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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Flagship car has legendary rally-bred performance, yet other models all handle well, too

Against Interior looks and feels cheap, whereas the car's running costs are anything but

Verdict The range-topper steals the limelight, but the rest are grippy, fun and practical

Go for… Any top spec Turbo/WRX models

Avoid… Track day specials

Subaru Impreza Saloon
  • 1. The cabin looks a bit plasticky and cheap
  • 2. The boot has a wide opening, but the intruding suspension limits the width of the space inside
  • 3. Driveshafts can need replacing
  • 4. Clutches need special attention and can require replacing at moderate mileages
  • 5. Suspension and brake parts need frequent replacing, especially if the car has been driven hard
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Subaru Impreza Saloon full review with expert trade views

Let’s get the show-stopper out of the way first. The flagship Turbo/WRX models (the badging system depends on what age car you buy) are sensational. The all-wheel-drive chassis is sublime, handling is phenomenal, acceleration is awe-inspiring. You will reach your limits before the car does. However, the rest of the range has lots to recommend it, too. All Imprezas are grippy, quick, fun to drive and practical.

However, interior design isn’t Subaru’s strong suit, and the cabin looks a bit plasticky and cheap. If you can get over that, the build quality is good, the layout is logical and the driver's seating position is comfortable. The saloon’s boot has a wide opening, but the intrusion of the suspension means it’s not like that all the way back. Room in the rear isn’t great, with the best small family cars providing at least as much space.

Trade view

James Ruppert

WRX STi is the model that buyers want, with little interest in non-turbos

James Ruppert
Used car guru

In 1998, the Impreza went through its biggest change since it arrived in the UK five years earlier. This included a completely revised interior, with the addition of a standard passenger airbag, new seats and a Momo steering wheel. Power still came from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, however.

There were more tweaks each year as the Impreza evolved to reach cult status in the UK. A host of special-edition cars were also launched, including the P1 and RB5 in 1999. In late 2000, a front-end makeover resulted in the much-criticised ‘bug-eyed’ model, and at the same time the Turbo name was dumped in favour of WRX. A redesign 12 months later created another new nose, and more annual revisions have followed.

If you’re not interested in outrageous performance, the 2.0-litre R is the base model, and performs well. It will still hit 60mph in 8.5 seconds.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Lots of engine failures on Turbo models reduce the reliability rating

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Opt for one of the performance variants, and it’s not going to be a cheap experience. The car’s pedigree means it needs plenty of love and affection, so be prepared for costly servicing.

Make sure the servicing schedule has been followed to the letter. Our advice is to find out the facts before you buy. There are plenty of enthusiast groups on the internet that offer a great mine of information.

Insurance starts at group 10 for the 1.6-litre car and run up to group 20, depending on which model you’re going to buy. Fuel bills will be high, with mpg figures usually somewhere in the 20-30 bracket - the power output of your car will be the deciding factor.

The best advice about repairs is to try not to crash because the bills are notoriously huge. More mainstream models are less expensive, but with no diesels you’re never going to get more than 32mpg on any car.

Trade view

James Ruppert

WRX STi is the model that buyers want, with little interest in non-turbos

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The sporty Imprezas – and particularly the saloon versions – are very popular with trackday enthusiasts, so ask the seller about what the car has been used for. If it has been a regular on the race circuits, only you will be able to decide if that’s something you want to worry about.

Ask about any damage or repairs. Take a good look at the service history, too – has any routine maintenance been missed or done late as cash-strapped owners try to cut corners? Hard-driven examples need frequent changes of brake and suspension parts.

A recall launched by Subaru UK in late 2004 affected about 1500 cars, and was over concerns that a control valve cover might come loose, causing oil to leak, which could lead to the risk of fire. Check to see if your car was affected, and if remedial work has been carried out.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Lots of engine failures on Turbo models reduce the reliability rating

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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