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Should You Get A Subaru BRZ Or WRX?

Subaru WRX blue hatchback at the Babes 6 car show in the Philippines

When you’re ready to buy a new car, you have to start by going through a thousand different questions in your head. Since you narrowed your search down to either a BRZ or WRX, you’re almost there. Both cars are great options, and I’d like to help you make your decision.

The BRZ is a toned-down version of the WRX with fewer doors, a lower sticker price, and an RWD powertrain. Typically, people will go for the WRX if they can afford the difference. Both vehicles are great options in terms of safety, reliability, technology, and driving comfort. However, the WRX wins in all the performance and off-roading comparisons. The WRX is faster, more comfortable, comes with a richer history, and is highly respected in the car community.

In this guide, I’ll talk through the WRX and the BRZ. I’ll even do a head-to-head matchup and compare 14 different categories. By the end, I’ll make my personal decision and help you pick which car is right for you.

Disclaimer: The Decision Is All Yours

I want to start with a quick disclaimer before I get too far. This guide is simply a car comparison post, and a lot of my points will be from my personal perspective.

Ultimately, the final decision is yours. I’m just a car fan and I want to give you all the information so you can make an informed decision.

What Is a WRX?

The WRX is the flagship vehicle from Subaru. Its name stands for World Rally Experimental, and that’s exactly how it started — as a rally experiment gone right.

It debuted back in 1992, and it’s been turning heads ever since. It’s a JDM, it’s a sports car, and it’s a rally legend. Today, you’ll see a lot of heavily modded WRX on the highway.

This is an AWD sedan that typically offers a big scoop in its hood and an impressive performance. A WRX’s trademark color scheme is a royal blue paint job with gold wheels.

The WRX’s top trim level is called the STI, which stands for Subaru Tecnica International. Some people will only refer to WRX as an STI, but there are four trim levels available for WRXs that are not STIs.

To put it simply: All STIs are WRXs, but not all WRXs are STIs.

For reference, the STI is the gold standard when it comes to JDM Rally. It has the perfect balance of power, weight distribution, and reliability. If you were a kid with car posters on the wall (like me), then I’m sure there was an STI up there somewhere.

Subaru WRX STI 2015 blue car in Hong Kong for test drive day
2015 Subaru WRX STI

What Is a BRZ?

The BRZ is the little brother of the WRX. It’s another Subaru, but this one is an RWD coupe with a boxer engine. As a result, they’ve cleverly named the car the BRZ, short for the Boxer, Rear Wheel Drive, Zenith. Zenith is the highest point of a star, which hints that Subaru had high hopes for this car when they first made it.

The car was first released in 2012, and it seemed like a departure for the brand. They ditched the typical sedan style, got rid of AWD, and removed the rally nature when they put together the BRZ. Perhaps it was their way of making a standard commuter car, but it always struck me as odd.

If you think a BRZ looks a lot like a Toyota 86 or Scion FR-S, you’ve got a good eye. Toyota co-developed the early-model BRZs, and they clearly took a lot of influence from the Subaru team. Since Toyota is the parent company of Scion, it makes sense that they shared a lot of parts with the FR-S.

White Subaru BRZ sports coupe driving on the road
2017 Subaru BRZ

Some Trims to Consider

Both cars have a few trims to choose from. With the BRZ, you’ll either pick the stock option or upgrade to the Limited trim for another $3,000.

With the WRX, there are five trim levels, with the STI being the most expensive and best-performing option. The WRX STI is arguably the most esteemed and sought-after option in their trim lineup.

BRZ vs WRX: Head-to-Head Comparison

The best way to make your decision is through a head-to-head comparison. In this section, I’ll do just that. I’ll also claim a winner in each matchup, and I’ll tally the votes after this section.

Price

For a lot of drivers, the car’s price is the biggest decision-maker. Knowing how much car you can afford will help you stick to your budget and avoid financial troubles in the future.

Remember, a car isn’t an investment — in fact, almost every car will go down in value after you buy it.

More expensive cars tend to come with more power, more luxuries, and a more comfortable seat. In this case, the same is generally true.

That’s because the BRZ is less expensive than the WRX. A stock 2022 BRZ starts at $27,995, and a stock 2022 WRX starts at $29,605.

On paper, that’s not a big difference. However, that’s just for the base model. As you go up in trim levels, the price difference soars to over $11,900 between the two.

Also, the used car market is less expensive than buying a brand-new one. Going for a used BRZ will save you even more money in comparison to buying a used WRX.

Winner: BRZ

Stock Power

The difference in stock power between a WRX STI and a top-level BRZ is staggering. The WRX STI offers 310 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. The BRZ Limited has 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.

The other thing to note is that a WRX comes with a turbocharger, which makes the most out of every horsepower.

Winner: WRX

Close up of the engine on a Subaru WRX STI car
Subaru WRX STI engine

Straight-Line Speed and Acceleration

Another statistic that can make your decision is how fast the car can accelerate. In this case, the WRX has a bigger engine, an extra 105 horsepower, and a turbocharger. As a result, the WRX has a much faster 0-60 speed than BRZ, and a higher top-end speed.

Winner: WRX

Tech and Amenities

Inside, both cars offer roughly the same features. They have the same tech packages available, and the multimedia system is identical.

With the exception of a few knobs being in different places, I didn’t notice a big aesthetic difference between the two cars when I sat in them.

Winner: Tie

Subaru BRZ 2022 interior
2022 Subaru BRZ interior

Resale Value

Even though the BRZ is less expensive to purchase, they tend to lose their value pretty quickly. On the other hand, the more expensive WRX tends to offer a better resale value after owning it for a few years.

If you want to minimize your loss, it might make sense to pick up a WRX instead.

Another reason why the resale is so great is that a WRX is a sought-after car, especially with the STI trim. I know it’s anecdotal, but I had a friend who bought a used WRX STI, then sold it after a few years for a profit. You shouldn’t expect to have the same story, but it goes to show how rich the resale market is for a WRX.

Winner: WRX

Fuel Efficiency

If you’re not planning on off-roading with your car, you’ll probably value the fuel efficiency on regular highways and roads. In this matchup of fuel efficiency, it’s pretty close.

The WRX offers up to 19 city/ 26 highway mpg, and the BRZ offers up to 21 city/ 30 highway mpg. Neither one is leading the market in fuel efficiency, but the BRZ does have a slight edge with more efficiency in this matchup.

Winner: BRZ

Off-Roading

Off-roading is perhaps the category that offers the biggest difference between these two cars. Personally, I would never take a BRZ off-road. I wouldn’t even drive it on gravel.

The RWD coupe is just too squirrely on unpaved roads, and you’ll experience plenty of oversteer as you drive around.

As a stark contrast, a WRX feels at home on dirt and gravel roads. You can feel the rally pedigree as you take your WRX off the beaten path, and the AWD and perfectly balanced weight will keep you on track.

Winner: WRX

Subaru WRX WRC Rally car on a dirt road racing - Travis Pastrana
Travis Pastrana driving a Subaru WRX Rally car at the Wales Rally GB event

Total Ground Clearance

It might be worth mentioning the ground clearance of both vehicles as well. For reference, ground clearance is the measurement between the undercarriage of your car and the road it’s sitting on.

It’s a metric that tells you roughly how well you can off-road, drive through snow, and get through deep puddles. With more ground clearance, you can handle rougher roads without bottoming out and having big issues.

As an exaggerated example, monster trucks have a lot of ground clearance and Smart Cars have very little.

Between the BRZ and WRX, you can probably already guess which one has more ground clearance. The BRZ designers dropped the suspension so the driving position is a lot lower and sportier-feeling. The WRX was lifted to make off-roading and rallying more efficient, as the driver experiences divots and bumps in the road.

The WRX has 5.4 inches of ground clearance, and the BRZ has 5.1 inches.

Winner: WRX

Passenger Comfort and Seating

Both of these options will allow for up to five passengers, but the WRX does it better. Every BRZ is a coupe, which means that it only has two doors. As a result, the rear passengers will need to climb over the folded front seats to get into the back.

The rear headspace, leg space, and elbow room are much smaller in the BRZ as compared to the WRX.

With the four-door WRX sedan, you can have people hop in and out quickly, and they will appreciate the extra room.

If you’re using your car to carpool or pick up friends, or you’re the designated driver, then you’ll like the WRX more.

Winner: WRX

Interior view of the car seats of a 2020 Subaru WRX STI
2020 Subaru WRX STI interior

Transmission Options

If you’re shopping for a WRX or BRZ made before 2021, then the transmission options will be a big issue. Before 2021, only the WRX came in either an automatic or manual 6-speed transmission. The BRZ only came with a manual transmission.

Say what you will about driving a manual, but there are certain people who don’t like it, don’t know how, and/or don’t want to learn how to drive a manual. For those people, a BRZ simply isn’t an option.

The good news is that 2022 BRZs finally come with an automatic option.

If you want to buy a used automatic, then the WRX is your only choice. As a result, it wins this category.

Winner: WRX

Aftermarket Products

I mentioned early in this guide that you’ll typically see modded-out WRXs on the highway. Well, I didn’t mention that almost every BRZ I encounter is also heavily modified.

In fact, Subarus are very moddable in general. With either the WRX or BRZ, there is a huge aftermarket community and plenty of additions to choose between. You can completely customize how your car sounds, looks and performs — as long as you don’t mind spending some money and getting your hands dirty.

In my opinion, this is the category that makes both the BRZ and WRX so desirable. While brands like Ferrari and Porsche outwardly discourage modding their vehicles, I’ve talked with managers and executives at different Subaru locations that love the mod culture surrounding their cars.

If you want to mod a car, you can’t go wrong with either a BRZ or WRX.

Winner: Tie

Heavily modified Subaru BRZ at the East Auto Moto Show in 2019 Taytay, Rizal, Philippines
2019 Subaru BRZ with an aftermarket body kit

Interior Comfort

Earlier I mentioned passenger comfort and some interior aesthetics, but I never mentioned the comfort of the driver. In this case, the difference is more noticeable.

If you drive a few hundred miles in a BRZ and then a WRX, you’ll want to pick the WRX for future drives. The seat cradles you really well, and you feel supported through fast turns and quick accelerations.

The performance packages on the WRX put in a race-quality bucket seat that makes everything feel better as you slam the accelerator.

That’s not to say that the BRZ is uncomfortable at all. In fact, I really liked sitting in a BRZ and driving around. The difference is that the seat in the WRX I drove just felt better.

Winner: WRX

Safety

A great thing about buying a Subaru is that its whole history revolves around safety. They are commonly at the top of the list when it comes to brand-wide safety, and the BRZ and WRX are no exceptions to this rule.

Both cars have a lot of safety features, added sensors, impressive crash ratings, and plenty of airbags.

If you have new drivers in your life, you should feel comfortable if they’re driving a Subaru. The simple fact is that Subaru is a safe brand, no question about it.

Winner: Tie

Subaru BRZ sports car at the 97th Brussels Motor Show 2019 Auto Salon

Curb Appeal

This is where I’m going to divide the audience. Look at a 2022 BRZ then a WRX and tell me which one you think is better looking.

In my opinion, I like the WRX since it’s such an icon in the car community. The team at Subaru somehow made a sedan look incredible, which is a difficult task.

However, I can appreciate the beauty of the BRZ. The only thing that throws me off is the roundness of the car. It looks like the designer lost their ruler mid-design, and it has too much of the Scion styling that I’m not a fan of.

Regardless, I know that curb appeal is up to the beholder, so I’ll leave this one as a tie.

Winner: Tie

Should You Get A BRZ Or WRX?

Finally, it’s time to decide. Should you get a Subaru BRZ or a Subaru WRX? In the previous section, I presented 14 different head-to-head comparisons. Of the 14, 4 of them were ties, 2 of them the BRZ won, and the remaining 8 were won by the WRX.

If you want to make your decision solely based on the matchups, then the WRX is the right option. The WRX is more powerful, better at off-roading, is very comfortable, and has better performance in this matchup.

The BRZ is the less expensive little brother. It boasts better fuel efficiency and all the same safety and modification support that the WRX offers.

If you want my opinion, I’d suggest going for the WRX if it’s within your budget. I truly believe the performance and handling differences are worth the few extra thousand bucks.

2017 Subaru WRX parked on the side of the road in Hong Kong - test drive day
2017 Subaru WRX sedan

Conclusion

As you just saw, I did an in-depth look at the BRZ and WRX and determined which car would be better for you. The WRX is the bigger, badder, more expensive, and more powerful option of the two. It has a long history in the rally world, and I’ll always turn my head when I pass an STI on the road.

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References:

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Subaru BRZ Vs WRX: Which Budget Sports Car To Get?

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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