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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Practical bodystyle means this motorsport-inspired estate appeals to families

Against Running costs are high, and the Impreza's interior looks and feels cheap

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

Go for… Top-spec Turbo/WRX models

Avoid… Hard-driven examples

Subaru Impreza Sports Wagon
  • 1. Check engine, gearbox and clutch - the car may well have been driven hard
  • 2. Listen for clunks from worn suspension bushes
  • 3. The four-wheel drive system can be costly to repair
  • 4. This hatchback's load bay is much more versatile than the saloon's
  • 5. The cabin is plasticky and has a low-rent feel
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Subaru Impreza Sports Wagon full review with expert trade views

Because the Impreza estate – or Wagon as it’s better known – lacks the saloon bodyshell of the rally cars, it’s viewed by many as the poor relation. However, if you want practicality with your incredible handling and eye-watering acceleration, it’s the pick of the pair. The range-topping Turbo/WRX models (badging depends on what age of car you buy) are sensational, but the rest are all quick, fun to drive and stick to the Tarmac like glue.

Clearly all the development budget went to the engineers because the interior is very poor. There are acres of unappealing plastic, and switchgear from another era. If you can ignore that, though, the build quality is good, the layout logical and the driving position comfortable.

The hatchback-style rear door has a wide opening with plenty of space for pets or luggage. The downside is that room in the rear seats isn’t great, and your head, shoulders and knees will feel cramped.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Choose a WRX with shattering all-round performance. Bug-eye looks unpopular

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

In 1998, the Impreza went through its biggest metamorphosis since its arrival on these shores five years earlier. The changes included a completely revised interior with a standard passenger airbag, new seats and a Momo steering wheel. However, the power still came from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

There were more tweaks introduced each year as Subaru evolved the car in response to its growing cult status, and a host of special-edition cars were also launched. In late 2000, a front-end makeover resulted in the infamous ‘bug-eyed’ model, which drew much criticism for the company. 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 performance, the 2.0-litre R is the base model, but 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

Insurance starts at group 10 for the basic non-turbocharged 1.6-litre car, but buy almost any of the others, and you’ll be looking at pricy premiums. Imprezas are rated right up to group 20, depending on which model you’re considering.

In common with most other performance machines, the Impreza needs plenty of TLC, and this isn’t cheap. Make sure the servicing schedule has been followed. There are plenty of enthusiast groups on the internet that offer a mine of great tips and information

Fuel bills will be high, with fuel consumption figures usually somewhere in the 20-30mpg bracket, depending on which car you get. More mainstream models are less expensive, but with no diesel engines, you’re never going to get more than 32mpg from any car.

One final hint – try not to crash. The repair bills for hot Imprezas are notoriously huge.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Choose a WRX with shattering all-round performance. Bug-eye looks unpopular

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

Imprezas are very popular with trackday enthusiasts, although that’s less true with the estate than it is with the saloon. However, it's still prudent to ask the seller whether the car has seen many race circuits in its time. Our advice is to find out the fact before you buy.

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. How has the car you’re considering been used? 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 any necessary work has been done.

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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