Shed of the Week: Subaru Impreza Turbo Estate

Messing about with things seems to be part of human nature. Mrs Shed will occasionally mess about with Shed's favourite snack of crackers and cheese. She knows full well that he wants chutney with that, but in her contrary way she will still attempt to palm him off with relish.

While the dwindling supply of Samantha-style double entendres is perhaps something to be welcomed, the reduction in the numbers of unmessed-with classic Japanese cars is more worrying. Nobody in their right mind would go about modifying properly old stuff like Chippendale furniture, Michelangelo sculptures or Gutenberg bibles, but cars from the last twenty years or so remain constantly vulnerable to the serial messer's clumsy attempts at 'improvement'.

So it's very nice to see this lovely first-gen Impreza Turbo estate still looking more or less the same as it looked when it rolled off the Gunma line in 1996. With not a single 'I Love My Scooby' or 'Hoonigan' sticker to be seen, only the replacement of the fog lights with PIAA spots might bring a slight frown to a concours judge's brow. But that's being uber picky.

Of course, Shed isn't suggesting that this car is concours in the literal sense, and neither is the vendor: indeed, he is refreshingly honest about the car's flaws, which fall into the 'it's been like this for years and it doesn't seem to matter' category. Basically these are a small engine oil leak (not the first Subaru to have that - it could be a poor seal between head and block) and non-functioning aircon (who cares).

Shed has tried to pick out the 'scrape down one side' that is meant to be visible in the pictures, but all he's managed to come up with are a couple of marks to the middle of the offside rear door. Less ancient PHers with better eyesight may find something else.

Generally speaking though, this is a very presentable car with a remarkably fresh interior. The leather upholstery looks nicely worn-in and non-baggy, and the period-appropriate acreage of hard grey plastic is all present and correct. It even sports the towbar that is so useful for speedy touch-parking.

Although the PH ad puts it at 155hp, the EJ20 2.0-litre flat four turbo in this wagon should actually be running with something over 200hp, plus 214lb ft of torque. That's a nice mix for an engaging drive. Considering the performance it has, not to mention the four-wheel drive, mpg figures in the mid to high 20s aren't so bad. You might want to stick to the dear juice though.

This isn't the sort of car that will insulate you from the outside world. Quite the opposite: you'll be hearing rattles. But you'll mainly be hearing the glorious burble of the boxer motor. While we're in that department, you will want to satisfy yourself on the state of the radiator, and on the absence (you hope) of any head-gasket-fail mayo around the oil filler cap. The assumption is that this car has its original turbo, as nothing is mentioned in the honest-sounding ad. Blue smoke on revving could be a wonky turbo oil seal or a damaged piston.

The sills and arches will need regular monitoring - rust never sleeps, and old Japanese metal is one of its favourite delicacies - but they seem to be OK just now. The MOT, which was done slightly before Christmas, mentions the oil leak plus some brake binding and tyre tread distortion on the nearside rear wheel. A couple of years ago there was a much longer list of advisories, some of which related to odd tyre wear and tracking, a common bugbear with Imprezas. Others were related to front suspension wear which, again, is a familiar issue for owners.

More hearteningly, the 2015 advisories that were to do with heavy corrosion across the entire bottom of the car - from the sills and floor pans to the steering and braking components - didn't crop up on the subsequent (2016) MOT, and haven't since.

Subaru has always moved in the backwaters of motoring. The difference between 1996 and 2017, or 2018 as they are now calling it, is that the company is showing signs of distress in those backwaters, and starting to flap about a bit. The rallying heritage that was once the marque's motherlode is now being seen more as a mother-in-law - the unpopular kind that you hope you'll never see again - and the brand is sadly losing its identity.

Our Shed is pure old school Subaru, and as such is not only a reminder of better times but also a desirable machine in its own right, especially in this original state. Grab one while you can, because when they're gone, they're gone - and they ain't coming back.

Here's the ad.

1996 Subaru Impreza 2000 Turbo, UK car.
208bhp and 4 wheel drive.
118k miles
MOT December 2018
Good Service history, last oil change in June 2017
I have a lot of paperwork, most MOT certificates and service receipts
Service book with plenty of stamps
4 previous owners.
Unmodified car, with exception of fog light change to driving lights by a previous owner, to provide more light on full beam. I changed these to new PIAA ones last year as one of the original brackets had broken.
Mechanicals have never been modified or chipped as far as I know.
New back box exhaust and front tyres fitted last year.

I purchased this car from a friend in 2016, who'd owned the car for the previous 15 years. I intended to use as a stop-gap only but have kept it longer than expected. I've put on about 8k miles in the past year and it drives well but could do with some TLC. This car is almost 22 years old, cosmetically it is showing some small areas of rust, the door has a scrap on one side (visable in pictures). Electrics all work, including windows and mirrors. Car is fitted with air conditioning but has never worked in my ownership. Small oil leak from the engine since I've had it but never been an issue. Increasingly rare car, not many of these pre facelift "classic" Imprezas left anymore.

Car is available to view in Fleet Hampshire, just off junction 4A of the M3. Test drives available providing documented evidence showing coverage to drive other cars.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (84) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Howrare 12 Jan 2018

    This looks promising. Morning Shed

  • samoht 12 Jan 2018

    That sort of performance, handling and practicality for £1.5k makes other Sheds look a poor deal.

    The original GC Impreza will surely go down as a classic soon, although I guess I'd expect the JDM models to be the ones that actually go up in price.

    Interestingly, while Subaru UK may be in distress, they're selling (crossovers) like hot cakes in the much larger US market - well over half a million cars in 2017. So I suspect they're not worrying too much about redundancies in Gunma.

  • Cambs_Stuart 12 Jan 2018

    Superb shed.
    Oil leak likely to be rocker cover gaskets, 90 minutes labour and a gasket set that costs about £80 for both sides from import car parts.
    It's rust around the rear arches that kills most of these. While it can look minor it does spread to structural parts.
    If only I had the time, space and money for another car. But then, I say that most weeks.

  • Brompty 12 Jan 2018

    Cracking shed this morning. Worth buying and sorting as the price for these seems to be on the up.

  • rastapasta 12 Jan 2018

    Losing their identity?? Sales in the states would strongly suggest otherwise. They never sold in big numbers in the UK. Only in the US, Aus, Japan and Switzerland. They don't enter rallying as the regulations don't suit them to do so, I think they will come back when the regs change.

    As for this car, this is a very nice shed. Keep the rust off and it has another 20,000 miles in it easily.

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