There was a time when the smart money thought the Subaru Impreza was in the vanguard of a new breed of affordable performance cars that would in time take over the world.

The hot hatch had had its day, and now it was time for the Playstation generation to have its say. Technology had never been more affordable: when the Impreza Turbo was introduced it cost just £17,999 despite its forced induction and all-wheel drive hardwear, which was almost £20,000 less than the Porsche 968.

But you could fit all your family in the Impreza, their luggage in the boot and still dust the Porker away from the lights.

But all that was a very long time ago – 1994 to be precise - and while Subaru have thrown at least 15 different variations on the original theme at the market since then and despite the collusion of Mitsubishi and its largely epic Evolution models, the invasion never came. To this day the Impreza, renamed the WRX STi since 2010 is what it always was: a niche player. Question is, is it still any good?

The WRX STI is available for £28k. If more power is required, the STi can be turned into the 335bhp 340R model for just £1699. 

Top 5 Hot Hatches

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Subaru range

Driven this week

  • Opel Ampera-e
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    Opel's second-generation Ampera is smaller than the first, and now purely electric. It's also very capable with a remarkable range
  • Lotus Elise Sprint
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    The latest incarnation of the Elise may be out of its depth on track, but on the public road it is probably the purest version since the original
  • First Drive
    26 April 2017
    The compromises of adding a plug-in hybrid drivetrain to the 5 Series make the new 530e iPerformance tough to recommend
  • 2017 BMW 440i Coupé
    First Drive
    26 April 2017
    The assumption was that a few minor tweaks to the 2017 BMW 440i Coupé wouldn't make much of a difference. It turns out they do
  • Porsche 911 GT3
    First Drive
    26 April 2017
    Brilliant new Porsche 911 GT3 picks up where the previous GT3 RS and 911 R left off