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Subaru WRX: Top Alternatives for 2021/2022

Subaru WRX Alternatives

Subaru WRX Alternatives

The Subaru WRX revolutionized the enthusiast market when it dropped in the United States. Suddenly, young people earning moderate wages had a quick, all-wheel-drive sports sedan that they could not just aspire to but own.

The WRX introduced Subaru to new buyers just as its other models like the Outback did. Every brand wants an introductory model that brings in enthusiasts, and now Subaru has one.

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Subaru WRX Weaknesses

The Takeaway: The WRX created its segment but has many worthy competitors.

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The WRX is still a very popular vehicle. A recent study found that it is one of the top 20 models for vehicle markups by dealers eager to earn back what they lost during the recent market disruptions. We have discovered one fact in our testing of the WRX and STI; They are not that fun to drive. This may seem like heresy to those owners who have not tried a WRX back to back with an alternative, but we have.

The WRX’s optional automatic transmission is a CVT, and considering alternatives is certainly a worthwhile exercise for shoppers in this segment who don’t want a stick shift. CVTs have no place in performance vehicles. Those who want a hatchback also have reason to expand their shopping list since the WRX is presently only offered as a sedan.

Finally, the WRX has the lowest Consumer Reports Reliability rating of any vehicle on this list and ties for the shortest warranty period.

Subaru WRX vs. Competitors

Model HP / TorqueStick Shift Available?Body StyleAWD or FWDConsumer Reports Quality Rating Approximate Price Range
Subaru WRX
268 HP / 258 lb-ft
Yes
Sedan
AWD
2/5
$29K - $35K
Mazda3
250 HP / 320 lb-ft
No
Sedan or Hatchback
AWD
4/5
$31K - $36K
Civic Type R and '22 Hatchback
306 HP / 295 lb-ft or 180 HP
Yes
Hatchback
FWD
3/5
$40K
Hyundai Elantra Redline
201 HP / 195 lb-ft
Yes
Sedan
FWD
3/5
$26K - $28K
'22 VW GTI
241 HP / 273 lb-ft or 315 HP / 310 lb-ft
Yes
Hatchback
AWD Optional
2/5
$30K - $48K
Acura Integra*
306 HP / 295 lb-ft
No
TBA
TBA
N/A
$35K - $41K

*Integra is a 2022 model not yet released. Our specs are estimated.

1. Mazda3 Turbo & Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Mazda-CX-30-Turbo-Alternatives-to-the-Subaru-WRXOnly considering a stick shift transmission? Then, move on to our next selection. However, if you are considering a paddle-shifted automatic and want real gears instead of a slippy-belt CVT, the Mazda3 is the best place to start.

The Mazda3 comes as either a sedan or a hatchback and closely replicates the WRX theme. It offers a larger turbocharged engine than the WRX, and it has 320 ft-lbs of torque compared to the WRX’s 258 lb-ft. This torque is managed brilliantly by the Mazda3’s all-wheel drive system.

However, we find the Mazda3 beats the WRX in two key areas; It is more refined and looks much cooler. Those shopping for an automatic WRX should at least try a Mazda3. And while you are on the dealer lot, why not check out the Mazda CX-30? It’s a turbocharged all-wheel drive crossover that Subaru has no equivalent to.

The Takeway: If you plan to buy an automatic, those shopping for a WRX should first visit a Mazda dealer and check out both the Mazda3 and Mazda CX-30.

Current Mazda3 Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021MazdaMazda3 Sedan0.00%9/30/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Mazda deals and average prices paid.

Current Mazda CX-30 Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021MazdaCX-300.00%$189/month for 36 months, $2,999 due at signing9/30/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Mazda deals and average prices paid.

2. Honda Civic Type R & Civic Hatchback

Honda-Civic-Type-R-Alternatives-to-the-Subaru-WRXIf all-wheel drive is a must for you, skip this section. Honda doesn’t make an all-wheel drive Civic. However, it does offer two versions of the Civic that can give any WRX a run for its money. And Honda offers a stick shift in both the Type R and the about to drop 2022 Civic Hatchback. We’ve driven the Type R, and it is clear that Honda meant business when it built this beast.

If you shop specs, consider that the turbocharged engine in the 306 Civic Type R has 38 more horsepower than the WRX’s engine. If you are open to a little less horsepower, try the 2022 Civic Hatchback with 180 hp. The Hatchback will have either a stick or a CVT auto from which to choose.

The Takeaway: The Honda Civic line has always been sporty and fun. Those who don’t need all-wheel drive should consider the Civic as an option to the WRX.

Current Honda Civic Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021HondaCivic1.90%11/1/2021
2022HondaCivic1.90%$209/month for 36 months, $2,799 due at signing11/1/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Honda deals.

3. Hyundai Elantra N Line

Hyundai-Elantra-N-Line-Alternatives-to-the-Subaru-WRXHyundai offers some very fun-to-drive vehicles with the industry’s best warranty and included maintenance plan. We love the new Elantra for many reasons, including its wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The N Line is its sporty version.

With 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, the N Line does not match the specs of the WRX. However, it is available with a dual-clutch automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. Where the Elantra N Line shines brightest is ownership cost. The Elantra N Line has a warranty that spans ten years, and the first three years of maintenance are included. The Elantra N Line also undercuts the purchase price of the WRX significantly.

The Takeaway: For those who would struggle to afford a new Subaru WRX, the Hyundai Elantra N Line is the solution.

Current Hyundai Elantra Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021HyundaiElantra$1,500 0.00%$159/month for 36 months, $2,899 due at signing10/4/2021
2022HyundaiElantra$1,000 0.90%$169/month for 36 months, $2,899 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Hyundai deals and average prices paid.

4. Volkswagen Golf GTI & Golf R

Volkswagen-Golf-GTI-Alternatives-to-the-Subaru-WRXThe Golf GTI and Golf R live on! VW has confirmed that they will return in 2022 with improvements across the board. Both are offered with a stick shift or DCT transmission, and the Golf R adds more grunt and all-wheel drive. The Golf R is really a Subaru STI competitor.

We haven’t seen the new Golf line yet, but every prior generation was a joy to drive. Nobody combines a premium European drive quality with a fun-to-drive attitude better than Volkswagen. If it carries forward, the VW Golf will have a 5-year warranty and two years of included maintenance.

The Takeaway: The Golf GTI and Golf R offer WRX alternatives for those with no budget limitations.

Current Volkswagen Golf GTI Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021VolkswagenGolf GTI0.00%10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Volkswagen deals and average prices paid.

5. Acura Integra: Future Possibility

Acura IntegraAcura is bringing back the Integra this year! Fans of hot hatches and quick, fun-to-drive small cars remember the Integra fondly.

While we don’t know much about the new Integra that arrives in 2022, we suspect it will have the up-powered 2.0-liter turbo engine found in the Civic line. AWD would be a surprise, but every present Acura offers AWD, so maybe it will have it. Don’t expect a stick shift, but who knows?

If you are just starting your search, check back on the all-new Integra before you make a final decision.

The Takeaway: The return of the Acura Integra could upset the pecking order in the WRX segment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Subaru WRX a good car?

The Subaru WRX is not just a good car, it is the benchmark for its segment. However, we have driven vehicles that offer more fun, and many models offer a better value.

What cars are similar to the Subaru WRX?

The Mazda3, Golf R, and Golf GTI offer very good alternatives to the Subaru WRX. We would also add the Hyundai Elantra N Line and Honda Civic Type R to that list.

Are there faster cars than the WRX at its price point?

Faster is a possibility, more fun a certainty. The WRX is not a very fun car to drive on public roads by comparison to many of its alternatives.

Do Subaru WRX cars have problems?

Subaru makes good cars, but the WRX scores relatively poorly on the Consumer Reports Reliability charts. Part of this could be the way the car is used by rambunctious owners. Those looking for a model with better rated quality should check out the Mazda3. The Hyundai Elantra N Line offers a warranty twice as long as that of the Subaru WRX.