new Subaru WRX STI
leaving Dan wallowing in nostalgia after a little foresting in Sweden, I have started thinking – yet again – about how good the 1990s original Impreza really is. And how I really should slot one on my drive alongside my Delta Integrale. Compared with some of the lovelies I've highlighted on PH, the 1994-2000 Subaru Impreza 2000 Turbo almost seems a little bit run of the mill.
But bear with me on this – the vanilla UK car really is something quite special. And just as my Integrale is an 8V and not an Evo, my Impreza of choice would be one of these, and not one of the higher profile variations such as the 22B, P1, or RB5. Why? Because, it's still an undoubted bargain, and not long from now, we might be left with nothing but the pumped-up Scoobies. And it's not as if a standard Impreza is slow, even by today's standards.
Before it sprouted wings and gold wheels...
Given that numbers are dropping rapidly, I reckon now really is the time to catch one while you can. Seriously. At the last count at the end of 2013, there were 476 Impreza 2000 Turbos taxed and still on the road in the UK. Sounds a lot until you consider that at the same point in 2011, that number was 731. With values for the hardest-driven examples currently on the floor, arguably keeping the nicer stock below where it deserves to be, breaking rather than conserving earlier cars seems to be the reason that numbers are falling fast.
Okay, so that's natural selection, and once it all shakes out, we'll be left with a pool of nice, early, original Imprezas to choose from. But by then, their appealing affordability may well have gone out of the window.
And I'll level with you – I absolutely adore these cars, and have done so from the moment Subaru started officially importing them into the UK 20 years ago. How could anyone not love a car that combined sheepish looks, a 211hp turbocharged flat-four, bullet-proof four-wheel drive transmission, and a 0-60mph time of 5.8 seconds, with a list price of £17,999? Here's some 1994 context for you. This was the same price as a BMW 318iS Coupe, and truly a super-saloon for the working man.
This was a revelatory moment. Subaru had re-drawn the parameters of expected performance for the money, and it took rival manufacturers years to catch up. The road testers twigged the moment they got behind the wheel, as did buyers, who bought these rally-bred cars in their thousands. And very soon, Britain was reverberating to the sound of throbbing flat fours, pulsing like they were misfiring – and B-roads everywhere bore witness to mighty acts of giant-killing. Car magazine loved it so much, that five years on, it proclaimed the Impreza as its Car of The Decade for the 1990s. It's difficult to argue against that.
Classifieds tyre kicking unearths a few temptations
20 years on, and in many ways, an early Impreza feels laughably shoddy. The frameless windows are nice, but interior is cheap, shiny, and scratchy, and it feels more hire car than thoroughbred. But fire it up, and that lumpy engine note gets you every time, and once you're cracking on, and the oil's warm, it wakes up and feels planted, exciting and secure in a way that feels remarkably modern. Even the steering, which is lacking in feedback in normal driving, starts telling you what's what, once you're in full hoon mode.
So, the old girl is still a great steer in 2014. There are a few well-known issues to watch out for – most notably rumbling bottom ends, poorly remapped examples boosting beyond their detonation limits, and general body corrosion and shabbiness. But they are as tough as old boots, and any major malady will soon become apparent on the shortest test drive. If it howls, clonks or doesn't drive straight and true, walk away. Bottom line – if you're looking at a UK-specification 2000 Turbo, the chances are, its running gear won't have come anywhere near being stressed.
Yes, you can buy a standard Impreza for around a grand right now. I tried one recently – and although its character was largely intact, I couldn't look too far beyond its many faults... and the impending bills. And I'm more forgiving to shedness than most. But raise your sights, and set a budget of £3,000, and there are still some very, very nice 2000 Turbos out there.
Two that jump off the page are both pretty vanilla, and all the more appealing for it. This one in Scotland with what the seller describes as a genuinely low mileage looks good. I'd bin the Team Dynamics wheels and dump valve, though. And the this Silver example, in all-original trim, new belts and 83,000 miles. And both come in at comfortably less than £3,000. It won't be too long, I reckon, before we all start regretting not buying cars like this while they were all so cheap...