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Subaru Design Chief; “We Don’t Have Plans To Bring Back WRX Hatch”

Subaru design chief says the WRX hatch isn’t going to happen. Here’s what he told a reporter at the Geneva Auto Show.

If you want Subaru to bring back the WRX and WRX STI hatch for the next-generation model, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Mamoru Ishii, the head of Subaru’s design department, told Ronan Glon of Digital Trends recently at the Geneva Motor Show, “We don’t have plans to bring back a WRX hatch to the market.”

Subaru brought the VIZIV Tourer Concept to Geneva and most thought it would be a forerunner of the next WRX hatch body style. But unless this is just a smoke screen by Subaru design chief Mamoru Ishii, the Subaru WRX/STI hatch could be dead. We aren’t sure what Subaru has in mind for the VIZIV (“Vision for Innovation”) concept hatch, but this model hasn’t been approved for production.

Subaru has produced a series of VIZIV concepts starting at Geneva in 2013, and the VIZIV series has included a crossover, hybrid, performance and seven-seat concepts, but not all have made it to production. This VIZIV Tourer Concept is Subaru Corp’s fifth project, this time exploring the tourer (wagon) design.

Subaru is always tight-lipped about their next-generation models, and the fourth-generation WRX/STI is no different. Subaru has been mum about any future plans until now. Subaru execs like Mamoru Ishii aren’t going to reveal any future model plans, but he says there are no plans to produce a WRX hatch anytime soon. The sales numbers say Americans are buying a lot more 5-Door models than sedans.

In 2017, compact and subcompact car sales were down 25 percent in the US, while hatchbacks in those same classes have risen 16 percent. Ford seems to have it figured out. While hatchbacks account for about a quarter of industry small car sales, Ford’s Fiesta and Focus outperform that significantly at 33 percent and 40 percent respectively. Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle told USA TODAY, “Hatchbacks are the nugget of hope for the small car segment.”

Subaru WRX STI fans have been asking for a 5-Door hatch since Subaru dropped the body style on the new-generation 2015 model. Performance enthusiasts want the hatch body style for its greater utility and cargo-carrying ability. The new-generation STI could also use a hatch body style to compete with the new Honda Civic Type R, and Volkswagen Golf R hot hatches. It does have its place in the WRX STI lineup and if Subaru doesn’t bring it back, they aren’t listening.

Reader Poll: Do you want Subaru to bring back the WRX/STI hatch body style?

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Photo credit: Subaru Global Geneva Motor Show


Mark Salopek (not verified)    April 17, 2018 - 11:25AM

Not only is a hatch / wagon a more practical body style, the VIZIV Tourer concept is one of the best executed designs of all of the VIZIV concepts created to date.

Not only should Subaru bring back this model, they should also adopt most of the styling elements from the ViZIV Tourer concept in the next design.

Ed B (not verified)    April 17, 2018 - 3:20PM

In reply to by Mark Salopek (not verified)

Mark, as popular as Subaru is today, I really don't like their direction away from "fun" cars with a little attitude and performance. Beyond the Crosstrek, we see very limited exterior design flare and the car lines on the new global platform are lackluster in power with fuel economy taking center stage. They're moving toward cars for the masses, versus providing a performance option across the lines. The new Forester is a troubling reminder of their direction - better tech (safety) and one size fits all engines. They're already woefully behind on hybrid technology and to make up for that the new base engines have low HP is the band aid. I can live with a well tuned CVT, but underpowered too? I think not...

Marko Salopek (not verified)    April 17, 2018 - 4:20PM

In reply to by Ed B (not verified)

This is more or less something I have observed as a trend in the Japanese car industry. As a whole, they seemed to have lost their way, and their soul. Think back to the cars being put out in the 80s and 90s, they were fun, quirky, and pushed the envelope in every way they could with the tech available at the time. They seemed to care more about the craft of car making, like an artisan putting a piece of themselves into their creation. This seems to be a thing of the past, with manufacturers playing it safe by producing only boring cookie cutter vehicles to satiate the non-enthusiast majority. I fear we are beyond the days of seeing timeless classics and legendary vehicles being produced. like you said in your post, Subaru seems to a the poster child for this.

Mark Salopek (not verified)    April 17, 2018 - 7:48PM

Marko & Ed - I fear both of you are correct - When a company cares more for sales numbers than they do for their loyal, long-time customers, and when they fail to recognize the unique qualities that differentiated their products in the marketplace, they run the risk of becoming lost in an already crowded monochrome market.

When the 2019 Subaru Forester was released to the public at the recent New York Auto Show, I tuned in to the live stream, hoping to catch a glimpse of the exciting future envisioned by Subaru - unfortunately I was disappointed to see that they failed to follow through with the dramatic styling promised in the VIZIV concepts, and instead chose to follow a safe, yet boring approach to the redesign.

Even more disconcerting was the fact that they didn't try to leapfrog the competition with an efficient, but more powerful modern H4 turbo engine offering, settling for a superficial Sport trim option.

I'm hoping that they listen to the feedback from their customers, and instead of going 'quietly into the night' in 2020, they seize the opportunity to assert themselves in the marketplace as the engineering, design, and performance benchmark for their competition.

Ed B (not verified)    April 17, 2018 - 10:53PM

In reply to by Mark Salopek (not verified)

We can only hope. I concur, the Forester reveal was disheartening. Subaru was in a position to really step up and further enhance their customer base with a true remodel versus refresh. They played it safe and listened to the bean counters. The uninspired design may not be the big seller they hope it to be. Complacency kills innovation.

SubaStar (not verified)    April 18, 2018 - 9:58AM

Agreed with above.
In the past, Subaru was a good blend of practical, all-weather, reliable and sporty (so funny) cars: those assets where proper to the brand, which makes a Subaru more desirable than a Toyota or a Nissan.
Then the started to axe the WRX / WRX STI hot hatches to re-introduce a sedan, which has nothing to do in the lineup (not practical, dated).
To follow, the axed any sporty models in the range (Outback, Legacy, Forester).
I read however that STI was supposed to enhance the further models : let's hope that Hybrid + STI will show us something matching back with Subaru's original soul... as well as lower emissions.

Ed B (not verified)    April 18, 2018 - 3:20PM

In reply to by Mark Salopek (not verified)

Agreed - this concept won't see the light of day in terms of a production model. The sedan is dying in the U.S. so a 5-door just makes sense. I'm learning to manage my expectations about Subaru carlines by not having any.

Deyan (not verified)    April 22, 2018 - 3:58PM

I would have bought a WRX/STi hatch in the second if it was available. Instead went with a Focus RS (and quite a few of the RS owners bought one because a hatch WRX/STi was not available anymore)...

CC (not verified)    April 29, 2018 - 1:56PM

I love my aging 2003 wrx hatchback. Make a new one and I'll buy it, just like that. Don't make me switch manufacturers please.

SubaStar (not verified)    April 30, 2018 - 6:05AM

330 hp in 2020 when competitors offer 350 to 400 in 2018? Come on Subaru! Should I say: come back at the top in the niche you've created: a rally car legal on the road and make happy your loyal customers, the ones who forged your good, reliable and sporty image!

Carol Rottenbiller (not verified)    July 30, 2018 - 6:12PM

Please bring back the WXRX hatchback. We own 2 older models all ready and want to purchase a new WRX hatchback if they become available. Sorry to say if Subaru doesn’t produce a new WRI hatchback by 2020 we will be forced to go with another manufacturer.

Ari Nishiki-Finley (not verified)    August 6, 2018 - 1:11PM

I went to Japan and saw a Subaru Levorg...just like the WRX, it has turbo, but they make it in a 5 door model (a little more wagon than hatchback), and it was beautiful.
If I could post the picture I took, I would. Please bring back the hatchback WRX or make the concept of the Viziv Tourer come to life!!!

SubaStar (not verified)    August 7, 2018 - 9:50AM

The SUBARU VIZIV TOURER CONCEPT shown at 88th Geneva Motor Show is very accurate to many world markets.
But, again, this concept is sooo nice that we all know it will never be produced.
Because Subaru loooves ugly and dated designs.
So I keep dreaming… One day… May be… Subaru will understand that design AND practicabilitty can live together.

DreaCrow (not verified)    August 15, 2018 - 2:21PM

Same, CC. My husband and I have wanted one since before I bought my Forester but we could only afford to buy one vehicle at a time. Now that we're getting ready to look for a new car for him, we're not sure what to do since we were convinced that they'd have brought back the WRX hatchback by now.

Vince (not verified)    October 7, 2018 - 1:56PM

Subaru's design chief should be fired ....How many other manufacturers now make a hatch ? Subaru got out when all the others got in ...what does that tell you ? Subaru doesn't get it. I have owned 7 Subaru's , 1 Outback, 3 Forester and 3 WRX hatchs ...Subaru now makes some of the ugliest cars in my opinion and no wrx hatch. I'm lucky I own one of the last 2014 WRX hatches because I couldn't buy another with the designs they have today, I would have to leave them.

Rick S Corrigan (not verified)    February 27, 2019 - 12:07AM

Take the Outback, lower it, (essentially making it a Legacy wagon,) drop in the STI engine, and I will would so buy it. We need more sport wagons, not SUV's.

Sue Fox-Warren (not verified)    July 12, 2019 - 8:36AM

I have a Forester 2012, Prior I owned a 2003 WRX 5 door manual. I am hanging out to get a new WRX hatch. It has everything I want. I have test driven a Levorg (handles like a dream, looks like a dog with really disjointed lines. They got that design soooooo wrong.) I then got given an XV while the Forester was being serviced. Not even close and reverse vision cut off in the line heading up the back window a dangerous design, and IT content/screens awful. No acceleration and that was it. Great senior sedate car. So that means we must get a WRX back into hatch form for those of us who love to drive on gravel, need the rear exit of non lift and occasional large object insertion,want an auto for most driving and need the pin the ears back handling and compact size plus street cred of the WRX turbo (yes happy to admit it about the cred). Also the occasional venture off road, the snow and ice handling, hills and typical NZ roads. WRX Imprezza did it all in 2003.
PS I am a 65 year old woman teacher (just retired) from NZ. Pleeeease pass this on to Japanese Subaru team. I am not alone and happy to go to Japan to explain and demonstrate.

Raj (not verified)    May 18, 2020 - 12:28PM

Yes have been asking for WRX/STI hatchback, I own the 2013 and dont want to give up, similar to me there are lot of Hatchback fans that have either held on to their current hatchback or moved on to different brands like Golf R. its confusing as the sales for hatchback models are higher than sedan and more an more people are preferring hatchback for their utility and practicality. I would really love if Subaru listens as they say they do to their fans and customers and actually bring back WRX/STI hatchback new gen. just praying and hoping...
SUBARU IF YOU ARE LISTENING BRING THE HATCHBACK NEW GEN, IF WANT TO DISCONTINUE NO BRAINER BRZ... working at the Subaru dealership hardly get 1 or 2 individuals every other month looking for BRZ and that too in automatic. more people have questions when Subaru plans to bring back WRX/STI hatch... hopefully you bring it back before the market, want and demand is killed