$0-50K: 3rd - Subaru WRX STI

Subaru WRXs and their STi stablemates have always done well at Bang For Your Bucks.

Which figures given that since the 1990s, they’ve been offering up turbocharged grunt, all-paw grip and a fair degree of purpose, all for – when you think about it – chump change.

But this year had the potential to be different: The basic WRX has, arguably, lost some of its razor-sharp focus just for starters.

I mean, the two-pedal version (itself a conundrum) is now a CVT for crying out loud. Then there’s the fact that the STi was redeveloped on pretty much no budget.

So, no extra horsepower or torque over the old car, then, and certainly no new tech to speak of. Dunno about you, but I could see a black eye coming.

Wasn’t the case, though, and, provided you have the brains to select your WRX with a manual transmission, even the entry-level WRX is a good 'un.

And we’re not even at the STi yet. See, the thing is, even the STi will still give you change from 50-grand (okay, only a ten-spot, but change is change) and I can remember when a Rex with a STi badge would rush you $60,000 and then some.

So, even if it’s not any better than previous STis, it should still make a fist of this given the new-age price-tag, right?

Ultimately, of course, Subaru really pulled something out of the hat with the new STi, because even with no extra bang from the engine, some clever changes to the active centre diff, a bit of a diet and some clever Nth-degreeing of existing bits has actually made a huge difference to how the car works. In fact, it’s a bleeding revelation, once you’ve toggled the centre-diff switch to maximum-attack.

And you know as much form the moment you tip it into the first fast corner. The big surprise was that though the Winton sweeper, the STi wasn’t anywhere near the top of the pops, but it sure felt fast everywhere else.

Part of the secret is the steering which seems to be super accurate and allows the front end to feel for grip, but it’s also about that centre diff moving the torque around to the tyres that can make best use of it. Which, in turn, means you can get on the noise early and blast towards the next obstacle.

In fact, there’s so much going on and so quickly does it happen, that it’s difficult to quantify from the driver’s chair what’s really going on and how.

But learn to trust it and you can soon be making big statements when it comes to entry speed and how soon you get back on the decibels.

Yet for all that, it doesn’t seem to be a non-involving experience, and where other cars using the same type and level of technology can feel a bit clinical, the STi still wants to be your buddy.

The grunt is interesting, too. Like we said, there’s no net gain over the old STi, but this car still threw down a 0-100km/h time of 5.5 (quickest of the sub-50K bunch)and a 400m sprint of 13.64 at 164.6km/h (yep, fastest again). It also despatched the 80-120km/h blast in 3.7 seconds (second fastest) and the STi’s lap-time of 1.41:5 was another class-leading performance.

Like we said, it’s a revelation to drive and with the sub-50K sticker taking care of the bucks angle (up to a point anyway) it’s no wonder the STi finished third in this company.

Results
$0-50K placing – 3rd
Overall placing – 6th
Judges’ ranking – 1st

0-100km/h – 5.47sec (6th)
0-400m – 13.64sec @164.62km/h (6th)
Lap Time – 1:41.50sec ( 1st)
Pricing – $49,990 (13th)

Specs
Engine: 2457cc, flat-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 221kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 407Nm @ 4000rpm
Weight: 1525kg
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Suspension: A-arms, struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: 330mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 315mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers (r)
Wheels: 18 x 8.5-inch
Tyres: 245/40 R18 97W Dunlop Sport Maxx (f/r)

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