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Impreza WRX gets some S-appeal

Rafay Ansar

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Introduction



Subaru's latest Impreza WRX has not enjoyed the rapturous praise that its predecessor enjoyed. A mixed reception to the hatchback style, a 'mere' 227bhp in a world where many hot hatches top 250 and handling not ranked as no longer class-defining have all conspired to leave the WRX in the shade. Not any more, thanks to a Prodrive-developed performance package that adds a little 'S' to the end of the name, 25bhp and a much meatier mid-range.

What are its rivals?

The yang to the Subaru's yin is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, but for this Impreza the more relevant rival is the Lancer Sportback. Both cars have four-wheel drive and vivid performance while still offering some practicality thanks to their hatchback styling. Also lining up against the Subaru are a host of hot hatches, such as the Honda Civic Type-R, Vauxhall Astra VXR and Ford Focus ST, not forgetting the new Focus RS that's on its way. There's also the Volkswagen Golf GTI and R32 - the latter boasting four-wheel drive - and some hard chargers from SEAT, Audi and Skoda.




How does it drive?

There's an immediate difference between the WRX-S and the car it's based on courtesy of 51lb.ft more mid-rev wallop. Prodrive has reprogrammed the car's electronic brain and added a fruitier exhaust to release an extra 25bhp as well as more mid-range muscle. The result is 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds (or 0.6 seconds quicker than the standard car), though top speed remains the same at 130mph. If that doesn't sound like a lot more performance for the extra money, it soon becomes apparent that it's worth every penny when you experience the incredible overtaking power of the WRX-S. It rockets through its five-speed manual gearbox and pulls harder and faster than the regular WRX, and with no delay in response from the turbocharged 2.5-litre 'boxer' engine.





What's impressive?

The extra mid-rev pull of the 2.5-litre engine is what leaves the most lasting impression with the Impreza WRX-S. From any revs and at any speed it simply hurls the car forward with no hesitation. It makes country roads and track day driving a far more precise and visceral experience than in the standard car and turns this Impreza into what fans of the previous generation loved and hoped for with the new generation. Equally impressive is the handling ability of the WRX-S, helped by new 18-inch alloy wheels and sticky tyres that come as standard with the Prodrive-derived upgrades. Coupled to Subaru's four-wheel drive system, the WRX-S hangs on through corners tighter than a terrier and there's hardly ever an occasion when the car's standard ESP traction control is called into use on public roads.



What's not?

While the Subaru Impreza 2.5 WRX-S has a ride supple enough to work as an everyday driver, the steering still doesn't register the ideal amount of feel for a car this rapid. The power assistance makes it light around town and on the motorway it has none of the nervousness that can afflict some fast cars, but on back roads there isn't the deft touch that is found in the top flight of performance saloons and hatches. The only other criticism we have is one levelled at all Imprezas and that's with the interior plastics, which are a little hard and shiny where some rivals feature better looking and feeling materials, though there's nothing wrong with the way the Subaru is constructed and its durability.



Should I buy one?




The extra £2,500 required to upgrade an Impreza to WRX-S spec is money well spent in our book. It turns a swift but slightly uninvolving hot hatch into a serious performance car contender. It's not the bhp boost but the substantial gain in mid-range punch that really helps this car zing and puts the fast Impreza back on the map. Throw in the STi body styling and it looks the part too.



Specifications of Subaru Impreza WRX-S , Hatchback , 5 dr , 22,495 on-the-road

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer Subaru
Model Impreza WRX-S
Type Hatchback
List Price 22,495 on-the-road £
Length wheelbase 4,415/2,620mm
Height width 1,475/1,740mm
Insurance Group 18
Engine Capacity 2,457cc
Fuel Petrol
Transmission Manual
Doors 5
Nil to sixty 5.9 seconds
Top speed 130mph
WARRANTIES

Manufacturer Subaru
Model Impreza WRX-S
STATISTICS

Manufacturer Subaru
Model Impreza WRX-S
Miles per Gallon 27.2 miles/gallons
C02 246 g of C02/km
FEATURES

Standard Optional
Alloy Wheels Yes
Air Conditioning Yes
Front Electric Window Yes
Rear Electric Window Yes
Satellite Naviga £No
Bluetooth £No
Stereo System Yes
Tinted Glass Yes
Leather £No
Leather Interior £No
CD Player Yes
Central Door Locker Yes
Cruise Control £No
Electric Door Mi Yes
Manual Sunroof £No
Electric Sunroof £No
Power Steering Yes
AntiLock Brakes Yes
Anti Theft Device Yes
Driver Air Bag Yes
Passenger Air Bag Yes
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