Thanks to the prowess and dexterity of rallying greats Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg, the Subaru Impreza WRX is widely upheld as one of the most competitive cars ever to compete in its field, vying for space in the WRC hall of fame with the Audi Quattro, Lancia Fulvia and, obviously, its long-time foe, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
Unfortunately, such hallowed status always becomes a curse for manufacturers when it comes time for a car’s reinvention, and so it was with a certain degree of shock and disdain that enthusiasts received the hatchback third-generation Impreza WRX in 2007. That change is no bad thing, you may think, but this was a moniker intrinsically linked with the world of saloon-shaped dirt-track destroyers, so we can forgive that bit of initial trepidation.
Today, the Mk3 Impreza WRX – which was built from 2008-2014 – is more widely recognised for what it is: a truly capable hot hatch rather than a bite-size sports saloon. As such, it might be considered an alternative to the FN2 Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R32 – although, despite its similar shape and size, the Impreza WRX is a slightly less school-run-friendly proposition.
The Impreza WRX’s familiar and formidable ‘EJ255’ turbocharged 2.5-litre flat-four engine initially sent a rather piddling 227bhp and 236lb ft to all four of its wheels. However, the Prodrive-fettled S variant – launched in 2008 in response to criticism that the latest Impreza WRX wasn’t tough enough to take on its rivals – upped power to 251bhp and torque to 244lb ft for a 0-60mph time of 4.7sec (on most surfaces).
But if you simply must touch the 300bhp barrier (or get very close to it), you’ll want the STi (Subaru Technica International) variant, with its uprated ‘EJ257’ engine, which commands the big bucks.
Perhaps more obviously related to the snarling 555-adorned rally Imprezas of old, this 296bhp beast is quickly becoming a collector’s car, so prices are holding strong. That said, you’ll still find some that have been crashed, rally-prepped or tuned to within an inch of their life. It’s not a car to buy on a whim.