Impreza Turbo

An af­ford­able route into rally-bred per­for­mance – here’s how to buy the best

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

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.


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.


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.


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