From Consumer Reports, November 2001 issue

A focus on fun

Two doors or four: Different approaches to sporty driving.

The cars in this report, the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Acura RSX Type-S, reflect two different ways of blending sporty driving with a practical interior and decent cargo-carrying capacity. Each features contemporary styling, quick acceleration, good handling, and a relatively low price. The Impreza WRX is a small sports sedan that offers the practicality of four doors, seating for five people, and an enclosed trunk. The Acura RSX is a more traditional sporty coupe--a two-door with a hatchback rear door and a split, folding rear seat that provides plenty of cargo room for a small car. Both, we found, are fun to drive, but to varying degrees.


The Impreza WRX is the high-performance version of Subaru's redesigned all-wheel-drive Impreza. Available as a sedan or wagon, the WRX's general styling, powertrain, and chassis tuning resemble those of the company's rally cars. While other Impreza models use a 165-hp, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, the WRX has a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter version that boosts horsepower to 227. The suspension is firmer than on the base Impreza, providing better handling. Among its rally-car-influenced design elements are sport-style front seats and steering wheel, standard fog lights, and a functional hood scoop that routes air into the turbo's intercooler for increased engine power.


See the full WRX Report for a review of the Subaru WRX.

See the Consumer Reports WRX ratings here.

The base Impreza has a starting price of $17,500 (making it the least expensive AWD car on the market). The WRX sedan begins at $23,995, which includes standard features such as antilock brakes, side air bags, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, and all the usual power accessories. The total price for our car, including shipping, came to $24,545. The CR Wholesale Price, which includes buyer rebates and what the dealer paid after incentives, is $22,502. (CR Wholesale Prices were effective as of early October 2001.)

The front-wheel-drive Acura RSX is the 2002 replacement for the long-running Integra, the entry-level car in Honda's upscale Acura line. The switch from the Integra to the RSX designation completes Acura's transition from model names (Legend, Vigor, Integra) to alphanumeric designations (3.5RL, 3.2TL, RSX). Think of the RSX as a semiluxury version of the very nice Honda Civic. Unlike the Integra, the RSX is available only as a two-door hatchback coupe. The hatchback rear door and fold-down rear seatbacks add some cargo-carrying versatility to the two-door design.

The base-trim RSX, which starts at $19,950, comes with a 160-hp, 2.0-liter Four and either a five-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. Like the WRX, it's equipped with abundant power accessories. The top-trim Type-S has a high-output 200-hp version of the Four, comes with a six-speed manual transmission, and has a six-disc in-dash CD changer. Including shipping, our Type-S came to $23,650. The CR Wholesale Price is $21,372.


The Subaru Impreza WRX delivers brisk acceleration and agile handling while providing a reasonably comfortable and quiet ride. Couple that with the security of all-wheel drive, and you have a practical, fun-to-drive car at a reasonable price. Reliability should be very good. The few debit points include overall fuel economy of just 21 mpg, its need for premium fuel, and a somewhat imprecise-feeling stick shift.

The Acura RSX is a good car, quick and nicely finished inside and out. But it suffers from a few limitations. Handling is very good but gets upset on rough roads. The engine provides strong acceleration, but to get the most from it you have to push the engine to high revs. The ride is stiff and noisy, and the coupe configuration hampers rear access and comfort. The brakes were unimpressive for a sporty car, too. Like the Subaru, it needs high-priced premium fuel, but at 26 mpg, it provides much better gas mileage than the WRX. Reliability is likely to be above average.