From £31,550
Looks better and goes better. A worthy rival to the Mitsubishi Evo IX.

Another year, another facelift for the Subaru Impreza, or so it seems. In fact, it’s a whole two years since the eponymous Scooby was last facelifted. The revised model landed in the Japanese market in June, and gets its first official European showing at next month’s Frankfurt motor show, but we couldn’t wait until then.This Japanese car uses the same 276bhp 2.0-litre turbo flat four as current UK STis, but for its UK launch the revised Scooby is expected to get a beefy new 2.5-litre unit to join its new face. Out go the old model’s round details, making way for edgier lines. The most obvious change is the new three-part grille, which apes that of the US-market B9 Tribeca 4x4. This is a deliberate reference to Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries’ past as an aircraft manufacturer: the central grille apes a cross-section of a fuselage, with the horizontal side bars the wings. Above, the bonnet is more aerodynamically shaped, but still sports its chunky air intake.The aero improvements continue along the sides, where the skirts have been tweaked, and to the back, where there is a new rear window air deflector claimed to increase downforce, along with diffusers under the floor for improved high-speed stability. There are also new lights. Open the door and the cabin remains uncompromising as ever: bucket seats, three-spoke steering wheel, aluminium pedals.On the road, it’s hard to pin-point any improvement in the dynamics – especially if your name’s not Petter Solberg. The rush of torque in low-to-mid-range revs is noticeable, as is the smoother action of the six-speed gearbox. There’s also an improved version of the Driver-Controlled Centre Differential, an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system that includes a torque-sensitive limited-slip differential. This is one of the Impreza’s greatest assets, as it allows the driver to literally dial in the power split front to rear via a rotary control between the seats.Should you want to (and you will), up to 64 per cent of power can be sent to the back wheels, giving keen drivers an opportunity to really hang the back end out. It also makes the Impreza feel much more neutral through a sequence of bends, removing the understeer that was a characteristic of earlier STis. The new car will be an even better track-day weapon.We’ll have to wait until we drive a UK-spec Impreza for a full judgement, but in the meantime the Mitsubishi Evo IX had better watch its back.Laurent Benchana

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