From an engineering perspective, Subaru is mainly known for two things, weather conquering all-wheel drive and a commitment to using horizontally-opposed (flat/boxer) engines. However, the most recent application, Subaru’s 2.4-liter turbo flat-four, in the 2022 WRX has resulted in some disappointing fuel economy.
The all-new 2022 WRX is a bit of a mixed bag, as our review found the car a bit too “grown-up for its own good.” The interior, which has always been an area of criticism, is a nicer place to be. The exterior styling is in some ways more toned down, but also more controversial with the addition of the black-plastic fender cladding.
And despite using a larger 2.4-liter turbocharged motor over the older 2.0-liter, the 2022 model only gains about three more ponies under the hood but retains the same amount of torque. You would think a car that is using some updated engineering and seems to be trying to court a more “mature” buyer would get some respectable MPG. That is not the case.
The EPA released the fuel economy figures for the 2022 WRX and this car is awful thirsty for a compact sedan with a four-banger under the hood. Below is a comparison between the 2022 WRX 6MT, the 2021 WRX 6MT, a 2018 Focus RS, and the 2021 STI.
In fairness, the last WRX wasn’t super efficient either and the STI is very thirsty, but what I found most interesting is that the 2022 WRX has identical fuel economy numbers to the Focus RS. Keep in mind the Focus had an output of 350 horsepower and weighed about 100 lbs more.
When you compare the 2022 WRX to its sport-compact competition the MPG gap becomes even wider. Below is a comparison between the Hyundai Veloster N 6MT, Civic Type R 6MT, 2022 Golf R 6MT, and 2022 Golf GTI 6MT. With the exception of the Golf R which is heavier, but does produce more horsepower than the WRX, these other cars are lighter with lower outputs.
Since the new WRX utilizes the 2.4 turbo motor also found in larger Subaru models, I ran a comparison between the automatic WRX and its stablemates, in addition to an interesting wildcard.
Despite being substantially larger, the Ascent and Outback still get better MPG than their compact cousin and the 2022 WRX is just one MPG difference away from an F-150 pickup equipped with a 2.7-liter turbo motor.
I asked Subaru if there was an explanation as to why the EPA numbers for the 2022 WRX were so low and this is what they said
“2022 WRX models equipped with the Subaru Performance Transmission also include SI-Drive, an engine management system which includes three driver-selectable modes (Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp) that change parameters such as throttle response and transmission shift behavior to provide a driving experience that matches the preference of drivers. Given the performance focus of the WRX, the default operation mode was chosen as Sport, and the vehicle was tested for fuel economy in that setting. For drivers desiring a smoother driving experience and increased fuel economy, the Intelligent setting is available and can be set as the default mode of operation.
In addition to the above, the Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) Symmetrical AWD system on WRX models equipped with the Subaru Performance Transmission is a performance-focused AWD system that continuously applies torque to all four wheels. It is not a ‘part-time’ or ‘on-demand’ system. Under most conditions, this AWD system uses a 45:55 torque split, with the rear-wheel bias contributing to handling agility.”
Perhaps if you aren’t pretending to be Colin McCrae when you go pick up your kids from school you can get some better efficiency in “Intelligent” mode. I honestly don’t think anyone buying a WRX is doing so because they want a fuel sipper. However, you would hope that when the engineers make an all-new version of a model they improve it in all aspects, even fuel economy, and not take a step backward.
(Tom McParland is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. Got a car buying question? Send it to Tom@AutomatchConsulting.com)