The rarity of the Subaru WRX STI illustrates just how big of a blow the hot hatch has been to the Impreza’s legacy in Britain. When was the last time you saw one on the road? It’s clear the last generation of Impreza successor has failed to overcome the fight presented by broadly talented, powerful and super fast hatchbacks like the Golf R and AMG A45, and the sales numbers speak for themselves. It’s a shame, because we do love the burbly Japanese saloon, but there’s no denying that those indirect rivals do offer a better all-round ownership experience. Put it this way, we know which one we’d prefer to do a 300-mile motorway journey in.
Early Imprezas don’t have to worry about such a prospect because they’ve long since entered the realms of modern classics. The most cooking variants are even looking like sound investments, evidenced by collectables like the P1 we found last year with fewer than 5,000 miles on its odometer and an asking price of £50k! Today, however, we’ve come across another example that you might actually be able to regularly enjoy; a car which has covered 82,000 miles and is up for £22,995. No bargain, admittedly, but certainly a price which would allow you to use it without guilt.
And use it you should, because the P1 remains to many the ultimate expression of the Impreza in Britain. The swansong Mk1 model, which earned its moniker from the Prodrive One codename, came out in March 2000, in the era when Subaru was fighting for World Rally Championship titles with legends like Richard Burns and Petter Solberg doing the pedalling. The first-gen Subaru was in its final year of competition before the bug eye Mk2 replaced it on the rally stages and roads, so longstanding competition partner Prodrive was commissioned to create 1,000 special versions of the WRX for the Mk1’s adoring UK market.
Power from the 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four was significantly uprated with a new ECU to 280hp at 6,500rpm, while torque was raised to 253lb ft at 4,000rpm. Since this was a generation of Impreza not weighed down by modern safety systems, the engine had only 1,295kg to shift. The results made for savage performance, with 62mph coming in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 155 – numbers that shamed the cars of an infantile super-hatch segment of the day and would even keep today’s front-running offerings honest.
Prodrive’s best work was done to the P1’s chassis, which was adapted specifically for the UK to offer sweeter performance on a B-road (and, in turn, counter demand for grey JDM imports that had until then represented a large portion of UK Subaru sales). It used the two-door bodyshell that hadn’t been officially sold in Britain to provide better rigidity, helping to maximise the handling benefits of the new damping and lightweight 17-inch wheels. The Impreza P1 got ABS as standard, while the WRX’s Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD) was ditched and a quick-shift gear linkage was added. Finish it all in Sonic Blue paint and you had the closest thing to Burns’ rally car for the road.
In fact, Burns was quoted in the original P1 brochure as saying that the car was as "quick in a straight-line as a rally car" and that its turn in was “sharper", which emphasises just how effective a machine this Prodrive creation was. All of which helps to explain why last year’s Spotted was on sale for such an enormous figure. Today, though, it’s refreshing to see that you can still bag a legend of this sort for something not quite in the realms of silly money. Would you use it, knowing what this car represents? It would be such a shame not to…
SPECIFICATION - SUBARU IMPREZA P1
Engine: 1,994cc, flat four
Transmission: five-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280@ 6500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 253@4000rpm
First registered: 2000
Recorded mileage: 82,000
Price new: £31,495
Yours for: £22,995
See the full ad here.