I'm writing this fresh from my first drive in the eagerly anticipated new Subaru Impreza WRX. And to be honest I'm feeling slightly bemused.

I know the WRX's role in the Impreza-archy is to slot between the boggo naturally aspirated versions and the fire-breathing STI that arrives later. My thoughts could best be summarized thus:

1) How is it possible to make a 230 bhp, four-wheel driven hatchback that looks so dull?

2) Now the WRX is a hot hatchback, how is it going to fare against its far cheaper rivals?

It's not that the WRX is a bad car. It's not. But nor does it offer anything like the level of dynamic or visual excitement that I would expect to buy for £19,995. It drives pretty much like a quicker version of the atmo 2.0 RX that we road tested. It's smooth and accurate, but with surprisingly soft springs and roll-prone suspension. In extremis, it hangs on gamefully enough - but on first impressions it feels like the engineers have deliberately left plenty of "headroom" for the forthcoming STI and other Scrabble-leftover versions to become harder-sprung and hornier-looking.

And aside from the undeniable advantage of four-wheel drive when the going gets slippy, I'm struggling to see what this WRX offers over the best of the hot hatch pack. It looks bland, and although the flat-four engine sounds great it's not actually any quicker than front-driven rivals like the Seat Leon Cupra and Mazda 3 MPS. Then there's the flat four's prodigious appetite for 98-RON: I managed just 22.6 mpg under the sort of reasonably rapid use I reckon most WRXs will be subjected to.

Guess I'll just get back to waiting for the STI, then.