer drives, but also serve to provide the kind of race-ready corner support that is appropriate for a performance car.  The deep front buckets, which come with a headrest cutout intended for mounting additional safety restraints, are perfectly suited for preventing driver and passenger from sliding side-to-side during particularly aggressive maneuvers.  The back seats are more than adequate for hauling adult passengers, and a tall roofline ensures plenty of headroom front and rear.

The Subaru Impreza WRX sedan's trunk features 11.3 cubic feet of cargo space, but it's not distributed in a traditional fashion.  Remember the oddly-sloping rear deck that I mentioned earlier?  It turns out that this design is intended to add a bit of extra storage room behind the seatback, but you'll have to keep in mind that this area of the trunk is unusually angled and narrows towards the front when loading up.


2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Features and Controls

  • The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan carries over from the previous year.

The base model 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX comes with very little outside of what one would consider essentials on a modern automobile.  Cruise control, power windows and door locks, and automatic climate control essentially round out the list of included equipment, along with a basic stereo system.  Its simple line-of-text display on the unit wasn't able to guide me through the steps needed to setup my Bluetooth phone, but I did enjoy the ability to play music via USB during my time with the car.

Although higher trim levels add the availability of a navigation system, it's important to realize that this generation of the Impreza WRX isn't intended to compete against much-better-equipped models from Ford, Mazda, or Volkswagen in terms of gadgets, gizmos, and the other assorted detritus of driver distraction.  If you aren't comfortable with Subaru's mindset when it comes to the WRX's features list - all of the necessities, with a few (moonroof) perks - then you might want to investigate other options.



2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Safety and Ratings

  • The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan carries over from the previous year.

The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan features front side airbags, dual forward airbags, and side curtain airbags as standard equipment.  Anti-lock brakes, a hill-hold assist feature, and electronic traction control and stability control are also included free of charge with the Impreza WRX.

2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Crash-Test Ratings: The Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan scored 'Good' in its IIHS crash protection evaluation, and in NHTSA crash testing it received a four-star rating in all three major safety tests.


2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

  • The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan carries over from the previous year.

The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX comes exclusively with a 2.5-liter, horizontally-opposed ('boxer') four-cylinder engine under the hood.  Thanks to the efforts of a turbocharger, this unit produces 265 horsepower and 244 lb-ft of torque, which, coupled with the sedan's all-wheel drive system, are enough to propel the WRX to 60-mph in just under five seconds.  A five-speed manual transmission handles the shifting duties for the compact car.

The Achilles heel of the Impreza WRX is, predictably, its fuel economy.  All-wheel drive's presence makes itself known when it's time to fill up, particularly when coupled with the aggressive gearing found in the Subaru, and the small car achieves a mediocre EPA rating of 19-mpg in stop and go driving and 25-mpg on the highway.


2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Driving Impressions

The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan is in its final year of production prior to being replaced by an all-new model, which is both a good thing and a bad thing for fans of the turbocharged automobile.  Moving to a new design will of course allow Subaru to introduce all sorts of high tech goodies both under the hood and under the car's skin - much like it has done with the recently-revised Forester - but in a way it's regretful because with the 2012 and 2013 editions of the car the company's engineers finally ironed out all of the wrinkles that had previously held back the Impreza WRX.  This 'ultimate' version of the compact performance car is by far the best of the breed, which is really saying something when considering just how much development effort the Japanese automaker put into the WRX during its ten years on the North American market.

It all starts with the drivetrain, where the four-cylinder engine displays almost no trace of the sub-3,000 rpm dead zone that used to plague both 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter versions of the car.  The retuned Impreza WRX introduces a new word to the car's power deliver - smooth - that had never been previously applicable, and the result is a sedan that isn’t just fun to drive when being revved to within an inch of its life, but one that also handles the daily grind without feeling like it's lugging a load of bricks around through heavy traffic.

Moving past the daily drivability of the 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX, the automobile also boasts fearsome performance potential in stock form.  The surge of power that occurs when flogging the car into the upper limits of its tachometer is no longer delivered as abruptly as it once was, which means I had much more confidence in the WRX when knocking down a gear to burst past slower traffic.  The horses under the sedan's hood respond that much more reliably to the crack of your right foot's whip, rounding off the rougher edges found on past iterations of this particular engine.

An important part of any performance car's driver/vehicle interface is the manual shifter, and in this regard the WRX doesn't show nearly as much polish.  Although better than earlier efforts, the five-speed's throws are still longer and less precise than I would like - a common trait amongst Subaru gearboxes that haven't quite caught up with the refinement found in the brand's engine bays.  I also had to fight to put the car into reverse, which might have indicated worn synchros on my tester.

Returning to the plus column, the 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX deserves to be lauded for its surprisingly communicative chassis.  The numbness that plagues the car's shifter is nowhere to be found in its steering, with much more feedback provided than one would expect from an all-wheel drive model.  Grip was fantastic, although it's necessary to turn off the traction control system so as not to bog the car down on the one-two shift at speed.  I was impressed by the Impreza WRX's willingness to turn-in to a corner, and its stability from entry to apex to exit lacked any taint of troubling understeer.  The car also displays none of the harshness one might expect from a stiff-legged track star, with potholes and assorted paving mistakes absorbed with relatively little kafuffle by the WRX's shocks and springs.  This is an important consideration for anyone pulling dual duty in a sports car, as how a vehicle drives when it's not turning laps is typically a more effective selling tool than performance alone.


2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Final Thoughts

The 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan is a fitting monument to what the automaker has been able to accomplish using the relatively pedestrian Impreza platform as its base.  With the upcoming WRX redesign car promising to incorporate more technology and forge a unique identity for the model, divorced as much as possible from its Impreza roots, the 2013 edition of the car serves as a final testament to just how far an economy-minded chassis can be tweaked in order to satisfy salivating rally fans looking for an at-home drift fix. 

The Subaru Impreza WRX is an automobile that reaches out beyond its core Northern buyer base and offers just as much fun and practicality in the dry as it does in the snow.  If you can swallow the fuel costs, and don't mind doing without the latest and greatest driver entertainment features, the WRX is a strong candidate for a commuter that can dance with much pricier models should the checkered flag call out the tune.


2013 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan Review: Pros and Cons


  • Excellent turbocharged power
  • Relentless all-wheel drive grip
  • Affordable pricing
  • Refined enough for daily driving as well as track duty


  • Interior features are sparse
  • Shifter could be more precise
  • Fuel mileage is not competitive


Subaru Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.



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