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Subaru Impreza WRX

Driven October 2007

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Want to know if you're in the market for an Impreza? Look at your feet. If you see green wellies, buy any of the non-turbo models and if you're looking at a pair of Reebok Classics, get a WRX.

It's a bit of a hackneyed stereotype, but describes exactly the problem Subaru has with the outgoing model - they are bought for either farm tracks or one-way systems and nothing else.

This, then, is Subaru's attempt to move into the mainstream. An all-new Impreza that on paper at least ticks the right boxes to try to steal a few C-segment buyers usually seduced by a Golf or a Focus.

Nice idea in principle and it might have worked, too, if the designers hadn't made it look like a throwback to those decades when Korea developed its unenviable reputation for hopeless, gawky design.

It's such a missed opportunity because most of the other ingredients are there. It's a proper hatchback, so buyers can do the simple, practical, load-lugging stuff the old booted Impreza wouldn't allow.

The cabin is that reassuring standard-issue durable Subaru; the quality of the plastics and trim could be better but everything works, it's perfectly comfortable and it doesn't feel like it'll start falling to bits in weeks.

They've kept the quality boxer-engine line-up, too, starting with the 1.5- and 2.0-litre non-turbo models we've driven here. Both seem to have had some of that flat-four rumble turned down a bit by engineers, but the character remains if you work them hard. Just don't ask about emissions - I don't think the green issue has occurred to Subaru yet.

The trademark symmetrical four-wheel drive system does few favours on the fuel front, but provides plenty of grip and real security on the road at speed. An all-new suspension set-up (multi-link at the rear) delivers a decent, if soft, ride quality. Not the same league dynamically as the Focus and Golf, but good.

They've priced it pretty well against those rivals, too. The range starts at £12,495 and you get plenty of kit for your money.

The quicker stuff - probably the real reason you're reading this - will start arriving in November. A limited run of 1,500 WRXs is expected to sell out before Christmas, followed by 230bhp STi versions next year. Subaru is also developing a boxer diesel (does that count as green?) and there's some talk about making a WRX version of that.

So, after all that effort, nothing's really changed. It'll be the quick stuff that sells, and even after the hurried face lift next year, the only bread-and-butter Imprezas you'll see will have bails of hay in the back. Shame.

Paul Regan

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