If you’re anything like me and idolise the rally machines of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’re likely going crazy about the skyrocketing values of their road-going counterparts. Save for the Peugeot 206 GTI. Or the Skoda Octavia vRS. Or the Hyundai Accent. Okay, so it’s predominantly the Japanese ones, but it means that if you want a blue Subaru Impreza WRX STI with gold wheels for the Richard Burns or Petter Solberg look, expect to clear out a fair chunk of your bank account.
Annoying, really, because the whole point of these cars was to offer hair-raising performance for the fraction of the cost of a comparative sports car. The laughably rubbish interior quality was easy to overlook when you had nearly 300hp on tap and a torque splitter to mess about with. It’s also easy for wealthier folk to turn a blind eye to a car’s foibles if it means they can get their hands on a hero car from their childhood. Consider that many Japanese performance saloons were tuned to high heaven and that finding a stock example is getting harder, you can’t blame those who spend a pretty penny to get hold of their dream car.
If, however, it’s difficult to justify forking out tens of thousands on a stock STI, then it’s worth considering a regular Impreza WRX. Yes, I know, it’s not easy going for one of the ‘lesser’ models, but you’re not sacrificing all that much performance for the amount of money you’ll save. Just make sure you find one with a punchy engine and not the gutless 1.5-litre motor. For instance, this Impreza WRX gets the turbocharged 2.5-litre boxer engine that features in the UK-spec Hawkeye STI, though it’s obviously in a slightly lower state of tune. In non-STI guise it’s able to churn out 230hp and can dispatch a 0-62mph sprint in 5.9 seconds – roughly half a second down on the STI model - but still likeably brisk.
Of course, that’s in stock form. While a tad fragile, these 2.5-litre motors are capable of considerably higher outputs with a little work. Granted, you can’t go slapping on STI parts left, right and centre, but the Impreza is a relatively modular platform. In fact, the standard Impreza did receive some support from Prodrive in the form of an official Prodrive Performance Pack (PPP). This car doesn’t seem to have it equipped, but there are still plenty of official Prodrive parts out there for an OEM-ish performance upgrade.
That this car is a wagon makes it all the more tempting. The Impreza WRX saloon is a perfectly practical car (more so than the hatchback, if you ask Ben), but the wagon has to be the ultimate family mobile. As far as I can tell (and correct me if I'm wrong) the STI Wagon was never officially sold in the UK and Subaru didn’t even bother making one for the Hawkeye generation. With a bit of time and the right knowhow then, it wouldn’t be hard to get this thing looking and sounding like a proper STI.
For a fraction of the cost, I might add. The Bugeye was the last Impreza wagon to receive the STI treatment; there's one on the classifieds at the moment for £18,990, which is £12,000 more expensive than the non-STI estate we have here. Now, admittedly, the MOT history isn’t what you’d call rock-solid. A bit of corrosion here, a dodgy exhaust there. But the work seems to have been done to get it through its most recent MOT, so it’s ready for some light tuning and is pleasingly cheap to buy. But be quick - it’s getting ever more difficult to find performance estates like these in the bargain bin.
SPECIFICATION | SUBARU IMPREZA WRX WAGON
Engine: 2,457cc four-cylinder boxer, turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 230@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 236@3,600rpm
Year registered: 2007
Recorded mileage: 98,000
Price new: £22,000
Yours for: £6,990
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