Impreza hatches a plan

Subaru's current Impreza hatchback is an interesting used buy, says STEVE WALKER.Certain things still spring to mind when people mention the Subaru Impreza.

Subaru's current Impreza hatchback is an interesting used buy, says STEVE WALKER.

Certain things still spring to mind when people mention the Subaru Impreza. Its success in the Nineties and early Noughties hinged around rally stage wins and high-performance road cars which felt as though they'd proceeded directly from rally stage wins.

That Impreza did a fine job of democratising high performance with its turbocharged, all-wheel-drive brand of automotive hooliganism. In 2007, however, the Impreza took a new direction.


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An all-new version aimed to convert its notoriety into bigger sales with a hatchback bodystyle and slightly less focus on going exceedingly fast. With both family-friendly and family-frightening versions widely available, it makes an interesting used buy.

What you get

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In the UK, the Impreza was traditionally always either a saloon or a five-door Sport Wagon that trod the line between hatchback and estate but with this generation it became a conventional five-door hatch. This car is 45mm wider than the old Sport Wagon and has 95mm extra in the wheelbase. This brings a useful increase in interior space that will go down well with the family, as will the more compact rear suspension design which allowed an increase in boot space to 301 litres.

The interior in this model was a big step forward. The tough plastics and staid design of the old car were finally axed in favour of the better materials and modern layout, but it still lacks that top-quality feel compared to leading hatchbacks. That said, there should be few problems with the robust Subaru build.

What to look for

Despite their apparent complexity with all-wheel-drive and turbo charged engines, Subaru products tend to be highly reliable. With older cars, some extraneous bits of trim may have been lost along the way and the lustre may have gone from the shiny surfaces but you'd bet your bottom dollar on the important mechanical bits.

It means you can buy with reasonable confidence but remember that Subaru's performance and durability tends to make the Impreza attractive to people who fully intent to push the car to its limits. Many WRX and STi models will have been driven hard, so check the tyres, brakes and clutch. There's also the possibility the vehicle's 4x4 system may have been put to the test. Have a squint at the underbody, wheels and sills for damage.

On the road

The engines are all Subaru Boxer units giving smooth power delivery and a distinctive soundtrack. This even applies to the diesel, a 148bhp 2.0-litre unit capable of returning close to 50mpg on the combined cycle. It's easily the Impreza's best mainstream engine. Otherwise, it's petrol power all the way. The 106bhp 1.5-litre engine opens proceedings and above it sits a 2.0-litre unit with 148bhp.

These are modern engines but with 0-60mph sprint times of 13.7 and 9.2 seconds respectively, they don't yield the kind of performance we've come to associate with the Impreza. For that kind of shove, you'll need the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine in the WRX. Here, there's 227bhp which is enough for a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds. All the engines have been tuned to give improved low-end torque for a smoother driving experience. In the WRX, the vast majority of the 320Nm maximum torque is available at 2,000rpm. If you need more, there's the 296 or 326bhp WRX STi models at the top of the range.

Overall

There are better family runabouts than the Subaru Impreza but in its more aggressive guises, it remains one of the most capable performance cars you can get for the money.

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