The Impreza was first introduced to the UK in 1994, initially as a five door hatchback/estate, and later as a four door saloon. A number of different models were available, with a choice of 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre engines, and a choice of either front or four wheel drive.
In the UK, the 1.6, 1.8 and front wheel drive unoriginal were never great sellers, and were dropped from the range in 1996, leaving the 2.0 GL, 2.0 Sport and 2000 Turbo models. The last few examples of the '96 Turbo model received the revised brake calipers of the '97 model.
Over the years, Subaru has constantly improved the cars, answering many of the criticisms raised against the earlier cars. The most significant changes were introduced late in 1996 as part of the 1997 model year. The external changes were fairly minimal, with a new style bonnet and a more aggressive nose. The Turbo model received a revised engine with a higher compression ratio, low friction pistons, smaller turbo and revised engine management system. Power output was unchanged at 208 bhp, but maximum torque increased by 5% to 214 lb ft at a lower 4,000 rpm. The suspension was also revised and improved, with the turbo receiving a new/thicker rear anti-roll bar. Brake calipers were also revised. For 1997, the turbo also received much improved sports seats, replacing the unattractive non-sporty seats of previous models. The seats are still not ideal though, as there is a difference of opinion amongst owners. Many owners find them somewhat lacking in lower back support, whilst others just report them as fantastic. The ICE system was also changed from the Subaru badged Panasonic radio cassette to a badged Philips unit with removable fascia, and the heater controls changed.
1998 saw a major overhaul of the interior, with the introduction of a new dashboard, taken from the Forester, featuring white dials, a computerised odometer and a low fuel light. Other improvements include a passenger airbag, Momo leather steering wheel, leather covered handbrake lever and a shorter throw gear lever. ICE equipment remained the same but the apertures and grills (and reportedly wiring) for the "tweeter kit" is supplied as standard. Revised inner door panels and centre console that includes the current trend for putting cup holders in cars, completes the changes. The only external changes are the 16 inch alloys on 205/50 VR16 Bridgestone Potenza tyres now fitted as standard to the Turbo model.
The 1999 car continues the trend of fitting parts from the Japanese STi cars,
including the front seats (although with a bit more padding) including height
adjustment for the drivers seat; 4-pot front brake calipers and vented rear
discs; and the high rear wing. Suspension, in line with STi's, is now
considerably firmer. The front bumper has been slightly modified, being a little
deeper and with just one vane (instead of two) and a rubbish orange plastic
wedge outside the fog lights. The bumper now passes a 5 mph impact test. The fog
lights and headlights have multifaceted reflectors and clear lenses. The engine
is a "Phase 2" boxer incorporating some changes to the head, and
claimed power output is 7 bhp higher at 215 bhp (although torque stays the same). Inside,
the car benefits from cup holders and a slightly different Momo steering wheel.
The car is at last fitted with a Thatcham "Category 1" alarm and
price has risen by a very reasonable (in view of the changes) £1200, now
taking the car over the £20,000 mark.
The 2000 car added some minor but welcome changes to the 1999 model, following the theme of continual development. The most obvious changes are the wheel design. Out went the much loved curved 5 spoke design, to be replaced with a 6 slender spoke design. Opinions on the new wheel style are generally mixed, but more owners prefer the older 5 spoke design to the newer one. Other changes include colour coded mirrors and door handles, adjustable intermittent wiper speeds, remote central locking (was already fitted prior to delivery for UK cars with the alarm system), a metallic fascia, map reading lights and a new gear knob. The very popular Dark Blue Mica colour was replaced by a slightly lighted Deep Blue Mica, and a new Red Mica Metallic colour was added to the range. The Impreza has been in the same basic form for nearly 8 years now.
The latest WRX to hit these shores is the well specified UK300 which offers a great package of extras at a reasonable price. Subaru have recognised that thousands of motoring enthusiasts want something a little bit special without having to spend thousands of hours upgrading their cars with aftermarket kits. The UK300 simply arrives from the factory with everything on it. OK, it's not quite the same as doing it yourself, but when you haven't the time, or you want the whole package, complete with a manufacturer's three year warranty, then it's the ideal choice. And if even this isn't enough for you, then just wait for the new P1 to arrive - it will be even more highly tuned though it will probably carry a price tag to match.
NB 2001 and 2002 will be on soon.