Subaru Impreza (1993 - 2000)

Used car model guide

6.2 out of 10

The Subaru Impreza used to be something of an under-rated car. It's not the case on the international rally scene of course. In the showroom however, things were a little different. Sales got off to a slow start in 1993 and didn't pick up much until the rally successes began making the headlines. Today, however, buyers rate the medium-sized Subaru, placing it high in the JD Power/Top Gear Customer Satisfaction Surveys. These people reckon it's a great buy; check one out and you'll probably agree.

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Detailed ratings

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The Impreza was introduced in May 1993, with 1.8-litre power and the choice of a bland-looking saloon or an innovative five-door hatch-cum-small estate, both offered in GL form with standard four-wheel drive. A two-wheel drive 1.6-litre model was added later that year and also offered in cheaper LX guise.
More significantly, the superb four-wheel drive 2.0-litre turbo version was launched in May 1994, the roadgoing version of the rally car - though faster variants were offered in Japan. This was an instant hit.
In December 1995, 2.0-litre models were announced as the 1.8 and 1.6-litre variants were gradually phased out. All Imprezas were now four-wheel drive. A popular Sport model was added in March 1996 to bridge the gap between the GL and the 2000 Turbo 4wd. It performed like a GL but looked like a Turbo.
Cosmetic changes were made to the 2000 Turbo 4wd in both 1997 and 1998, the latter year bringing more power, better seats and white instrument dials. There's also a rare British-developed two-door called the P1, introduced early in 2000.
If you're searching for a used Turbo model, you'll find lots of 'grey imported' examples, usually in more powerful WRX or STi guises. These are desirable - and likely to be well priced - but, as ever, grey imports can be a minefield for the uninitiated, so make so that you know exactly what you're buying.
Winter 2000 saw the launch of an all-new Impreza range. Whilst the looks took some getting used to, Subaru managed to hit the target with the driving dynamics. The range consisted of the 95bhp 1.6-litre TS five-door sports wagon, the 125bhp 2.0 GX sports wagon and four-door saloon, and the 218bhp WRX saloon and sports wagon. The range was added to in late 2001 when the 'official' Euro-spec WRX STi model arrived, available with or without a Prodrive body kit and boasting no less than 265bhp.
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What you get

A reliable, fun to drive family alternative. The only real drawback to ownership is the awful interior, a sea of cheap-looking plastic. The tweed-effect seat trim doesn't help either; it all reminds you of a car worth a lot less.
But there are many compensations. The four-wheel drive system fitted to most examples is chief amongst them of course, put to best use in the 2000 Turbo 4wd - a future classic.
Choose the five-door over the saloon but don't expect any more space than in any ordinary Escort-sized hatch.
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What to look for

Thrashed 2000 Turbo 4wd models; a service history is essential and air conditioning desirable; watch for accident damage, resprays, kerbed alloys, spongy brakes and worn clutches. Parts are expensive, so tread carefully.
It's a very different story with non-turbo Imprezas, nearly all of which will have been looked after lovingly. Steer clear of two-wheel-drive versions and models tricked up to look like Turbo versions if you can. You lose much of the car's raison d'etre.
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Replacement parts

(2.0 GL approx.) These are pricey. A clutch assembly is around £175. Front brake pads are around £80, a full exhaust about £360, a catalyst about £200 and an alternator (exchange) around £180 or £405 new. A headlamp is about £170.
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On the road

All the engines are reasonably peppy, even the 88bhp 1.6 and the 101bhp 1.8. The 2.0-litre units are the ones to go for, however, with the GL and Sport models getting 113bhp and the 2000 Turbo 4wd boasting a massive 208bhp.
In the case of the Turbo, that means rest to 60 in 5.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 137mph; hard to beat in more ways than one. All of which means that this Impreza has the power to leave an Escort Cosworth or a Lancia Delta Integrale (both substantially more expensive and now hard to find) trailing in its wake.
A split second after turning the key, you know that this car isn't bluffing. The free-revving engine possesses a gruff, coarse voice which says you'd better believe those awesome performance figures. A well-developed all-wheel drive system means that you won't spin much of it uselessly away on the tarmac either.
In fact, that all-round grip is one of the main reasons that this Impreza feels so easy to drive in the most horrendous of conditions. It does hop about a little on bumpy country roads, but never enough to leave you in doubt that you're likely to run out of cornering nerve long before the car will.
There is a penalty to all this performance, however - and predictably, it's in the area of fuel consumption. You'll do well to average more than about 19mpg in the Turbo if you use the car hard and even on a run; the figure won't rise much above 27mpg.
Never mind; there's plenty of standard equipment to take your mind off the fact. A driver's airbag, electric windows, power mirrors and central locking all come within the price of every Impreza. If only comprehensive insurance did too (group 17 on the turbo).
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Find me an owner who doesn't want another. Enough said...
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