Caught in the classifieds: 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
In last weekís ďCaught in the ClassifiedsĒ section, I showcased a brilliant 2015 Ford Mustang GT. As great as that car is, a two-door muscle car is hardly the most practical thing ever invented. The Mustang also loves to go through fuel like thereís no tomorrow, and it isnít what youíd exactly call understated.
In an effort to highlight something more civilized and practical, this week Iím showcasing a car which can trace its roots back to the World Rally Championship. Yes, Iím obviously talking about a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, but this isnít just any old WRX STI either.
This amazing example I found on our website is a Type UK variant, meaning itís been lightly breathed on by the boffins over at Prodrive. Itís currently listed for just £11,995 and it has a little over 62,000 miles on the clock. Itís one of the cheapest WRX STIs for sale in the UK (of the third-gen Impreza), but it seems to be in mint-condition despite of that.
Because it has rallying roots and a motorsport pedigree, the WRX STI is genuinely one of the most affordable performance saloons money can buy. Itís just a few mods away from becoming a fully-fledged Group N rally car you can enter in most amateur rallies, or you can keep it stock and use it as a daily driver if thatís what youíre after.
The WRX STI is based on the Subaru Impreza, but thereís no mistaking it for one even for a moment. To help it stand out, Subaru fitted it with a wide body kit with large flared arches. They also fitted it with bespoke STI wheels, a different front bumper, more ducting and cooling all around, an insanely large scoop in the bonnet, and to top it all off, a humongous rear wing.
The STI looks like itís moving even when itís standing still. It looks so sharp and aggressive, you almost canít tell itís based on a normal Impreza because it seems so different. As far as pioneers go, the WRX STI basically paved the way for modern hot hatchbacks. Think of the current crop of hot hatchbacks, and what they all have in common. Thatís right, massive wings and huge body kits. The current Honda Civic Type R and the newest Ford Focus RS owe a lot of their design features to the WRX STI, which set the standard for what a flagship hot hatch should look and feel like.
Inside, the WRX STI is basically just an Impreza with very little minor alterations. You get some WRX STI badging to remind you what youíre in, but not much else in terms of visual appeal. Build quality is decent but nothing special, and although the materials are okay, theyíre miles off what youíd find in an Audi or a BMW.
A standout feature of the WRX STIís cabin are the seats, which are positively superb. Theyíre special Recaro buckets which offer an amazing blend between comfort and support. They offer a lot of lateral support and bolstering, but theyíre comfortable so you can genuinely do quite a lot of miles without getting tired. The steering wheel is great as well. Itís got a lovely three-spoke design and itís the right size and shape for aggressive driving. The instrument cluster feels old by todayís standards, but itís still clear to read.
The shifter is another positive. Itís not as accurate as what youíd find on a Porsche or a BMW, but itís a real joy to use. Elsewhere, the WRX STI offers lots of cabin space and a really big boot, a-la the normal Impreza. Theyíve obviously skimped out on the cabin to be able to upgrade what really matters: the drivetrain.
Engine and performance
The crowning jewel of the STI is a 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four engine, producing 296 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque in standard guise. Because this is a Type UK, it boasts 330 horsepower. Power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed manual, resulting in some spectacular performance figures. The dash to 62 mph takes just 4.9 seconds and itíll top out at 158 mph.
Because itís got a permanent AWD system and a really capable flat-four, the WRX STI feels faster than it actually is. The seat of your pants experience is much more visceral than any numbers would have you believe it might be. The STI is really fun to drive, especially in snow or gravel, i.e. surfaces with not a lot of grip. The Imprezaís AWD system is a proper AWD system with a limited-slip diff, so it can vary the locking strength from fully open to fully locked. It isnít a Haldex unit thatís front-wheel-drive most of the time and only involves the rear wheels when it feels that it needs to. The STI is AWD all the time with a torque bias of 40/60 front to back.
Once underway, the way the STI pulverizes any road surface no matter the conditions is simply astonishing. Plant the throttle and youíre immediately greeted by tons of traction and sheer acceleration and grip. The STI will bully a B-road road into submission better than most supercars on sale right now, especially in snow and ice.
Model: Subaru Impreza
Trim: WRX STI
Why buy one?
The WRX STI isnít an M3 or an RS4 rival, but it doesnít try to be. It doesnít have a luxurious cabin or a premium feel, but it does offer a boatload of performance wrapped in one affordable package. Itís decently reliable too, provided you can look after the flat-four and you carry out regular maintenance. Head to DesperateSeller.co.uk for great deals on used Subaru Impreza cars for sale.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 9 out of 10