It seems you can't move for a hyper hatch these days. No sooner had production of the Focus RS wound up than AMG confirmed it will be making another uber A Class below the A45. That's in addition to a Performance Pack for the Golf R and an Audi RS3 that'll do nearly 180mph - all compact, hugely potent four-wheel drive hot hatches that combine everyday civility with outrageous performance.
Kind of like the hatchback Impreza then. Oh alright, so the interiors will be nicer now - beat you to it - but the combination of hatch practicality with turbocharged performance and all-wheel drive traction certainly isn't new. Of course, it could be traced back even further to the Escort Cosworth, but pristine ones of those aren't around for £15k anymore.
Being blunt, the Impreza hatch was always going to struggle from its 2008 launch. The Subaru legend and fascination was built on the two-door and saloon versions, while the price of the hatch when it arrived inevitably drew comparison with cheaper, cheekier front-wheel drive alternatives. Combine all that with fairly underwhelming initial WRX and STI versions, plus waning demand for the Japanese rally reps, and its fate was arguably sealed.
However, this isn't one of those cars. It isn't even the WRX S, a notable improvement from standard, or the Prodrive Performance Pack that eventually boosted the STI to 330hp. This is an Impreza STI Spec C; we all know that the more letters after a JDM special, the better, and that's a mantra every Spec C Scooby - this hatch included - very much adhered to.
The 2.5-litre engine was dumped for the revvier, feistier EJ20 2.0-litre, the chassis overhauled with new diffs, dampers, springs and bars, plus there was a drop in kerbweight of 30kg. The end result was as these Spec C Imprezas have always been: faster, sharper, more resilient and more enjoyable. If various accounts are to be believed, then the Spec C was a better driver's car than the Cosworth Impreza we ended up with in the UK.
This particular Spec C is one of the more expensive five-door Imprezas around, a reflection of its condition, rarity and additional spec over the UK cars. But look at what your £15k buys: a Subaru in the best colour and presented immaculately, sold at a reputable importer and with below average mileage. It's rarer than a contemporary Focus RS that'll still cost more money, faster than a UK STI despite similar power and, let's be honest, no worse to look at than any Impreza with a boot.
In theory the Impreza hatch should have amalgamated two great automotive passions in the UK, that of the hot hatch and the fast, four-wheel drive Subaru. The officially imported cars never quite cut it here, but there's every reason this Japanese Domestic Market special just might. Fortune does favour the brave, doesn't it?
SPECIFICATION - SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI SPEC C
Engine: 1,997cc, flat-4 turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 308@6,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 311@4,400rpm
MPG: Probably not brilliant
First registered: 2009
Recorded mileage: 69,000
Price new: 3.7m yen (c. £24,000, Japan only)
Yours for: £15,990
See the original advert here.