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2015 WRX vs Focus ST, VW GTI, Mazdaspeed3 and Civic Si

How does the 2015 Subaru WRX compare with the 2014 Ford Focus ST, 2013 VW GTI, 2013 Mazdaspeed3 and 2013 Honda Civic Si? Here’s a comparison.

Are you thinking about buying a new 2015 Subaru WRX? Here's how it shakes out against the competition. This writer thinks the new 2015 WRX is the best example of performance the Japanese automaker has ever produced, but how does it stack up against the competition? The new-generation Subaru WRX has quite a few things that it does better than the 2014 Ford Focus ST, 2013 VW GTI, 2013 Mazdaspeed3, and 2013 Honda Civic Si. How does the new WRX match up against these competitors?

It starts under the hood with the Subaru WRX getting more hp than the competition. Here’s how they compare. WRX gets 268 @ 5,600 rpm, Ford Focus ST 252 @ 5,500 rpm, VW GTI 200 @ 5,100 rpm, Mazdaspeed3 263 @ 5,500 rpm, and Honda Civic Si 201 @ 7,000 rpm. It terms of power, the 2.0-liter WRX will perform better than the competition because more is better. Especially if the tires, suspension and drivetrain will handle it.

Is more torque always better?

Torque of course is different than hp, and is what will launch these performance cars and get them moving. Here’s the numbers. WRX 258 @ 2,000 rpm - 5,200 rpm, Focus ST 270 @ 2,500 rpm VW GTI 207 @ 1,800 rpm, Mazdaspeed3 280 @ 3,000 rpm, and Civic Si 170 @ 4,400 rpm.

While peak numbers are nice to brag about, they often don't mean much, since few people operate their engines at peak conditions (which would generally be full throttle) in a typical day. What is more important with torque, is how it’s applied over the power curve of the engine. Subaru WRX has less torque, but it’s available over a broader rpm range. And when combined with the available hp, performance is available at any time, in any gear. The WRX absolutely wins here.

Direct Injection increases power delivery

Most automakers use the latest Direct Injection technology in their engines as does the competition. The only exception would be the Civic Si which still uses Multi Point Injection. Any new performance engine must have direct injection as the engine's computer gains even more precision control over the amount of fuel delivered, optimizing the air/fuel mixture to create efficiency and increased power delivery. WRX, Focus ST, VW GTI, and Mazdaspeed3 tie here. The Honda Civic Si loses.

Look for AWD in more performance cars in the future

In the area of all-wheel-drive, Subaru is already ahead of the curve and uses its excellent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. All the competition uses the less effective front-drive configuration. Most performance automakers like AMG will be going exclusively to all-wheel-drive due to its more effective delivery of power to all four wheels. This works well on the road and track, and in wet or dry conditions. Subaru wins out big in the area of power delivery to the wheels.

How many gears do you need?

Subaru WRX, Focus ST, VW GTI, Mazdaspeed3, and Civic Si all use a six-speed manual gearbox, so it’s a wash here. Subaru does use new carbon synchronizers on first and second gears and a short-throw shifter for quicker shifts. But what about automatic transmission applications? WRX gets a new Sport Lineartronic Transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters. Focus ST no automatic option, VW GTI gets a Dual clutch automated manual (DSG), Mazdaspeed3 no automatic option, and Civic Si no automatic option. For those wanting an automatic, Subaru’s new CVT gets better fuel efficiency but also benefits from a choice of stepped automatic shifting with eight pre-selected ratios and is the easy winner here.

What is Electronic Torque Vectoring?

If you haven’t heard of Electronic Torque Vectoring (ETV), it’s a module that provides an unmatched driving experience. Driving and traction performance can be pushed to new limits while improving safety and stability at the same time. Who has it? WRX yes, Focus ST yes, VW GTI yes, Mazdaspeed3 no, and Civic Si no. This is a must for any performance car. But Subaru wins here again because when it’s combined with all-wheel-drive, the combination improves safety and stability even more.

Who cares about the steering ratio?

Steering ratio is very important in a sports car. The lower ratio gives the steering a quicker response (you don't have to turn the steering wheel as much to get the wheels to turn a given distance) which is a desirable trait in sports cars. These smaller cars are light enough that even with the lower ratio, the effort required to turn the steering wheel is not excessive. Let’s see how these cars shake out. WRX 14.5:1, Focus ST Variable: 13.7 to 10.1, VW GTI 16.4:1, Mazdaspeed3 16.2:1, and Civic Si 14.94:1. While the Subaru WRX has a very low steering gear ration, the Focus ST gets the nod hear because of the variable-ratio steering, but WRX beats the others.

And last but not least, is the area of passenger volume (cubic feet), and here are the numbers. WRX 96.9, Focus ST 90.7, VW GTI 93.5, Mazdaspeed3 94.6, and Civic Si 92.1. The new 2015 WRX grew one inch in length over the outgoing model. This is good news for taller performance enthusiasts. The WRX is the clear winner in providing more room for driver and passengers.

The all-new 2015 Subaru WRX wins in most areas except one when compared to the 2014 Ford Focus ST, 2013 VW GTI, 2013 Mazdaspeed3 and 2013 Honda Civic Si. WRX is a great choice for driving and performance enthusiasts. See what two major changes are coming to the 2015 Subaru WRX to make life more comfortable.


George (not verified)    November 27, 2013 - 9:09PM

Only slightly biased review. I like the AWD, but the interior highway noise level of the WRX killed it for me. I chose the ST, which is a great blend of daily drivability and fun when I want it. It's also made in the USA, which is a plus if you're patriotic at all.

James Looker (not verified)    December 16, 2013 - 6:14AM

You're clearly a Subaru fan boy. You do so much cherry picking of data I'm a little surprised you wrote that review professionally to be honest. The biggest problem with your review is you imply that the quantifiable attributes you selected directly correlate with what people are looking for in a car. More gears, quicker steering, more space, more power...

Also, you don't acknowledge that these are vehicles people buy to live with on a daily basis. "More is better" is just childishly simplistic. Turbo lag, boost threshold and engine noise are all engine characteristics that can't be easily quantified but can massively affect the real life usability of the power and pleasure of driving.

Saying a CVT is a better option over a DCT in any sort of performance car is just blasphemous. An automatic will always lose the owner credibility points, but a CVT with simulated gears is about as cool as simulating engine noise through the audio system. Automated manuals are the undeniable trend of the sports car industry, and the only acceptable compromise to a manual. The CVT is just a reminder that the WRX can't get entirely away from the Impreza.

The WRX easily is the best handling car because of its AWD, but realistically the bar for the WRX is higher than the competition. The "hot hatch" field was meant to be upgraded economy cars with only a bit of excitement. They have made big strides in power recently, but their affordable and practical nature is why the WRX is not really in the same class.

Feeling the road through the steering wheel is the most important attribute of a car's handling, and bad EPS destroys the feel of even a tight steering ratio. Without a test drive the best steering system can't be determined. The Focus ST obviously has very tight steering, but the variable ratio is not for everyone. A lot of reviewers don't like the inconsistency.

Consumers want a car that FEELS spacious more than they want a car that leads in cubic feet. How well the space is used can easily be the determining factor in which car is right for a wide variety of drivers and passengers.

Brian (not verified)    December 23, 2013 - 9:02PM

Too bad Subaru couldn't figure out how to make more power than Hyundai does out of their 2.0 turbo.... and do it on 87 octane like Hyundai does.

How Hyundai just needs to build a better car to put it in.

Charlie (not verified)    January 4, 2014 - 10:24AM

AWD is definitely not the way of the future for true performance driving. Proper driving happens with RWD. There is no compromise. The front tires do the turning and most braking. The rear tires are for power and braking. AWD gives the front tires too much to do and adds a lot of weight.

I agree the article is biased, but take it for what it is; somebody's opinion.. just like my post here.

I think the WRX has always been a great car. It will continue to be, but it's a sport compact car, not a true sports car.

Adam (not verified)    March 19, 2014 - 1:43PM

A sport compact car comparison that discusses engine power but ignores weight and drive-train losses isn't very informative. The WRX is probably the heaviest and has the most drive-train losses in the group. Compare the 5-60 mph sprints that many auto enthusiast magazines perform and you'll see the WRX fails to differentiate itself from the pack. Also, dyno tests show the WRX is not making peak torque at 2000 RPM as advertised.

These are all inexpensive cars that represent a compromise between practicality and sportiness, but purchase price and fuel efficiency have been ignored. Still, the author claims Direct Injection is a "must have" while the Si gets better fuel economy than the WRX without it.

I agree that ETV can enhance the driving experience, but sometimes the fun is temporary. The ETV on the Focus ST cooks the brakes pretty quick and leaves you with an understeering pig afterward. Meanwhile, most (all?) of the other FWD options here include mechanical LSDs which offer many of the same advantages. Will the ETV system on the WRX hold up? It's too early to tell. At any rate, I'm pretty sure the Subaru BRZ matches or surpasses the WRX driving experience without it.

Steering ratio is of limited importance, especially when the numbers are similar. There are other attributes to steering that are much more important, but those attributes are admittedly subjective. The author's presentation of the information makes it sound as though a lower ratio is always better, which it's not.

Regarding passenger volume, more is not always better because there's a natural compromise between volume and weight, as well as size. Smaller cars are typically lighter, easier to park, and have a smaller turning radius. The fact is that people need as much room as they need, and having more is of little benefit. If more was always better, who would by a BRZ?

The objective comparisons are simplistic and ill-informed, and this article has no redeeming qualities. Having reached the end, I am left questioning if the author even so much as sat in each of the cars, let alone drove them.

Ben (not verified)    July 12, 2014 - 2:46AM

I own a BRZ and test drove a cvt auto wrx for my wife. I can safely say ithe cvt wrx handled almost as good as my brz. No complaints from me if she gets it. Cheers.

weslker (not verified)    December 3, 2014 - 1:15AM

i just wonder why u compare 2015 sport car with 2014 sport car?
How about i compare 2020 sport car compare with 2015 WRX ?
I grantee 2015 WRX lose all the spec to future 2020 sport car~