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How Safe Is the Subaru WRX?

The 2020 Subaru WRX is fun to drive. Critics rave about its superior handling, a user-friendly infotainment system, comfortable, roomy seats, and a powerful engine. Standard all-wheel drive is a standout over competitors in the same class. Unfortunately for the WRX, the good doesn’t outweigh the bad. Both U.S. News and Consumer Reports ranked it as #11 of 12 in small cars and sports cars under $40,000, respectively.

It seems that the reviewers agree on concerns for safety and reliability. In fact, the Consumer Reports Reliability Rankings named the 2020 Subaru WRX the most unreliable Subaru of the year.

Where the Subaru WRX comes up short

A red Subaru WRX on display at an auto show
A Subaru WRX on display | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the WRX a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rankings are all rated good or superior. There were no consumer responses to surveys on reliability, yet CR scores it a 2/5. So why did Consumer Reports rank the 2020 WRX a bottom of the barrel with a 61 in reliability and owner satisfaction?

While there are some standard safety features like a rearview camera, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and daytime running lights, most are optional. Key driver assistance technology includes forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist available as options, as is the Starlink Safety Plus subscription. Is it the amount of optional compared to standard safety equipment that offends the reviewers?

U.S. News cites the J.D. Power reliability rating as only 2 out of 5, but they scored safety as 9.5 out of 10. There are low marks for fuel economy, but is that really what WRX drivers are looking for?

Quite honestly, it’s not easy to find the exact reason that this car is rated so poorly among expert opinions on safety and reliability, particularly when Cars.com shows consumers rate it a 5/5 on reliability. Even Edmunds.com lists the premium safety features as a pro.

How do the competitors rank?

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In the U.S. News safety rankings, the Subaru WRX sits in between the Civic at 9.7 and the Mazda3 at 9.4. It comes in last in every other category. In comparison with the Honda Civic and the Mazda3, for overall rankings, the WRX trails at 7.3 behind the other two at 8.3 each.

Breaking it down, the Honda Civic offers three body styles with a choice of two performance trims, the SI and Type R, while the WRX is only available in a sedan. At 306 hp, the Type R gives the Subaru a run for its money, coming in just behind the 310 hp of the WRX. Honda upped the game in interior quality and fuel economy with the Civic, leaving the WRX in the dust.

The ‘zoom zoom’ of the Mazda3, while fun and zippy, isn’t quite able to stand toe to toe with the 2020 Subaru WRX as far as horsepower, but it does come out better on fuel economy.

Like the Civic, the Mazda3 has options other than just a sedan, namely a hatchback. The interior is top of the class, and the generous cargo room also supersedes that of the WRX. 

So, how safe is the Subaru WRX?

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Based on the research, it’s pretty confounding why there are such low rankings for safety and reliability when the details on the safety rankings are about as good as it gets.

There may be alternatives with more upscale interior and better gas mileage, but the evidence points to the 2020 Subaru WRX to be not only a powerful and fun car to drive but about as safe as you could ask for.