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

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

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.

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