2022 Subaru WRX RS manual review

  • Doors and Seats


    4 doors, 5 seats

  • Engine


    2.4T, 4 cyl.

  • Engine Power


    202kW, 350Nm

  • Fuel


    Petrol (95) 9.9L/100KM

  • Manufacturer



  • Transmission


    6 Spd Manual

  • Warranty


    5 Yr, Unltd KMs

  • Ancap Safety




Trent Nikolic

For many of you reading this review, a manual Subaru WRX was – if not iconic – an aspirational car. Time, technology and the expectations of buyers might have softened some of the Subaru’s edges, but Trent Nikolic finds out if it still appeals to the base instinct of the sporting driver.

  • Engine loves to work hard
  • All-round balance is exceptional
  • Manual gearbox is very competent

  • Not as hard-edged as we would like
  • Some key safety spec missing from manual model
  • Exhaust note could be more raucous

I’ll own up right here and now. I went into this test a little concerned by the plastic cladding that now adorns the 2022 Subaru WRX, and styling that in photos at least looked a little awkward to me.

Perhaps confounded by the glory days of WRX v Lancer Evo punch-ups, the brave new world of ‘SUV-like’ styling was a little concerning to my nostalgic eye. And yet, in the flesh, the new WRX looks good. Really good, in fact. And the cladding seems to work.

I’m not even sure I can explain why it works. It just does. According to Subaru, the cladding works as an aero aid, and in a segment that was once drowning in wings and air dams, it makes sense to support aero efficiency doesn’t it? Let us know what you think of the styling in the comments section below.

Crucially, the hallmark features of the good old days of WRX design remain present and accounted for. The guards look suitably pumped, the relationship of wheel and tyre to wheel arch is right, and the front end looks like it’s been styled as much on form as it has function. Serious air dams look like they feed into the turbocharged engine lurking beneath the bonnet.

You can choose from two body styles – either sedan or wagon, with four trim grades. Those being base, RS sedan, GT wagon and tS. There is also the choice of either manual or CVT. On test here, we have the 2022 Subaru WRX RS with a manual transmission. On paper, it looks like the pick of the range to me.

Starting from $50,490 before on-road costs, our test car has no options and is still within reach of plenty of fans thanks to its sharpish asking price. Let’s delve into the nuts and bolts of the new WRX.

Subaru has done a commendable job of delivering a sporty cabin that doesn’t look silly. That’s not as easy as it sounds to do either.

The seats, the sculpting of them, the red stitching, and the general ambience of the cabin all feature just the right amount of sporting intent. Front seats and the rear outboard seats are heated too.

While it’s fair to say this isn’t a high-end cabin in a true luxury sense, I’m not sure that’s the point either. The WRX might have grown up in a number of ways, but the cabin is still more sporty than it is luxurious, and I reckon that’s a good thing.

If you want cosseted luxury in other words, apply elsewhere. It’s still quiet and insulated in the cabin in any case.

There’s enough storage in play for the WRX to be useful too – a decent centre bin, two cupholders, bottle holders in the door, and a storage area for phones near the shifter as well. Visibility for driver and passenger is excellent, and we found it easy to get set up behind the wheel, with broad visibility all around for the driver. Our tester also has a sunroof standard, as all but the base model do.

The second row has space and visibility that belies the physical size of the WRX. This is an important factor for family buyers or one-car families.

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The WRX is longer, wider and has an increased wheelbase compared to the old model, and much of that added room is felt in the second row. Sedans get a 60:40 split-fold rear seat with boot space of 411L, and there’s a temporary spare under the boot floor.

While it’s not trying to be anything that it isn’t, the WRX’s cabin doesn’t feel cheap or downgraded either. It’s comfortable, fit and finished nicely, and remains so even after long periods behind the wheel.

2022 Subaru WRX RS manual
Boot volume411L seats up

Infotainment and Connectivity

The driver gets clear analogue dials, which sit either side of a small display screen that the driver can toggle through to suit. The driver’s display won’t match the highest of the high-end in modern terms, but what Subaru has gone for works, and works well.

Central to the interaction between car and driver/passenger is the 11.6-inch touchscreen situated in portrait mode. Given the amount of time we spend staring into our smartphones, this screen layout actually works really well.

You get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the former working faultlessly for us on test. There’s no wireless smartphone connection, but I’d rather a wired connection that works. There are two USB ports up front.

You also get proprietary satellite navigation, standard across the range save for the base models, and the system in our RS tester worked nicely. RS also gets a premium 10-speaker Harman Kardon system that sounds punchy and delivers a quality sound stage for audiophiles. DAB+ is also standard and worked everywhere aside from right out on the fringe of the city.

I like the operation of the touchscreen and found it to be responsive to inputs and quick to work too. The icon-based layout looks familiar to what we’re used to with smartphones, and it’s all pretty easy to work out too. While most of you will use the smartphone mirroring – as we do – the onboard satellite navigation worked well for us on test.

In the second row, there are two further USB ports, ensuring the kids can keep their devices running on long road trips.

The new WRX is currently untested by ANCAP, but we presume it will be, so stay tuned for any update on that score when it becomes available. Interestingly, for a brand that hangs its hat on safety, there is some crucial safety tech that isn’t standard on this manual model we’ve tested. We write ‘interestingly’ because that tech is available with an automatic transmission.

Safety technologies that are standard across the range regardless of transmission include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. There’s also a clear and broad rear-view camera with quality resolution as standard equipment. As for what the manual WRX misses out on?

Extra advanced safety technology such as autonomous emergency braking, autonomous emergency steering, a host of lane functions including lane-centring, lane-departure warning and prevention, as well as adaptive cruise control, and speed sign recognition, are all missing from the specification sheet for this model.

It’s not going to be a deal-breaker for plenty of buyers in this segment, but it’s a point we have to note. Subaru tells us it’s working on incorporating some of that tech into manual models, and autonomous emergency braking is going to be mandatory by 2023 in Australia.

The WRX gets eight airbags to cover both rows of occupants, and those of you with babies will note two ISOFIX mounts on the outboard rear seats.

The WRX RS, even with a manual transmission also adds a driver monitoring system that can detect the driver via facial recognition, as well as offering distraction and drowsiness warnings.

2022 Subaru WRX RS manual
ANCAP ratingUntested

On face value, arguing the point of dollar value is a tough one. There have always been small cars that can do what the WRX does – in terms of getting from A to B – for less money. However, what can you really compare it to? An all-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf R? A four-door Hyundai i30 Sedan N? Comparisons are tough to line up. Therefore, in terms of bang for your buck, the WRX remains strong.

Beyond its purchase price, you get a five-year warranty, and the servicing costs over three or five years are justifiable for a performance vehicle.

At a glance2022 Subaru WRX RS manual
WarrantyFive years / unlimited km
Service intervals12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs$1266.27 (3 years), $2433.06 (5 years)

It’s not as cheap to run as a Toyota Corolla Hybrid, but then I’d argue that you go into a WRX purchase expecting that from the outset. While the small car class is burgeoning, few actually go head-to-head with the WRX.

As such, its 9.9L/100km claim is acceptable for the performance on offer, and our real-world return of 11.2L/100km also acceptable in what reflects the typical daily drive. If you want ultimate efficiency, you’re going to have to forego the performance.

Fuel UseageFuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed)9.9L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test)11.2L/100km
Fuel type95-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size63L

Remember the good old days of the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ regarding power outputs in Japan? I sure do, and at the time 206kW was the max no matter if you were driving a Honda NSX or an R34 GT-R, let alone something more diminutive.

Sure, the number might have been rubbery in the real world, but buying a WRX in the late ’90s, you could only dream of such lofty power outputs. And yet, here we are in 2022 testing a WRX that generates 202kW and 350Nm from its 2.4-litre boxer four-cylinder engine. How the world has changed.

That said, however, 202kW is not a sky-high number in 2022, so we’re keen to see how the new WRX handles a twisty back-road thrash. Max power comes up at 5600rpm, so in theory you don’t need to rev the engine stupidly hard, and max torque is on offer between 2000rpm and 5250rpm, again nicely in that meaty part of the rev range.

Weighing in just under the 1600kg mark, the WRX should feel reasonably fleet of foot, even if it doesn’t weigh quite as little as it did in the glory days. Time has treated most of us the same way, funnily enough. We’re all a little more portly than we were in the ’90s.

Our tester gets the six-speed manual transmission – the only one to have for mine – and drive is of course sent to all four wheels as per the Subaru WRX brief. As you’ll read in a review of the CVT, the drive systems aren’t identical. Manual sedans use a more conventional system with a viscous limited-slip diff positioned in the middle delivering an even 50:50 front to rear torque split.

Whereas an old WRX was raw, visceral, noisy and high on emotion, there’s no doubting Subaru’s claim that the current model has grown up to meet the demands of modern buyers. According to Subaru, those needs have changed, and the hard edges of the old models wouldn’t cut it in 2022.

That is immediately apparent from behind the wheel, where the WRX is altogether more insulated, refined, and premium-feeling than any of the old models. That’s not to say the experience has been muted, or detracted from, rather the way in which it’s delivered has been refined.

While some of the raw emotion might be gone, the WRX is fast. And effortless at speed, too, a feature of any WRX that we were hoping would remain. Thankfully it has.

That aforementioned mid-range punch is a real feature and the engine feels willing to rev to its redline. In manual guise, you’ll need to keep one eye on the speed limits, because it’s going to be easy to break them with an engine that loves to get to work.

New WRX is capable of putting a silly big grin on your face on a twisty country road, but also rolling around town with ease too. That performance ability is offset by effortless comfort and refinement in town on any surface. It’s solid without being harsh, and feels properly connected to the road beneath you no matter how nasty the surface gets.

A great manual gearbox remains a joy to use, no matter how proficient modern automatics are, and the WRX’s is one of the better gearboxes we’ve tested. It’s precise, easy to shift quickly, and direct. There’s a genuine sensation that the driver is connected to what’s happening around you, something I reckon is crucial for this car. 0–100km/h in 6.0 seconds isn’t tarmac-scorching, but it’s par for the segment course.

One thing that remains unchanged from any previous WRX is the Subaru’s feeling of being bound to the road beneath it. AWD surety brings with it the encouragement to push as hard as you like, on any road surface, wet or dry. It will eventually understeer if you push it past the point of silliness, but you have to be trying pretty hard.

I reckon the WRX’s strongest point is that it remains a driver’s car. That is, it can be driven gently by anyone who feels like a mundane cruise. But it can also be pushed hard by those of you feeling like having a crack. Track days beckon, as does your favourite driving road. That it’s as comfortable and competent as it is around town is a bonus.

Key details2022 Subaru WRX RS manual
Engine2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power202kW @ 5600rpm
Torque350Nm @ 2000–5200rpm
Drive typeAll-wheel drive
TransmissionSix-speed manual
Power to weight ratio133.2kW/t
Turning circle11.2m

The WRX with an automatic gearbox – despite being a CVT – has received plenty of plaudits since launch. Rob Margeit described it as a ‘peach’ in his launch review for Drive. It’s proof that a CVT can actually be good. Who’d have thought? Still, as good as the auto might be, a manual WRX remains, for this tester at least, the pick.

Further, the RS as tested here sits neatly in the middle of the range and positions itself as the smart pick. The WRX isn’t quite the hard-edged, rabble-rouser it once was, but it’s still a bloody good sports sedan. We probably shouldn’t be wearing the rose-tinted spectacles anyway.

Ratings Breakdown

2022 Subaru WRX RS Sedan

8.0/ 10

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Trent Nikolic

Trent Nikolic has been road testing and writing about cars for almost 20 years. He’s been at CarAdvice/Drive since 2014 and has been a motoring editor at the NRMA, Overlander 4WD Magazine, Hot4s and Auto Salon Magazine.

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