Caught in the classifieds: 2014 Subaru Impreza
Last weekís ďCaught in the ClassifiedsĒ section highlighted a Mini Cooper JCW, a car based on a normal Mini Cooper, but one that was highly modified from the factory to appeal to petrolheads. This week weíre featuring something a little bit more practical, a little bit more grown-up, but arguably even sillier than a track-focused Mini Cooper. Like the JCW, itís based on a normal car, and like the original Mini, this one has roots in the World Rally Championship as well.
When Subaru launched the third-gen Impreza in 2008, it was already a well-established name in the world of rallying. Subaru had won the WRC title numerous times in the past, several of which they did thanks to Colin McRae and his co-driver. So, when they announced a brand-new WRX STI in 2008, people were understandably anxious to see what theyíve come up with. Well, what they came up with not only exceeded everyoneís expectations, but they were able to take the fight to Mitsubishi and their Lancer Evo X head-on.
This pristine example listed on our website has just 32,000 miles on the clock and itís currently listed for £14,500. Thatís cheaper than a brand-new base Ford Fiesta, and what youíre getting in return is a genuine road-legal monster thatís a few mods away from becoming a fully-fledged Group N rally car.
Visually, thereís no mistaking a WRX STI for an ordinary Impreza, or even a Ďregularí WRX for that matter. Subaru wanted to make it stand out, so they fitted it with massively flared arches courtesy of a wide body kit. They also gave it bespoke STI wheels, an aggressive front bumper with a wide central opening, an insanely huge scoop in the bonnet, and an enormous rear wing.
The STI looks the part even stationary. You have to remember than when this car first came out, wings that large and bonnet scoops werenít that common. Most modern hot hatchbacks like the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus RS owe a lot of their design features to the STI, which initially paved the way for this Ďbulbousí design.
The third-gen STI isnít the most gorgeous Impreza ever made, but it is one of the most striking ones. Depending on who you ask, itís either one of the greatest cars ever made or a car built for people who like to vape and annoy their neighbours. Iím stereotyping as a joke to make a point, but you get the idea. Not everyone agrees with the massive wing and the ridiculously wide body kit, but if thereís one thing the STI isnít lacking in, its character and presence.
Inside, the STI isnít that different from a normal Impreza if Iím honest. There are a couple of standout features, but for the most part, it doesnít feel all that special. The build quality is okay but nothing to write home about, and the materials are decent but nowhere near as premium as anything youíd find on a BMW or an Audi of the same era. That being said, it feels durable even if a little bit gimmicky in some regards.
The seats are superb though. Theyíre Recaro buckets and they offer an amazing blend between comfort and support. Theyíve got a ton of lateral support but you can do quite a lot of miles in them without getting too tired. The steering wheel is another positive. Itís exactly the right size and shape for a great driving experience. I love the three-spoke design and the red STI badging in the middle. The instrument cluster feels dated compared to most modern cars but itís clear and easy to read.
The shifter is extremely pleasant as well. Itís not the slickest gearbox ever made, but the actual shifter itself is a joy to use. Elsewhere, youíll find the Impreza offers plenty of cabin space and itís got a decent-sized boot, which is always nice to have. You can tell they havenít spent a lot of money on the cabin, and thatís a good thing because it means theyíve been able to make it drive really, really well.
Engine and performance
At the heart of the STI is a 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-six engine, producing 296 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed manual, which results in some incredible performance figures. The sprint to 62 mph takes 4.9 seconds and flat out itíll reach a very respectable 158 mph. Those are mighty figures even by todayís standards, but they only tell half the story.
Because of the four-wheel-drive system and the urgency of that flat-four, the WRX STI feels faster than it actually is. Itís incredibly exciting to drive, especially in bad weather or on roads with not a lot of grip. You see, unlike most modern ĎAWDí performance cars which use a Haldex all-wheel-drive system, the Impreza uses Subaruís symmetrical AWD system with a limited-slip diff that can vary the locking strength from fully open to fully locked. It has a 40/60 front to rear torque bias, so it can even do an AWD drift if you want it to.
On the road, the way the STI extracts grip from any road surface is simply unparalleled. Plant the throttle and youíre immediately fired off towards the horizon. The STI will bully a B-road road into submission better than any supercar or sports car currently on the market. Granted, it lacks power and torque to compete on a more open stretch of tarmac, but on a twisty wet road with potholes and undulating camber, the STI is mind-blowingly fast.
Model: Subaru Impreza
Trim: WRX STI
Itís a practical performance saloon full of character and charisma. Itís not a BMW M3 or an Audi RS4, but it doesnít try to be. Itís a bit of a hooligan, an underdog if you will. The flat-four is dependable and reliable if you look after it, but it does like to burn through petrol at an unreasonable rate for a four-cylinder. That being said, if you want the closest thing to a rally car with number plates, the WRX STI is second-to-none.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 8.5 out of 10