Since replacing the Leone in 1992, the Subaru Impreza has been a popular model for both the mainstream market and the World Rally Championships.
Over the years it has enjoyed transformative changes from four-door saloon to five-door hatchback variants and now, the latest models boast strong technological advancements. But, do the latest concepts and models water down the essential framework that we expect from the Subaru Impreza?
You can see for yourself as we trace through the Impreza’s history and pick out of its iconic iterations and latest hatchbacks. One thing that holds true throughout the Impreza’s 17-year career is that it has constantly cut a striking figure, whether it’s been on the road or around the rally track.
However, it was in 2014 that the Subaru Impreza caused some excitement in particular, as the model returned to the UK, after being taken off the market for a year. The variant that Subaru released in that year wasn’t the best of the of collection though, as most fans were disappointed with the 1.6-litre petrol hatchback. Fanatics will know that the Impreza is famed for its boxer-style engines. Although these are usually reserved for the rally models, the mainstream market benefitted from some of this competitive technology too.
For the models that didn’t feature boxer-style engines, the petrol iterations tended to feature turbochargers, which unfortunately wasn’t the case for the 2014 hatch. Going back to the beginning however, the Subaru Impreza originally impressed with its Mk1 version in 1992. It was the first of the range to win the World Rally Championship, which it claimed in 1995 thanks to its Turbo engine.
The Mk1 saw the introduction of sports cars that packed a lot of performance, but were more affordable than their British counterparts. There were also several limited editions which were introduced off the back of the Mk1; one of the most desirable variants was the Impreza P1, which enjoyed a run of 1,000 cars.
This model was similar to the wide-bodied 1998 22B coupe model, which echoed the build and performance of the Subaru WRX STi model. Over the years the Subaru Impreza has been available in both two-wheel and all-wheel-drive, both of which were available in the second-generation model, which came out in 2000.
By this time the Impreza had what Auto Express calls a cult following as a result of excellent WRC performance and showroom class.
The early 21st century saw Subaru bravely increase the model’s engine output by substantial increments from 2003 and 2005. First the Japanese manufacturer took the WRX’s turbocharged, flat-four boxer engine to 221bhp, and then increased it to 230bhp. Power and performance were the name of the game in these early 2000s as the brand released special editions of its second generation model in line with the WRC.
The Impreza WR1 was built to honour Petter Solberg’s 2003 WRC title win and in 2007 a commemorative RB320 model was built for the 2001 World Rally Champion, Richard Burns when he passed away in 2005.
Also in 2007, Subaru revealed the third-generation Impreza in both naturally aspirated Impreza and turbocharged WRX versions. Initially it was offered as a five-door hatchback, and was followed later by a four-door saloon.
This third-generation was markedly different in size and appearance as all the models were longer, and had a longer wheelbase than their previous incumbents. It was an attempt by the manufacturer to move past its high-performance credentials and head into a wider ranging market. Despite the WRX model producing an output of 230bhp and a 2008 WRX STi version clamouring to look more like its original format, the third-generation Impreza didn’t do so well and it left the UK market in 2013.
Although there was much excitement with the return of the Impreza and it’s fourth-generation model in 2014, this particular variant fell wide of the mark. The 2015 Impreza however was a competitive model in its market, offering itself as a five-door hatch or four-door saloon with standard all-wheel-drive. The mainstream model also featured many improvements to its technology, boasting improved infotainment, advanced-safety options and increased levels of fuel economy.
Although the technology and appearance had improved, there were questions surrounding whether the 2015 Impreza’s performance matched up to that of its predecessors. The standard issue 2.0-litre horizontally opposed flat-four-cylinder engine was capable of 146bhp and 197Nm of torque, which were expected to deliver better gas mileage rather than performance.
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