Country Cars road test: Subaru WRX

THIS weekend's car test is one for the enthusiasts. 

If your attitude to cars is they are mere transport then you had best dart straight to the sports section. See you next Saturday.

Okay, now all of those other people have gone let's talk about the new Subaru WRX. 

We all know the WRX is all about having a lot of fun behind the wheel, while having enough room, comfort (and doors) to justify owning one as a daily driver.

In its past few generations there have been complaints "Rex" has lost some of his bite in an effort to become more convenient and sensible. They had moved a little away from what made the little Subi such a desirable gadget for the Fast and the Furious crowd.

Subaru WRX. VIDEO: Lachlan Bence

Now the old Rex is back. To a point.

We picked up a standard WRX from Ballarat Subaru and immediately concluded it looked far more like a Rex should. There is comparatively little "fruit salad" in terms of wild looking body enhancements, but it still appears suitably menacing. And to make the point it is its own beast, It has even ditched the Impreza badge entirely.

The view from the front seat also had a nicely understated rally-chic vibe to it. Bright, clear red and white instruments, faux carbon fibre, firm and supportive seats, and basic climate and audio controls quietly suggest its time to drive, not just travel.

The engine is a step back to Subies past. The larger 2.5-litre turbo four of the previous generation was comparatively refined but Subaru has reverted to a 2.0-litre turbo four now, with slightly more power and torque, and significantly more character. If it's a little rowdier, I don't think Rex fans will mind in the slightest.

Our test machine had the new six-speed manual rather than the CVT auto. It would have been good to take a gander at the CVT, which seems an odd choice for such an overtly sporty machine.

We couldn't resist temptation, so we took Rex for a spin up to Mount Warrenheip on a wet miserable day, with slick, greasy roads. The climate within the Subaru was anything but miserable, though. Rex remains a blast to drive, one of the most fun things with four doors.

We never tested the WRX's limits but they are clearly beyond most drivers' bravery levels. 

The suspension is stiff. You feel almost every bump but the pay off (with help from Subaru's obligatory all-wheel-drive) is grip, grip and more grip.

When it came time to head back we found the WRX remains a respectable around-towner and more practical than a true sports car. 

It is fair to say the new Rex is still not as raw as the earliest ones. It, like those of us who remember the original, has a certain maturity now. 

But when the weekend comes around it is back to being a bit naughty again. Wish we could all say the same. 

* Your local dealer is Ballarat Subaru: 5339 9333

Subaru WRX

ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbocharged boxer four

POWER: 197kW at 5600 revs

TORQUE: 350Nm at 2400-5200 revs

TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual

DRIVE: all-wheel-drive

FUEL: petrol, 9.2-l/100km (ADR 81/02 combined)

BRAKES: front ventilated discs, rear discs, with ABS, stability control and brake assist

FEATURES: Self-levelling LED headlights, rear-view camera, single CD audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, turbo-boost pressure display, front fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels

ANCAP SAFETY RATING: five stars

PRICE (RRP): $38,990

PRICE: $42,888 drive away

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

MITSUBISHI RALLIART SST: from $39,990

RENAULT MEGANE RS265: from $42,640

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI: from $41,990

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