- We like...Snug front seats, space for five
- We don't...Cheap-looking cabin,
Impreza STi is the quickest of the performance hatchbacks, packing 296bhpWith this Impreza, what you see is what you get. Quadruple exhausts, fat wings, a wide tail spoiler and a bonnet scoop big enough to trap wasps in says plainly: don’t buy me unless you want to travel fast.
And, sure enough, this Ford Focus-sized hatchback packs 296bhp, enough to rattle it from rest to 60mph within five seconds. Small Subarus have a huge reputation as tough and superbly engineered. They aren’t cheap to buy or to own but they do pack amazing power and ability. This one’s the quickest of its type.
While this new one costs a fiver under £25,000 – serious money for a small car, even if it’s this quick – Subaru trumpets that it hammers what’s gone before for value because it’s cheaper, plusher inside and has a smoother ride. And while it’s more powerful than previous STis, it’s more economical. 27mpg is reasonable, all told.
Odd, though, that its maker bangs on so about creature comforts when it’s such a performance-slanted machine. But, drive the STi, and the penny drops. For a road-legal clone of a rally car, it feels docile, happy to trickle round town on a light throttle. Press harder on the gas and it erupts. But between the two, there’s little we could find. True, the throttle response is adjustable using a knob between the front seats. You can leave it in ‘Auto’, put it into ‘Sport’ or there’s ‘Super-sharp’ . The first two leave the Impreza easy to punt lazily along within speed limits, but the last turns it into an unleashed hound. Use this setting and the revs in lower gears whip up so fast that the limiter kicks in, leaving the STi stuttering unless you slam through the gears double-quickly. The engine gets throaty when revved hard but otherwise there’s nothing of the infectious gurgle that characterised Imprezas of old.
Like all Subarus, the car has four-wheel-drive and there’s another set of controls amid-seats to alter the system, to improve grip or sharpen cornering. Tinker we did, but couldn’t sense a difference. Perhaps you need to drive faster than we dared.
The ride is, as you’d expect, firm but there’s still enough ‘give’ at each wheel to leave you settled, while the steering is direct and weighty, but never heavy.
You’d not wisely buy such a car simply because you loved its cabin. But anyone spending £25k has the right to a bit of posh. The Impreza has great front seats, well supporting and covered in leather and suede, as are the rears, too. The rest of the interior is a let-down, though: the coarse-grained dash would look cheap in a car costing £15,000.
Otherwise, it’s as practical as any small hatchback: the rear seats fold easily to extend the boot, which has a useful roller cover, rings to tie down packages and hooks to keep your shopping upright.
Emissions of 243g/km mean you’ll be clobbered for road tax when you buy, by the tax man if you run it for your job, while soon Transport for London will want £25 each time you want to traverse central London in it. Insurance? You’re into special policies and quotes and, if you’re aged under 25, you’ll struggle to get cover.
None of which will spoil things for the few that’ll buy one. What they will want is a machine that’s raw, built to be quick, and itching to show its power. We wonder whether it’ll quite satisfy them.
- Engines2.5 turbo
- 0-60 mph4.8sec
- Insurance groups20
Motors.co.uk value verdict: