Nobody liked this particular generation of Impreza. Well, almost nobody. It was seen as a step away from the increasingly hardcore (and stonkingly good) saloons towards a slightly softer, more practical and more approachable demeanour. It was touted as less thrilling than the car that went before it, and despite the hatchback’s amazing pace and traction the critics were probably right. You can bet the next one, rumoured this week, will be no softy.
Just a year after it was released came STI’s 20th birthday. Subaru’s performance arm had been going since 1989 and had achieved much in that time. No one begrudged those talented and dedicated engineers making a little birthday present to themselves. Especially not when the list of upgrades was this enticing.
The Impreza WRX STI 20th Anniversary emerged as a mere 300-car special run in Japan only, complete with a 304bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four. Quick-revving and hard-edged, it was a peach. The bigger news came with the handling upgrades. There were stiffer wishbones, beefier anti-roll bars and bespoke new coilovers tuned by STI itself.
Its wheels were a special design and the only body colour available was white, according to press reports from the time. We found this car claiming to be a 20th Anniversary and fresh off the boat from Japan. While it’s very obviously not white it wears the correct wheels, so we were curious. With a bit of digging we discovered that blue and black were also listed as options on the brochure.
The 2009 car is up for sale with Hurst Cars in Bedford; a specialist in hot Japanese cars. We spent a good 20 minutes ogling its wares, currently including a lovely Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V RS with 54,000 miles for £23,990. The Impreza here has similar mileage at 58,000, but can’t command the premium of the Evo. It’s set at £16,990, which still might seem a bit rich for an Impreza STI, but this one really was superb. And with just 300 ever made it’s one of the more exclusive Subaru clubs to belong to.
As part of this car’s spec you get a quad-exit HKS exhaust for maximum ASBO effect, STI-branded Recaro bucket seats, STI suspension, an STI sway bar with bigger bushes than standard, Brembo-sourced calipers and more. The dashboard and interior trim are a bit rubbish as per Subaru standard form, but there’s a practical boot, a bench seat for rear passengers and the useful drive mode selector that can switch between everyday, sport and ‘Sport#’ modes for a broader gamut of usability and maximum attack potential.
Almost nobody would put this model at the top of their wish list given a choice of the entire Impreza and WRX STI back-catalogue, but it does strike an intriguing balance of speed, handling and practicality, not to mention sheer scarcity. It could be like the Porsche 996 Turbo: unloved for a long time but eventually prices started to rocket. Could this be a good time to invest?