For those enthusiasts on THIS side of Vermont and New Hampshire, Subaru wasn’t really on collective radars until importation of the carmaker’s WRX. That, and its hotter STI derivative, was exactly what North America needed at a time when Lexus, Infiniti, a newish Mustang and Monica Lewinsky were getting most of the attention. With Everyman sheetmetal and Superman mechanicals, the WRX and WRX STI were rocketships attainable in 48 or 60 oh-so-easy monthlies, while leaving enough room on the Visa for the obligatory mods. This spring a new Subaru WRX rears its not-quite-ugly head, and while mechanically better in almost every way, they didn’t bring the hatch. And for that we’ll suggest a new moniker: WTF.
Admittedly, a hatch wasn’t part of the WRX’s early identity, which was crafted under the hood of the Impreza’s 2-door coupe. Later, the WRX evolved into a 4-door, and that gen begat a 5-door. At one point in the model’s gestation there was only a 5-door, and most WRX enthusiasts were just fine with that. But for 2015 the product gurus at Subaru (Sugurus?) have deemed the 5-door unnecessary, perhaps undesirable, leaving us but one 4-door with suspect styling (if you can call it styling) and absolutely no way to cope while shopping Ikea. And unless things have changed when I wasn’t looking, Subaru’s target WRX demographic is almost always shopping Ikea.
My proclivity(!) toward the hatch goes back to the early Civic, although our first Honda – a ’79 – was fitted with the bargain-basement trunk. The flexibility provided by a hatchback makes a smallish car less small, while propelling a midsize car into the large-use category. And Subaru’s 5-door WRX, like competitors from Mazda, VW and Ford, simply looked more visually balanced without the addendum the product people call a trunk. Given the choice of two-box hatch or three-box sedan, I won’t need more than two or three seconds to select the one with the odd number of openings.
Today, to these eyes, there’s virtually no debate as to which derivative of a particular model is the more attractive. Ford’s Fiesta? The sedan looks like a bad joke, while the hatch looks Euro-tidy. Ford’s Focus sedan is more balanced and better integrated than its smaller sibling, but the 5-door is still (and we’ll admit this is subjective) far better looking, more visually dynamic. Chevy’s Sonic works better as a sedan than Ford’s Fiesta, but still lags the hatch in what we’ll call ‘spunk’. Only in today’s Mazda3 would we (perhaps) call it a draw, with the sedan’s trunk offsetting the new 3’s penetrating nose.
The 2015 Subaru WRX and its STI derivative are vastly improved from a dynamic standpoint. In fact, those enthusiasts looking for Mitsubishi to revive the Evo (don’t hold your breath…the Stones will cease touring before that happens) would do well to consider the newest Subie, as it combines the (relative) stone axe simplicity of earlier Subarus with the perceived refinement of Mitsu’s asphalt-specific dynamic. This platform, in combination with either 2.0 (WRX) or 2.5 (STI) spec, is more than simply point-and-shoot; it’s point-and-SHOUT! Rarely has spending $30K – as in our Limited w/Auto test example – seemed so frickin’ logical.
With all that, we simply can’t/won’t forgive Subaru’s product team for not including a hatchback. The modern, performance-oriented 5-door is as much a part of today’s motoring make-up as the MGA and TR-3 in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. And the roadster’s performance image continued to resonate until replaced by – you guessed it – the hot hatch, beginning with VW’s GTI some two decades later.
Recently, there’s been speculation that Subaru will stretch the BR-Z wheelbase, add two more doors and create a 4-door, 4-passenger, performance-oriented coupe. We like the concept, and could love the execution. Maybe they’ll give that a hatch…