The WRX isn't perfect-its five-speed manual transmission is vague and rubbery in its action, which is especially disappointing because the STI's six-speed is superbly precise. It still suffers from occasionally violent steering kickback over midcorner bumps, its brakes fade easily, and like other 2.5-liter turbocharged Subarus, the laggy engine surges noticeably under acceleration. The revised suspension gives the WRX a magic carpet ride, but insufficient rebound damping still lets the car float around when driven quickly.
Nevertheless, the '09 WRX is a vast improvement over the '08-and for about the same price. Few cars in this price range are as capable, quick, or fun. In fact, it seems the only thing faster than the new WRX is Subaru itself.
On sale: Now
price: $25,660/$26,160 (sedan/hatch)
Engine: 2.5L turbo flat-4, 265 hp, 244 lb-ft