2015 Subaru WRX CVT
2015 Volkswagen GTI DSG
2015 Subaru WRX CVT, 2015 Volkswagen GTI DSG. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

In our recent affordable fun car shoot out, a septuplet of reasonably priced hooligans had an all-out battle royale over who did the best blending of shenanigans and sensibility (by Jane Austen. Just kidding). Just one problem: every single one had a manual transmission.

Won’t anyone think of the pirate community: those who have been robbed of the ability to do the three-pedal waltz thanks to a vicious blow from a cutlass, or a well-aimed cannonball, or just picking at a scab too much? What of them, ye landlubbers? D’ye have any idea how hard it be to heel-an’-toe with a peg-leg? It’s arrrrrrrrrduous.

And perhaps you have reasons for eschewing a six-speed manual, reasons that are more reasonable than having had your left leg gnawed off by a Red Seas shark. Maybe you split driving duties with a spouse who doesn’t want to learn to shift. Maybe your commute is so much gas-brake-honk that constantly shifting around would eventually drive you to honk-honk-punch and then gas-gas-gas. Maybe you just plain don’t buy into the idea that a stick-shift transmission is somehow more fun than a modern automatic transmission. Automatics these days are more economical than a stick, more flexible, and there’s often even a straight-line bonus because they shift faster than a human can.

From the podium of our everyday hot compact comparison test come two family four-doors with a snootful of boost underhood and an automatic transmission bolted to the engine. One’s a refinement of an existing product, and the other’s a semi-heretical change that’s riled up the rally faithful.

Both the Volkswagen GTI and the Subaru WRX are all-new for the 2015 model year, and while both are still available with a six-speed manual transmission, here’s how they stack up as paddle-wheelers. If you thought they represented different philosophies of compact performance before, then check this out.

2015 Subaru WRX CVT2015 Subaru WRX CVT
2015 Subaru WRX CVT. Click image to enlarge


One’s a hatchback, and one’s not anymore. Case closed: cue letter-writing campaign to Subaru headquarters, smash head on desk, sob uncontrollably, repeat as necessary.

In terms of flexibility nothing beats a hatchback for cargo carrying, and with slightly increased boot space thanks to a bump in overall length, the GTI has the clear advantage here. By the numbers, it’s a crushing victory for the Vee-Dub, with nearly 650 L of space behind the rear seats, as compared to 340 L listed for the WRX.

Thing is, they don’t look that much different. If you take the figure supplied by VW under the parcel shelf, the GTI’s trunk space drops down to 490 L. That includes two useful cubbies tucked either side, but when I measured the distance between the wheel wells, maximum distance from front to back, and maximum height with the adjustable cargo floor in its lowest position, I came up with figures of 100 cm wide, 75 cm deep, and 50 cm high. That’s 375 L of space, which ignores the scallop of the trunk and the sloping back of the VW’s seats.

Suffice to say that the VW’s trunk space is better and more flexible, but the WRX isn’t the cargo-area pipsqueak the numbers might initially show. Let’s leave it labelled as “usable” and under no circumstances go look at the base Impreza 5-door’s claimed 640 L cargo capacity. Nope. I’ll just start crying again.

2015 Volkswagen GTI DSG2015 Volkswagen GTI DSG
2015 Volkswagen GTI DSG. Click image to enlarge

In terms of cabin space, both vehicles are almost identical in dimensions, differing by just a few mm in width and headroom. However, with a rear-facing child seat installed, the WRX has a little more room up front than the GTI. It’s fractional, but combined with the Subaru’s extra-wide door opening, the WRX claws back a few points on the family-friendly scale.

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