Despite appearances, this is not a Subaru Impreza, since the Impreza name has been ignominiously dropped in the UK. The performance car previously known as Impreza is now only called the Subaru WRX STi, and available as a saloon as well as a hatch, making this the first time you can buy both a five-door hatchback and four-door saloon STi in the UK.
The stats look good. A burbling, Euro-5-compliant 2.5-litre turbo with 300bhp and 300lb ft, 0-62mph in 5.2, a generous top end - even given the aerodynamics of the TopGear offices - of 158mph. All for £32,995. The body-shell is now stiffer, allowing for greater suspension travel and yet a lower ride height.
The wheels are 2kg lighter per corner, reducing unsprung weight, and the suspension itself is essentially the well-regarded Spec C set-up. The bumpers are new and a bit meaner, and the rear panels are massaged, meaning that WhatWasTheImpreza looks pretty good.
Though it does lose something by not having the optional rear wing fitted to our test car. The all-wheel-drive system is calibrated for a 41/59- front/rear default bias, but you can play with the balance via the four modes of the DCCD (Driver's Control Centre Differential), and decide when the electronic fairies move in by adjusting the WRX's VDC stability programme. Oh, and there's another button to control the SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) to get the best out of the engine mapping.
Sounds like a comprehensive suite of go-faster bits. And down one of the UK's dirty, greasy, bumpy little excuses for a back road, it is a very easy car to drive quickly. Brake hard and late, turn in, get on the gas earlier than usual, and as long as you have the throttle telling the transmission to set to, the worst thing to happen is a bit of understeer. The gearbox is the usual Subaru, chunky-feeling, six-speed manual; the brakes are strong; and the suspension more balanced front-to-back than any Subaru I can remember.
There's just one problem: it doesn't feel fast. It certainly doesn't feel like 300bhp. There's a satisfaction in getting it right, but it doesn't come easily. In fact, like a lot of modern four-wheel drives, the Subaru becomes more about productivity than sheer fun.
With a drivetrain like this, you either need it to be slippery so that you can engage in teasing the best from the 4x4, or you need a gobful more power, so that you can engage in staying pointing in the right direction and teasing the best from the 4x4. Without either, this particular Scoob is just a little... effective. It's good value, and with the optional rear wing, the saloon looks tastefully brutal. But the x-factor is missing.
We like: Saloon flatters average drivers
We don’t like: Needs extremity to really shine
TopGear verdict: Fast, grippy, effective and... just a little bit boring. The WRX STi saloon is back!
Performance: 0–62mph in 5.2secs, max 158mph, 26.9mpg
Tech 2457cc, 4cyl, 4WD, 300bhp, 300lb ft, 1505kg, 243g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: SuperMassive rear wing, £n/a
And avoid this: Not having the rear wing