Subaru has broadened its line-up in recent years, but its used models remain a byword for cool, fast, all-wheel-drive machines
9 February 2016

Subaru is arguably most famous for making the legendary Impreza, but that's not the only model to look for on the forecourts these days. Here's our pick of Subaru's performance range.

1 - Subaru Impreza 2.5 WRX STI (2007-2011)

The Mk3 Impreza broke the model’s mould, being available for the first time as a practical five-door hatch in the hope of competing with the Volkswagen Golfs of this world.

But while the WRX can’t quite be held in such high esteem as its predecessors, it retains a unique and alluring character. The steering has near-perfect weighting, while the handling is spot on and able to keep everything neat and tidy until the tyres run out of traction.

Under the bonnet is a 2.5-litre boxer engine, which develops 296bhp and is full of character and delightfully smooth. The WRX gets to 60mph from rest in 5.2sec.

An 80,000-miler from 2008 is available from £10,000.

2 - Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Spec B (2003-2009)

For years it was the unsung hero of motoring, let alone Subaru’s range. A decade on and a Legacy saloon is a steal.

The Legacy does everything well in a manner that’s as modest and unassuming as the car looks. The handling is great and the steering is accurate and responsive.

The 3.0-litre petrol Spec B is the muscle of the Legacy range. Delivering 241bhp, and with the help of all-wheel drive, it’ll get to 60mph in 8.2sec.

Servicing intervals are reasonable, but repair bills can be high. Watch out for engine issues, ventilation failures and clutch and gearbox problems. A 2005 Spec B with 37,000 miles can be found for less than £4500.

3 - Subaru Impreza 2.0 WRX (2003-2007)

Subaru’s second attempt at the Impreza came with a divisive frog-eyed front end, rectified by a hastily launched facelift.

The Mk2 is an impressive performance car. It’s rapid, with 221bhp rocketing the four-door from standstill to 60mph in 5.6sec. Mated to a four-wheel drive system, top-notch steering and excellent handling, the car really excels. It’s roomy and well made, too, but the cabin is drab, with lots of plastic on show.

Running costs are on a par with a small mortgage. Tyres and brakes wear quickly, insurance is high and economy is in supercar territory. Breakdowns and failures, however, are rare.

A super-quick, 65,000-mile frog-eyed car can be yours for around £3500.

4 - Subaru Forester XT Turbo (2003-2008)

Did Subaru get to the crossover market too early with the Forester? Not a normal estate, not a full-on 4x4, it didn’t catch people’s imagination as it might. Nevertheless, it’s a unique ownership proposition, especially in XT Turbo form.

The high-riding, all-wheel-drive estate rides smoothly, has good handling and is fast, with a 2.5-litre engine that propels it to 60mph from rest in just 5.7sec.

Cabin quality isn’t the best and it’s not the roomiest, but it will cope with some muddy stuff, while carrying the family. As with most Subarus, it’s generally reliable, but clutches and driveshafts can give out at around 60,000 miles.

Ten-year-old cars with 70,000 miles are on forecourts from £5000.

5 - Subaru Impreza P1 (1992-2003)

The relationship between Subaru and Prodrive in the 1990s not only delivered a wealth of World Rally Championship wins but also produced what is arguably the best Impreza ever.

The P1 was produced in rare two-door form, with a 2.0-litre rally-edition engine producing 280bhp. The limited-edition model comes with a big-bore exhaust, quick-shift gears, suspension tweaks 
and 17in titanium-finish alloy wheels. 
The sprint to 60mph takes just 6.3sec, with a top speed of 144mph.

Watch out for imports disguised as UK-spec cars, and have all the full vehicle checks carried out before parting with your cash. This collectable model can be appreciating in your garage from £13,000 for a 2001 example of the P1 with 83,000 miles on the clock.

Matthew Griffiths

Our Verdict

Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Does the WRX STi turn the Impreza into a proper driver’s tool?

The Subaru STi is fast, grippy and offers immense value

Join the debate

Comments
7

9 February 2016

I owned an 03 WRX from new, it was the Peter Stevens facelifted model. I'm told it was better than the frog-eyed one. Suspension was too soft, so I asked Subaru to fit stiffer springs and only when that was done did I get told they also lowered the car! But handling was much improved. Also fitted tyres off the STi cars which came in to become the WR1. The Bridgestone RE070 were superb in the dry, better than the standard RE050. My final modification was the Pro Drive Performance Pack. Yes, you got more power, but that power came in better too. Rather than having everything or nothing, the PPP smoothed off the introduction of that power so you could drive using a torque-y engine rather than one which needed to be generating peak power. It was far superior. So the 03-07 Impreza to get is one with these mods; it drove over UK roads perfectly, and with just the right amount of power. STi, it may have been better, but I suspect it's suspension was too stiff. I'd have liked to have tried.

9 February 2016

So it comes time to change cars and I'm looking at Subaru because my 03 has been wonderful. Garage where I bought mine for takes me out on a test drive. I'm sitting there thinking the cabin has got smaller, and there's now a hand brake sticking in to my leg. Still, the hifi looks better... First thing you notice when driving is the steering is super light. The 03 had light steering, but this is something else! So light it's worryingly light that you might accidentally turn it when you're busy looking behind or something. Then you're pottering about the town trying to get out to some country roads and you're thinking the car isn't quite liking this; it's not quite going where you want and it doesn't quite feel happy on the slightly uneven roads. Still, it's a different car from what you're used to. Then we get to the open roads and give it a blast; exactly what these cars are for. Oh my god does it hang on like a leech! That's where the car is amazing. Power down you can just drive it as hard as you dare. So great when you're going for a white knuckle ride, rubbish for pottering about town.
But I was confused by my experience. Surely this wasn't what has happened to the wonderful Impreza? I had to try again, so I went to a different garage and test drove another. Same results, if anything I found it even worse in town.
I was left looking for other options and visited the Mitsubishi garage for the new Evo X which had just came out. The sales man kept going on about how much it cost to keep the car on the road and the cost of repairing various parts which keep breaking whilst trying to promote a 3 year warranty such that I decided I'd rather have something reliable instead. I bought a BMW 330i.

9 February 2016

I went from a BMW 330i to a Legacy 3.0R Spec B. I was not disappointed, as good as the BMW was, the Legacy is a better all round car. The ride is not as hard as the BMW, the handling is great with 4wd in the winter a massive bonus compared to RWD.
Granted the BMW had a better interior and slightly better fuel consumption, but the Legacy's engine was just as characterful if not more so.
Add to that the brilliant reliability and the considerably lower purchase price to a similar age BMW and its a bargain.
Highly recommended

9 February 2016

I went from a BMW 330i to a Legacy 3.0R Spec B. I was not disappointed, as good as the BMW was, the Legacy is a better all round car. The ride is not as hard as the BMW, the handling is great with 4wd in the winter a massive bonus compared to RWD.
Granted the BMW had a better interior and slightly better fuel consumption, but the Legacy's engine was just as characterful if not more so.
Add to that the brilliant reliability and the considerably lower purchase price to a similar age BMW and its a bargain.
Highly recommended

9 February 2016

by the way - 3.0R spec B 0-60 - 8.2 secs????
maybe the auto, manual is about 6 secs

9 February 2016

We've recently run out of spaces in our Forester XT service book. It's now done 260,000 km since we bought it new in 2003 and is still on it's first clutch. The only things not in the service book which I can remember it needing are 2 new rear wheel bearings. It's had a decent life, doing a fair amount of time on non-tarmaced roads. The garage tell us it will likely do at least 400,000 km. We've looked at replacing it every few years but felt nothing really could match it. If they had done the 3.6 litre Outback with a manual maybe that would have been OK.

The biggest drawback with them is that they like a drink. Ours has had 98ron as recommended in the manual since new and with 25,000 - 30,000 km pa in recent years it feels like it's always being refilled. In fact, touch-wood, we're taking delivery of an i3 in the coming week to go alongside. The lease / service / electricity bill looks like it will cost less than the petrol / servicing bill of the Subaru even though the Subaru is unlikely to depreciate any further. We're keeping the Subaru though for long journeys / snow / muddy roads.

Pedal placement on them is fantastic. It's easier to heel and toe than my Lotus was (and you can do it in wellies). I've taken to left-foot-braking it on the gravel. I suspect there's little that is more fun than sliding a Forester around a gravel road at speed.

9 February 2016

Looking back its hard not to think Subaru were going through a purple patch in mid/late 90's, at least for UK buyers ? I owned an Impreza 2.LTurbo and then a 3.0 R both had their foibles but were essentially very good cars. I ran the Legacy for nine years and only sold it as basic parts (exhaust) were becoming hard to get. I ended up having a s/s centre section made up so I could continue to use the car.

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