The third generation of Subaru’s most famous nameplate, the Impreza, was a radical departure from its fabled ancestors. Gone was the compact three-box saloon shape, replaced by a five-door hatchback. It wasn’t immensely popular for that reason but it remains the last Impreza generation to have the performance WRX and WRX STI models as official range-toppers within its product line; from 2014 onwards, the WRX STI was considered a separate car to the Impreza. More day-to-day versions of the Impreza are seen as an all-wheel-drive alternative to mainstream C-segment hatchbacks.
All models of Mk3 Impreza used Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and boxer-four engines. Mostly, these were petrol units, but a horizontally opposed diesel was introduced to the line-up around 2009. In the main, five- and six-speed manuals were used but some cars were fitted with a four-speed automatic transmission, this being a model that existed in the days prior to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT offering. The standard petrol versions are not particularly quick, which is why the performance models are disproportionately represented in remaining Mk3 Impreza stocks – choose from the 227hp WRX, the 251hp WRX-S, the 300hp WRX STI and then special derivatives of the latter, like the 330hp model called the 330S and the very rare, very collectable and very expensive Cosworth STI CS400, which had 400hp.
A WRX STI might be tempting but the standard 227hp WRX is probably the best bet. It’ll be super-reliable and not too expensive to run, while the performance remains admirably quick, even by today’s standards.
Subaru Impreza WRX
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer petrol
Maximum speed: 210km/h
0-100km/h: 6.1 seconds
Fuel consumption: 10.4 litres/100km
• Secure handling
• Incredibly reliable
• Performance models are quick
• Sub-standard interior finishing
• Turbo models can be hard on fuel
• Diesel model’s poor gearshift
Finding a good, used Mk3 Subaru Impreza these days is a tricky task, especially if you’re looking outside the desirable performance canon of the range (in the form of the WRX and WRX STI models), but these unusual, AWD hatchbacks will give you years and years of reliable service if you can track one down – and if you can live with its rather distinctive looks.