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Subaru WRX Is Brand’s Least Reliable Model With Transmission Problems

The Subaru WRX gets bad marks from Consumer Reports for reliability. It’s the brand’s least reliable model due to transmission problems.

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Subaru moved up in reliability and jumps two spots from sixth to fourth place among all automakers in the recent Consumer Reports Reliability Survey 2018. The redesigned second-generation The 2019 Subaru Crosstrek small SUV helps the brand move up the list because it has much better-than-average first-year reliability according to the latest survey. Crosstrek is the most reliable model, while the sport-tuned WRX is the brand’s least reliable model in the stable according to CR.

In overall reliability, the Lexus brand is number one, Toyota is number two, Mazda jumped nine spots to move into third place and Subaru is now fourth. CR says the WRX is the least reliable Subaru. CR gives it bad marks for its stiff and choppy ride, the “clunky” shifter and abrupt clutch engagement make the WRX frustrating as a daily driver. CR says the sporty WRX was the only Subaru with below-average reliability because of transmission problems.

Back in 2016, the WRX and WRX STI fell out of favor with CR saying the Subaru WRX and WRX STI are “no longer recommended” because of their declining reliability. Other big-name models with declining reliability and were also no longer recommended included the Audi A3, Chevy Volt, Dodge Durango, Ford F-150, Honda Civic, Lincoln MKX, and Mini Cooper.

The worst year for WRX transmission problems seems to the the 2015 model year. This was the first year of the redesign and WRX received an upgrade from the 5-speed manual to the 6-speed gearbox. reports most of the issues are coming from clutch issues, and transmission problems are second for complaints. The 2016 model year is next with clutch problems with 2018 MY next. They say the most common WRX transmission problems occur at 8,000 miles.

Reader Poll: Have you had transmission problems, and what year is your WRX?

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Photo credit: Subaru USA

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Richard TORELLO (not verified)    November 5, 2018 - 11:55AM

I have a 2016 WRX premium model six speed manual transmission I bought it in June of 2018 with 43000 miles it seems to be ok so far I'm glad I paid a little more for an extended warranty I also am a three time owner of Subarus my other car is a 2003 outback h6sedan it has 14500 miles on it I just had transmission rebuilt and tune up and other things done to it allot of money spent now it starting to make a engine knocking sound and the check engine light is on I'm at wits end as to what to do now and just put new tires on it should I see if it can be fixed and is it worth it

Paul Cahill (not verified)    November 5, 2018 - 12:46PM

Lets also talk about the crappy "leather" used on the steering wheel. I had my wheel replaced around 30k miles because the leather was pealing off. 10k miles later, the second wheel started doing the same thing. The leather on my wife's 2010 CX-9 and my old 2003 Jetta GLI look much better. Its pathetic.
But yeah, I had the throw out bearing replaced in my transmission around 30k miles. It still makes a chewbacca like noise when I am in 1st gear and releasing the clutch. I have the short throw shifter on my 2015 but still feel it is chunky and sloppy.

JP (not verified)    November 6, 2018 - 1:47AM

I have a MY2015 @ 34K miles, & no problems with transmission as of yet. .." stiff ride"?? CR doesn't know that's purposeful? At same time I do wish transmission was smoother.

Dave Wood (not verified)    November 7, 2018 - 9:40AM

I bought my 2017 WRX Premium new almost two years ago. It now has 35,000 miles on it. It has been perfect in every regard including the six-speed manual transmission and clutch. I'm certain that it will deliver many more trouble free miles.

TD (not verified)    November 7, 2018 - 1:29PM

Love the shifter in my 15 STI was even better after I put in an aftermarket short throw shifter plus stiffer bushings. As far as the ride the 15 STI was a bit stiff but not unbearable - they would really hate my 18 Type RA!!!

Grob (not verified)    November 10, 2018 - 3:07PM

Have a 2015 wrx with 30,000 miles. No problems at all. Has the short shifter and is very easy to shift. No issues with clutch. I think suspension is perfect. Great value for the dollar. Dealer service has also been extremely inexpensive.

B-Rex (not verified)    November 16, 2018 - 5:08PM

I have the 2015 - bought in 2014. 45k miles, original clutch and a stage 2 tune. No issues. Shifter has always been notchy, but its doing fine. Driven in a 'sporting' fashion. Solid car. Still fog up the windshield laughing in the snow.

EB (not verified)    November 20, 2018 - 12:35PM

If the critically minded folks didn't realize what a sham CR was before, you should now. Their rating system is absolutely preposterous. The Civic no longer gets a recommendation, as well as the F-150? Sure. Lets also be honest, as someone who's worked for a Subaru dealership, most if not nearly all of the "manual transmission issues" are user-induced. The amount of children the brand sees driving a WRX or STI has a direct correlation to the damage done to a manual transmission. Many folks start driving a manual on a WRX. If that isn't enough to discount these "findings" of failing transmissions and clutches, I don't know what is.

Mehran m (not verified)    February 9, 2019 - 2:19PM

In reply to by EB (not verified)

Wrong! Had my clutch kit replaced at 25k due to loose bearing, picked up the car on Wednesday from dealer and it popped exactly 24 hours later on the Freeway going in 60s in fourth gear. I have had manual shift cars for 30 years and would have never considered getting this car if I had known about crappy clutch/transmission issues
2017 Limited Manual WRX is back in th shop for the second time in a week

Josh (not verified)    August 13, 2019 - 12:40AM

In reply to by Mehran m (not verified)

Wow. Almost identical situation - my '17 WRX Limited is at the dealership now for a blown clutch; the car has 22,600 miles. I've been driving manual for over 15 years. Ive has multiple manuals that have lasted me till I sold em - talking 60k and no issues. Of course, they're trying to fault me. BS - especially with all the known issues.

TE (not verified)    May 5, 2019 - 8:01PM

In reply to by EB (not verified)

50+ years old here, 2017 WRX, had clutch and throwout bearing problems (there was a technical service bulletin to replace all clutch related items with 2018 parts). Throwout bearing carrier did damage to the transmission housing. Had to have transmission repaired/replaced. If you are a Subie tech you do know that these have been issues for years, and you would think that Subaru would have figured out the transmission case damage thing. My car has been impeccably maintained and not abused. There is no excuse for these issues, which don't seem to happen to all cars.

JJ (not verified)    January 14, 2019 - 2:37PM

Adult-driven-only (40's) 2015 WRX, purchased new from the dealer, I did drive it moderately aggressively but nothing at the track or similar. This is my 3rd manual transmission car, put 90K miles on my manual 2010 Forester most recently, around 20K miles driven on an earlier-owned manual transmission car.

Had to replace the clutch at 46K miles. Bad smells first thing in the morning & clutch was really stiff for the last 4-6 months prior to it failing. No transmission problems since then, 84K miles now. Also A/C compressor failed 2 years ago, maybe $1,700 to replace. This was a known problem for which Subaru had issued a "technical bulletin". No other major problems.

Mr. Notlob (not verified)    February 23, 2019 - 8:37AM

MY2018 WRX owner for 2 years with 24K miles. The shifter/clutch does require a bit more finesse than you might expect in order to get a smooth ride. Otherwise, I haven't had any transmission issues. Being stiff is also not a mark against this car. In fact the only real issue is the uncomfortable seats during long distance driving. No lower back support whatsoever.

Bill (not verified)    March 19, 2019 - 12:27PM

I have a 2016 STI I had my transmission replaced at 20,000 I now have 31,000 and they are tearing in to the new transmission for same problem

Shawn Godwin (not verified)    March 28, 2019 - 7:29AM

I have a 2014 subaru wrx and I've had issues from day 1. I've had the engine replaced due to faulty engine bearings and my brakes have never worked rite. I've replaced every brake component down to the brake lines and the pedal still sinks to the floor at stop lights. I've replaced the clutch twice and had second gear explode in the transmission at 62000 miles. Paid 3000 to subaru for a rebuild now I'm at 84000 and 3rd gear has exploded and I'm done with this car. I'm not paying another 3 thousand dollars. These cars are money pits and not even close to reliable vehicles.

Frank L (not verified)    April 18, 2019 - 12:23AM

Hi this article makes me laugh because till this day Subaru denies this fact.

I have a 2018 Subaru WRX. Transmission started whining when pressing clutch at exactly 8000-12000 miles approx...

I had videos and it was constant yet it took Subaru dealership and Subaru of America over 6 months to acknowledge the issue.

When they actually acknowledged it. They performed a fix. Told me they replaced something in clutch pedal. Noise never went away. When I got the car back I noticed ridiculous amounts of lube/grease on ever part of my pedal going to tranny. When I brought the car back they said the noise was no longer present.

After taking Subaru of America's advice and switching dealerships. Curry subaru
I was then told it was my fault. But yet the problem didn't exist?

Finally found a decent dealership. They acknowledged the problem. And they informed me that 4 months after purchasing my car when they replaced w.e they replaced. They removed and replaced my transmission. Which no one ever told me about and was not on any of my repair records... Subaru of America said I was making it up and printed the paper that the dealership gave me off of online.... Like wtf..
This is about 6 months into trying to get them to fix the issue. This new dealership told me it was the throw out bearing. Then the service manager talked to Subaru of America. And the problem no longer exsisted.

I was so fed up I said I didn't want the car and I was going to get a lawyer.

Subaru of America then gave me options to trade it in with 2500$ credit.

The dealership would not give me fair market value because of the issue with the clutch pedal whining. Even though it was under bumper to bumper and they said there was no problem. They also said they don't want a car that another dealership did shady work on.

So till this day I am at 40,000 miles clutch whines all the time. And 4th gear rattles.

4th gear rattle happens at about 35k. I brought it up last service appointment and the same thing is happening. It doesn't exist.
Subaru of America laughed in my face when I called and told them it was me with the same problem from last year like its some kind of joke.

I became disabled at 21 years old. I bought this car to make me happy and it was a gift from my fiance when I was in a really bad place of not wanting to be alive anymore.

My life has been hard enough.. it has nothing to do with it but Subaru should be help liable for lieng, and pushing people to the point we're they don't want to deal with them so they don't fix the cars they produce. That's exactly what they did to me.

I missed total over 2.5 months from work from not having my car and going back and forth to dealerships.

Another thing the dealership did was pop one of my tires, and patch it. On the sidewall and never told me. Completely ruined the inside of my tire. Never said a thing. The tire was so damaged inside. it could have blown out Mavis said. And they also said that is from driving on a fat tire for extremely long time. Why would a dealership do that. I was fighting with them so much it actually got to the point where I think they purposely damaged and sabataged my vehicle.

Giann (not verified)    May 23, 2019 - 12:28AM

In reply to by Frank L (not verified)

Hi Frank, I am sorry (and angry) for your experience with Subaru, and I can 200% relate. I am currently fighting Subaru for transmission issue. Long story short, the technician of my local Subaru dealer acknowledged the problem is due to a manufacturing defect, ordered parts in from Subaru Canada and was going to fix it under warranty. However, Subaru Canada stepped in at this time and declined the warranty. I am currently fighting Subaru Canada for this. Can I get in contact with you?

Michael bird (not verified)    April 18, 2019 - 9:58PM

Wrx 2015 all highway miles at 105k, warranty stopped at 100k I bought, transmission is toast and they said f off about fixing it. Thanks Subaru!

sam (not verified)    June 21, 2019 - 2:02PM

Bought a 2017 wrx premium in march 2017. I daily it and rip around on gravel on a regular basis, plow through snowstorms for hundreds of miles and generally drive it pretty hard. I just crossed 60k miles and havent had a single issue besides a battery replacement early on under warranty. Throttle is jerky and comes on too soon but that's a common issue with this gen. No transmission noise or clutch issues to speak of. Overall i am happy with the car and will continue to thrash it till the wheels fall off. Up to date on all appropriate preventative or regular maintenance.

Tab (not verified)    June 30, 2019 - 2:28PM

2016 WRX - throw out bearing and yoke failure covered by warranty.
Then I wasn’t able to shift into higher gears. The transmission problem was deemed due to abuse (false) and dealer recommended total transmission overhaul; it was a broken clutch cable - who uses a plastic connector on a clutch cable? Replaced cable at independent transmission shop. Shop couldn’t see evidence that transmission case was ever opened.I filed a complaint with California Consumer Affairs; appears Fairfield Subaru says they lost the paperwork. Looks like I’m suing Subaru to get recovery.
Car back in shop. Contaminated oil. Looks like bearing failure - waiting to hear from Subaru on warranty coverage.
Irrespective of the inconsistent quality of their vehicles I am disappointed with the integrity of Subaru and the dealer when someone gets stuck with a bad one off the line...

Aaron Beckman (not verified)    February 23, 2020 - 10:50AM

In reply to by Tab (not verified)

Car manufacturers these days do anything they can to deny known defects in their product. Usually unless it becomes a known safety hazzard they just deny, deny, deny.
I had a 2095 Jeep Wrangler with what used to be the bulletproof 4.0 straight 6. At 35k miles it started making horrible squealing noises at cold starts. Chrysler had already admitted there was a camshaft gear problem(drives oil pump on this engine) on 03 models, but said it was limited to a select VIN range.
Online research told otherwise, still had issues on 2004 and 2005, obviously out if the 03 vin range they admitted to.
Took it to another dealer and traded it, I am sure that motor was gonna blow sooner than later. But Chrysler did not want to fix three years wirth if defective product, so they denied anything was wrong.

David Gonzalez (not verified)    July 18, 2019 - 10:00AM

Ive owned a 2019 WRX for 7 months now and at just 8000 miles, I've already had to replace the rear differential. Dont ask Me how.

2018_WRX_LMTD (not verified)    February 4, 2020 - 2:36PM

In reply to by David Gonzalez (not verified)

Obviously 90% of these comments are related to a "transmission problem".. but since you commented on your WRX having a differential replaced already at only 8k miles, can you elaborate on this? Do you do multiple hard launches from a stand still (drag race)? Clutch drops? Spirited driving or rallying? Any explanation would be greatly appreciated by not only myself but everyone else in the WRX community. Thanks