Used buying guide
You don’t need to be a fan of rallying to fall for a Subaru Impreza WRX or WRX STI, you just need to have a pulse. As John Evans reports, prices start from just £3000
Bag an Impreza WRX from £3k
Is there a more bewildering car than the Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI of 2000 to 2007? Not only are there three versions (two facelifts and a larger-engined model known as, according to their headlight design, bug-eye, blob-eye and hawk-eye), but there are also saloon, estate and wide-track bodies, not to mention Prodrive Performance Pack (PPP) variants and countless custom-tuned examples whose claimed power outputs inevitably tumble in the face of a rolling road. Add official special editions and it’s clear you need to know your Imprezas before you set foot on a seller’s forecourt.
The first generation of 1992 to 2000 established the Impreza Turbo as a performance car to be reckoned with and spawned an equally bewildering array of special editions, culminating in the legendary 22B of 1999 and Prodrive P1 of 2000.
From a technical standpoint, its successor, under the spotlight here, didn’t disappoint. There was the familiar boxy saloon body, now sitting on a longer and stiffer platform, clothing a 215bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged boxer engine, powering all four wheels via an open differential at the front and a limitedslip item at the back, with a viscous coupling in the centre.
However, perhaps overwhelmed by instructions not to drop the ball, the designers did just that when they gave the new car a pair of ugly headlights. Immediately, it became known by enthusiasts as the bug-eye. A couple of years later, they gave the Impreza a fresh set of peepers, only to have the car renamed the blob-eye. At least engine power rose to 222bhp. More important, the WRX STI was rolled out. It produced 261bhp and had a strengthened six-speed gearbox in place of the WRX’S fivespeeder. Experts reckon this engine is the best. The STI also got quicker steering and a limited-slip front diff.
In 2005, Subaru hoped to turn the page on bug-eye and blob-eye with a third, heavily revised version that became known, more flatteringly, as the hawk-eye. Out went the venerable 2.0-litre turbo boxer to be replaced by a much modified but, some insist, more fragile, 2.5-litre unit. WRXS produced 226bhp and STIS 276bhp. The hawk-eye also had a wider track, which is why it’s also known as, in the way Impreza owners like to call a spade a spade, the wide track.
Just to confuse you, the last of the blob-eye cars were known as STI 9s. Some reckon they’re the best of the best since they use the hawkeye’s running gear and later cars’ switchable Driver Control Centre Differential (DCCD) – which allows the driver to send 65% of the power to the rear wheels – yet retain the 2.0-litre STI engine.
Those are the standard cars but there’s a welter of special editions, too, chief among them the RB320 and GB270. With prices starting at £3000 for bug and blob-eye WRXS with full service history, perhaps now’s the time to get an Impreza in your life.