Based on Subaru’s championship rally series race cars, the 2021 Subaru WRX STI is built for performance. The turbocharged flat-four-cylinder engine is winning praise from critics — and everyone else who’s given the 2021 WRX STI a spin. The all-wheel-drive and manual-only transmission are exactly what you expect from a sporty Subaru sedan.
While the STI edition lacks the same amount of cargo space as rival hatchbacks, like the Honda Civic Type R, it is better equipped to conquer terrain in all four seasons thanks to its industry leading all-wheel drive. The WRX remains Subaru’s signature high-performance sedan. The practicality of a four-door sedan combined with the utility of all-wheel drive is hard to match. Plus the amped up STI model is a lot more exciting than the standard WRX models. Let’s have a closer look!
When it comes to exterior styling, there is not much new to report with the 2021 WRX STI. That’s because Subaru didn’t really make any major changes to the exterior for the 2021 model. It remains nearly identical to last year’s version. The only update, in fact, is that the “premium” trim level now comes standard with passive hands-free entry and a push-button start. But in terms of appearance, literally nothing has changed.
Engine and Performance
Under the hood, though, it’s a different story. The WRX STI’s turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four engine is powerful and complemented by quad exhaust pipes. Make no mistake though, this Subaru comes with a manual transmission only. You’ll have to aggressively work the standard six-speed manual gearbox to keep the WRX STI moving at a strong clip. Frequent clutch drops are needed to achieve maximum acceleration. Driven with full power, however, the STI’s controls sync up and work well in tandem with each other. Throw in all-wheel drive mode and the 2021 WRX STI handles back roads and off-road terrain with aplomb.
Additionally, the STI’s firm suspension keeps excessive body motion and jostling to a minimum when driven over difficult roads. The electronic assisted steering is quick, direct, and has responsive touch. Meanwhile the adjustable center differential allows the driver to fine-tune the chassis by varying the drivetrain’s front-to-rear torque. The STI’s pedals are nicely spaced for racing style heel-to-toe downshifts, with the brake pedal biting hard when needed. Overall, the 2021 WRX STI more than delivers in terms of its engine and performance.
Trimlines and Prices
There are no real trim lines offered with the WRX STI. There are basically two trims, a base version and the aforementioned “Premium” model. The only difference between the two is that the Premium trim comes with hands-free entry to the sedan and a push-button ignition. No key required. Beyond that, the WRX STI models are indistinguishable. In terms of pricing, the base model costs $38,000.00 while the premium edition costs $42,000. The less exciting non-STI 2021 Subaru WRX has three different models, starting at $29,000. However, they don’t have near the performance or off-road capability as the STI model.
As with most compact sport cars, the WRX STI has a basic cabin in terms of quality, layout, and features. Despite the red seatbelts and accents on the Recaro racing seats, the ambience is rather dark – basically an entirely black interior. As mentioned, the cargo space in the WRX STI is lacking a bit compared to the standard WRX models. However, the STI can be configured to provide more space — or at least the illusion of more space. This is due to the 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The WRX STI still has adequate storage for small items on its center console, with the main storage areas being its console bin and door pockets.
In terms of technology, the 2021 WRX STI boasts a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment console affixed to the dash. The STI also comes standard with Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system. While not the most advanced system on the market today, it nevertheless operates intuitively and has several modern features. Sadly though, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are not possible with the Starlink system.
As far as safety is concerned, the WRX STI has earned a top five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The STI comes with a couple key safety features, including available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Full driver assistance features are not offered though as Subaru says such features are not needed on a rally car.
Subaru’s warranty coverage is standard for this class of compact sedan. The warranty is not bad, but not great either. While Hyundai provides its Veloster with complimentary maintenance, the WRX STI does not offer any complimentary maintenance. What Subaru does offer is a limited warranty coverage of three years or 36,000 miles. The powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles.
The WRX STI’s engine is larger and an older design than most of today’s four-cylinder engines. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pegged the 2021 Subaru WRX STI at 16 miles per gallon of city driving and 22 miles per gallon of driving on the highway. These results trail rival racing sedans by several miles per gallon. However, that’s probably to be expected considering that the 2021 WRX STI has been designed for performance rather than conserving fuel.
- Powerful engine.
- Great off-road performance.
- Impressive safety features and ratings.
- Limited cargo space.
- Ho-hum warranty coverage.
- Poor fuel economy.
The Last Word
Subaru’s 2021 WRX STI is a compact sedan built for weekend warriors who like to drive off the beaten path. You will enjoy this car if you appreciate its rally car lineage and ability to drive over any type of terrain. The newest WRX STI is not a car you should buy for its fuel economy, interior comfort, or cargo space. There are plenty of other vehicles on the market that can tick those boxes. But there is no other compact sedan that can offer the muscle, performance, and off-road excitement of the 2021 Subaru WRX STI.