An affordable route into rally-bred performance – here’s how to buy the best
The Impreza Turbo’s blend of affordable performance, bulletproof reliability and a handy image boost courtesy of Colin McRae and Richard Burns made Subaru’s four-door slingshot one of Britain’s favourite performance cars back in the 1990s. Whether you went for the standard car or one of the many special editions – including the RB5 pictured below, named in Burns’ honour – the surefooted handling and the addictive shove of the turbocharged flat four still makes great sense today. The classic market’s gradually been picking up on the Impreza’s charms and pushing prices up – spectacularly so, in the case of the 22B STI that made £73k at auction last month – but there are still plenty of good deals to be had. WHY YOU WANT ONE It’s huge fun to drive. The flat four has an addictive patter and as long as you look after it it’s unlikely to ever let you down – there’s a reason why the Impreza was a multiple winner of the UK’s JD Power owner satisfaction survey when it was new. It’s also the perfect car for annual events like JapFest and Beaulieu’s Simply Japanese, and for any show that appreciates modern classics.
It’s well worth getting an HPI check on the one you’re looking at to ensure it hasn’t had a chequered past. Look too for overspray, surface rust and panels don’t fit together with the precision you might expect from a Japanese saloon.
HAS IT BEEN BINNED?
The turbocharged 2.0-litre flat four isn’t particularly stressed and fairly robust in standard tune, so it can hack sizeable mileages as long as it’s looked after. The main thing to look out for is evidence of regular servicing – ideally every 7500 miles – and a cambelt swap every 45,000 miles. Ask what it’s been run on – Imprezas prefer 99 octane fuel. Anything less will cause pinking and damage in the long run.
Watch out for blue exhaust smoke when the engine idles, which suggests the turbo seals are worn. It’s not uncommon for Imprezas to have been chipped or
tuned but look for any paperwork indicating the work has been done by a reputable firm.
If there’s excessive noise or knocking check whether the anti-roll bushes have worn out. It’s worth replacing them with polyurethane bushes at £60 per side. Also consider swapping the standard 20mm set for a 22mm item, which costs £90 per side and will improve the steering and handling.
DOES IT HANDLE?
Have a look at the tyres for signs of uneven wear. It can often be
caused by the tracking being out of alignment but it can also indicate suspension wear, so test drive the car and make sure it isn’t pulling or handling abnormally.
UK-spec Turbos were fitted with a five-speed manual box, although there are grey import versions knocking around with automatic boxes. Look out for slipping clutches or notchy gearchanges, which indicates the transmission’s been abused. Watch for oil slips from the crankshaft seal, which can also lead to clutches slipping.
ALL THE GEAR