STi stages a return to driving form, though some of the old niggles still remain

What is it?

Things to note about the new Subaru WRX STI. One: it's a saloon. Two: curiously, it's not called Impreza any more.

Subaru has listened to its punters and given them the four-door they've craved since the last one departed in 2007, but nonetheless there's a feeling within Subaru that things have moved on.

We’ve already driven the Australian-spec car so how does the UK version stack up?

See the first drive pics of the Subaru WRX STI

What’s it like?

Well, you can no longer have your WRX with gold wheels or WR Blue paint, for example, and the days when 60 per cent of Subaru sales were turbo nutjobs are long gone.

What returns with the new saloon is a bodyshell correspondingly stiffer than its hatched sibling; that is similarly revised and priced, incidentally. Think of this as a mid-life facelift, not merely a boot introduction.

You'll note accordingly, then, that even away from the rear, new body panels abound (for my money they improve the visuals no end).

With the revisions come minor engine changes which ease the 2.5 boxer through Euro V emission regs. More serious are suspension alterations, to Japanese domestic-market 'Spec C' specification.

It should have had these all along. Most significantly they give tighter body control, impressively not coupled with a ride deterioration (it out-rides a Mitsubishi Evo X convincingly despite spring rates that, at the rear, are stiffened 50 per cent). There's a new sense of poise and flatness, while the mild lateral looseness of old is banished.

Agility isn't back to the 'time-attack' good/bad old days; the STI steers only moderately quickly and still makes a satisfying distance companion. But it is a more rewarding driver's tool too, no question. More grip, more response, more feel, more poise. Less of nothing.

Should I buy one?

I ran an STI hatchback for a year, and argued that for 85 per cent of the time it was preferable to a new Evo. For me, this saloon takes another 10 percent.

It remains weak where Imprezas usually do. Cosseting new Recaro seats and detail trim upgrades can't mask an interior less compelling than those from Europe, while the Yen's relative strength gives a disconcerting price increase. New mechanicals, though, enable it to compete.

Subaru WRX STI 4dr

Price: £32,995; Top speed: 158mph; 0-62mph: 5.2sec; Economy: 26.9mpg; Co2: 243g/km; Kerb weight: 1505kg; Engine type, cc: 4cyls horizontally opposed, 2547cc turbo petrol; Power: 296bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 300lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Symanski 18 October 2010

Re: Subaru WRX STI

Here's an interesting link:

In the US the Subaru STi will be LOWER in price in 2011 vs 2010. Now, could we get Subaru UK to explain that one? Can't be the Yen against the $ as it's the same for against the £.

STi in the US is £ 24,000 (with the 18" BBS alloys). In the UK a standard STi is £ 33,000. Quite a difference.

Symanski 11 October 2010

Re: Subaru WRX STI

73henny wrote:
Rally blue was available on the hatch STi but very few of the cars bought between 08 and 10 were blue

I have the feeling that the hatchback has been a bit of a sales disaster. I haven't seen as many WR Blue ones myself either, but then again I've not seen many hatchbacks on the roads. I'd like to see the figures.

Evo is a magazine I used to rate highly. I used to subscribe! However, when renewal time came the price had gone up and they couldn't work out the correct discount from the "save 15%" (or whatever it was) so I gave up. Was getting tired reading what they had for their lunch, where they went to, rather than the car which took them there.

Nigelo 11 October 2010

Re: Subaru WRX STI

Wonder have subaru sorted out the engine problems that seemed to have plagued 08> STIs - there's a WR blue hatch going for peanuts in a dealer near me, but even supposedly fixed ones are still throwing rods, or I'd have maybe thought about it for cheap thrills (lost 50% in 2 years, and less than 9k miles!) Like the look if the new one, but wish they'd moved it on a bit in terms of engine and interior. White with a big spoiler would satisfy the hooligan in me! :)