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Numerous authorities, both governmental and private, say today’s small cars, such as the Subaru WRX, are some of the safest vehicles on the road. That’s because models of all classes now come with many more standard safety features than they once did. And for car buyers willing to pay slightly more for optional driver assists, newer small cars are safer than ever.

Here’s why the Subaru WRX sports sedan is such a safe pick.

The Subaru WRX is one of the safest small cars of 2021

Whether you’re thinking of downsizing to a more compact vehicle or looking for something affordable, easy to drive, yet safe for a newly licensed teen, small cars are attractive options. Some people still have reservations about the safety of small cars, even though technology has improved significantly. A recent U.S. News review should put your doubts to rest.

It should be no surprise that a Japanese brand would be first on the list if not within the top three — but Japanese brands comprise the top four on this U.S. News list, so that would be a moot point. Nevertheless, of those four, Honda holds two of those spots, with the 2021 Insight at the top and the 2021 Civic in fourth place. Subaru landed a third-place finish with the 2021 Impreza. At a cozy second is the 2021 Mazda3, with U.S. News saying it perfectly aligns value, style, safety, performance, and practicality.

Then there’s the Subaru WRX.

What’s up with the 2021 Subaru WRX placing last?

Subaru’s new WRX can bask in the glory of being an IIHS Top Safety Pick and flaunt a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the Subie fell to Nissan, Kia, and Toyota. That’s right: The WRX finished in 14th place — also known as last place.

But don’t let “14th” give you the wrong idea. According to U.S. News, the NHTSA gave the 2021 Subaru WRX an overall safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars in the frontal crash, side crash, and rollover tests. It also earned the Top Safety Pick Award, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s second-highest, as well as top grades for the effectiveness of its vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention systems.

The only thing preventing the 2021 Subaru WRX from achieving the highest IIHS honor was its standard halogen headlights. They suffer from reduced visibility at night.

The WRX at a glance


More Than 20 Percent of Subaru WRX Drivers Get Speeding Violations

The all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX was initially based on the Impreza as a sport compact rally car for the 1992 World Rally Championship. Thus, its design is inherently sporty yet durable enough to handle flat asphalt roads and rough forest tracks. Back then, Subaru said “WRX” stood for “World Rally eXperimental.” For the 2014 model year, the automaker decided to split the WRX from the Impreza, essentially creating its own lineup. In doing so, Subaru refreshed the WRX’s exterior. It also discontinued the WRX hatchback and wagon versions.

The 2021 Subaru WRX marks the beginning of the second generation. It’s built on the new Subaru Global Platform and comes in five trims. According to Subaru, the base-model WRX starts at $27,495, while the WRX STI Limited retails for $41,945. The WRX STI and STI Limited pack a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged Boxer engine capable of producing an impressive 310 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque.

Its plentiful standard features include a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, performance-design front seats, 60/40-split flat-folding rear seatbacks, steering wheel controls, electronic cruise control, and 6.5-inch multimedia touchscreen.

But what’s most impressive is its long list of standard safety features. They include reverse automatic braking, vehicle dynamics control with active torque vectoring, and a four-wheel antilock braking system.