What's the used Subaru Impreza saloon like?
The WRX and STi are full-on performance motors. The car's four-wheel-drive system puts power down cleanly to the road to hurl you towards the horizon, but the steering and handling more than match the power. You'll lose your nerve before you exceed the car's limits.
However, in other ways, the Impreza is no more demanding than any other small saloon or estate. Sure, the ride is sporty-firm, but not harsh, and there's plenty of space for people and their things: it will take the kids to school or rubbish to the dump. Go for the five-door and you even get a big load door and a split/fold rear seat.
A turbo scoop on the bonnet, big rear wing and fat alloys mean it looks every inch a performance hotshot from the outside, but inside there's enough cheap-looking, shiny plastic trim to shame a supermini. The seats are comfy, though.
What used Subaru Impreza saloon will I get for my budget?
How much does it cost to run a Subaru Impreza saloon?
Imprezas seldom go wrong but, when they do, the bills are mighty big. According to the What Car? Reliability Index, Subarus are the dearest make to repair, coming out well ahead of BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes.
Servicing is costly and needed frequently, too, while you'll chew through tyres and brakes if you drive the car hard (and it's hard to avoid the temptation). And, remember, with four-wheel-drive, it's advisable to replace all four tyres at once.
Insurance is pricey, too, with the 1.6 coming in at group 12, the non-turbo 2.0 at 14, the WRX at 19 and the STi at 20. If you're young, have driving convictions or live in a high-crime area, cover may be impossible, so get quotes before you buy the car.
To cap it all, fuel economy is poor - the WRX will do no better than 27mpg overall and 20mpg maximum in town; the STi is off the scale and even the GX and TS struggle to do 30mpg. Using high-octane premium petrol improves economy and hikes power outputs noticeably, but adds even more to the already high bills.
Which used Subaru Impreza saloon should I buy?
Go for a WRX. The STi is too fast and furious for all but die-hards, while the non-turbo GX and TS are only worth it if a small car with four-wheel-drive is a must.
There have been two face-lifts since this model arrived in 2001. The first - in 2003 - made the Impreza better looking; the second - in 2006 - left it plain but added character. Funds allowing, go for the second, mainly because it gained a 2.5-litre engine, replacing a 2.0-litre unit.
Choose between saloon or estate (Sport Wagon in Subaru-speak). The estate looks weird but feels similar to drive and is much more practical.
There are plenty of Japanese-market imports with uprated power and extra kit, but stick with standard cars built for the UK - they're easier to run and they will be worth more come trade-in.
Buy from a Subaru specialist dealer for top value.