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Retro

What’s the most Subaru car in the back catalogue?

There can be only one. The... Mk1. Here's why the original Impreza is Peak Scooby

Published: 16 Apr 2024

The standard Subaru Impreza, when it first arrived on UK shores way back in 1993, was quite dull if we’re being honest. Based on a chopped down version of the Legacy’s platform, the Japanese carmaker had rallying in mind when it was developing the car, though you wouldn’t have known it at first. This was the car that rallying was supposed to sell. The boring version of the car even came in front-wheel-drive flavour, but that was swiftly dropped in favour of just selling the cooler AWD model.

The legend began in 1994 with the Impreza Turbo 2000 AWD. British outfit Prodrive had been enlisted by Subaru’s sporting division, STI, to help it crack the WRC, and that extended to a few choice improvements to the road car.

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The 2.0-litre flat-four boxer engine produced 208bhp, which was impressive back then. Almost as impressive as the 5.8secs 0–60mph time. This was a car that could carry the torch of some of the wackier hot hatches of the Eighties, which was an abrupt handbrake turn for a brand barely known in the UK for the Justy supermini and Legacy estate.

The Impreza Turbo arrived at the perfect point – Britain was between recessions, Max Power reigned over UK car culture and rallying was as popular as it would get. Suddenly thrilling performance was affordable.

Even better, STI had made its name in the late Eighties by breaking endurance records with the Legacy – fastest to 100,000km, that sort of thing, took a whole month to do – but that guaranteed the Impreza’s reputation for reliability. Where some of the more German performance cars were stuffed with bells and whistles, the Subaru’s hardwearing plastics and spartan feel made the cars seem as if they’d already been prepared for a motorsport entry.

The Impreza Turbo was a sleeper hit – demand grew steadily, aided by word of mouth and WRC success. Once the company realised what it had, there were performance versions galore – tweaked by Prodrive, fettled by STI or even the 280bhp P1 (some say it’s the ultimate Impreza Turbo), with styling by McLaren F1 designer Peter Stevens. That cost £31k at the end of the Nineties. Not even to mention the world of grey imports you could get sucked into.

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The 40th anniversary (of the firm’s first proper car, the 360) 22B STI special edition is the one that goes for the most cash these days – numbers were strictly limited and it’d cost you over £100k today. Look at Subaru’s range now and you’d not even know the Impreza glory days had happened – the range of solid AWD estates for well-heeled rural types has morphed into a range of solid AWD SUVs, though no one is sure who they’re for, especially Subaru.

The work with part owner Toyota has yielded interesting results – the Solterra is the first EV for both, but the GR86/BRZ collab was a bit of fun. A glimpse of the old days, perhaps – maybe the two of them could work on an electric hot saloon next, or is that just wishful thinking?

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