There are two simple mistakes car manufacturers are often tempted into. The first is a big mainstream brand trying to play the niche role. The second is the opposite and is one that Subaru blundered into with its third generation Impreza. Although it must have seemed irresistible to go chasing the big numbers, tilting at the likes of the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf with its hatchback Impreza, the policy fell flat on its face. Subaru always was a niche, engineering-led business and it couldn't match the development budgets ploughed into the big mainstream heavyweights. It showed. The decision backfired on the sporty WRX STi model too, introduced at the start of 2008. The traditional Impreza buyers didn't warm to this new model, many defecting to rival Mitsubishi's Evo X, whilst other realised that more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive hatches offered just as much fun and pace. Sales were glacial, not helped by the strength of the yen, which started to push WRX STi prices upwards. Subaru's abandonment of rallying also cut another strand of buyer involvement. Most examples you'll find will be five-door hatches but for the 2011 model year, a saloon version was added to the range to try and tempt those who still remembered original STi models: it made no difference to sales.
So the car was a flop then? In a commercial sense, yes. Subaru now defines itself as an SUV manufacturer, drawing a curtain on the dismal sales of the last generation Impreza. As buyer behaviours changed and customers looked elsewhere for their jollies, the WRX STi looked a bit of a relic. Type UK four and five door models, as well as 330S and the eye-wateringly expensive Cosworth SC 400 models came and went without denting the rise in sales of the front-wheel drive superhatch. What none of this does is explain just how brilliant these Imprezas are to drive on British roads in typical British conditions. It's just a shame they weren't so well attuned to British insurers and British fuel prices.