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1999 Subaru Impreza Review
  • Great sounding engine, Aggressive power delivery, Handling and grip, Fantastic brakes, Styling
  • Fidgety ride quality, Running costs, Boy racer stigma

by Ben F

Love it or hate it, the first thing you notice about the handsome Impreza is how purposeful it looks. From the deep front air dam with fog light covers, to a bonnet full of speed holes and that ridiculous rear wing; it proudly shows off its rally heritage. Hiding behind the pink grill badge is a full fruit version of Subaru’s 2 litre flat four. Pop the light aluminium bonnet and you’re greeted by a chunky carbon fibre strut brace detouring around the silver intercooler and a red intake manifold signalling that inside are forged pistons, light weight valves and revised camshafts.

Opening the rather long frameless door and sliding into the deep alcantara covered seat reveals an interior that is generic 90s Japanese grey and black plastic. It’s not all bad though as all the important bits – the controls – are nice. The leather Momo steering wheel, matching shift knob and the perfectly placed alloy pedals are all spot on. Add to that white faced dials which have aged gracefully, climate control air conditioning, a decent sized glove box and even two cup holders and it is a comfortable enough place to be. There’s excellent vision out over the protruding bonnet scoop and the large side mirrors virtually eliminate any blind spots, however it takes a while to get used to seeing the rear spoiler in your peripheral vision when head checking, occasionally causing an unnecessary double take! (I hope there never actually is a blue STi in my blind spot!)

Depress the nicely weighted clutch, turn the nondescript key, listen to the fuel pump prime and enjoy the throaty, off beat sound as it fires into life. Out on the road it’s surprising how good the 2 litre is at simply meandering around town, with a good chunk of its 353nm of torque available from under 3000rpm. Prodding the loud pedal though will bring 17psi of roller bearing turbo goodness and its 206kw friend to the party. Power delivery is subjected to some old fashioned turbo lag which actually adds to the feeling of speed when it finally kicks in. Smoothly revving out, the boxer engine never really changes note, only getting a bit raspy as it nears its 7900rpm red line. Combined with the incredibly short throws of the notchy gearbox and the fantastic throttle response, revving this engine out becomes a very addictive process. This car is with you all the way, encouraging you to drive and enjoy it. Adding to the experience is a rock solid middle pedal, as the huge Brembo brakes do a great job of hauling up the 1270kg coupe time and time again. The weak link in this chain however is the steering feel, being a bit too light and vague around the straight ahead, thankfully though it does load up nicely in the bends.

Stiff and uncompromising, the suspension teams up with sticky Bridgestone RE070s allowing for precise turn in without a trace of body roll. The downside of this is a fidgety ride which can be tiring on longer journeys. It does take most bumps quite well though, settling quickly on the rebound stroke, ensuring you will stay on line through all but the biggest of bumps. The STi rewards being driven smoothly and the best way to extract the best pace through the hills is to place an emphasis on corner exit acceleration.

Back road heroics aside the STi is still perfectly useful for everyday driving. Sliding the front seat out of the way with the quick release lever confirms that the back seats are the equal of its four door brother. There’s more than enough room to stash a couple of toddlers and their seats though the harsh ride prevents it from being a genuine family car. Thirst for 98 octane fuel averages around 11L / 100k with that figure climbing to a slightly alarming 16L / 100 when driven hard. A regular 12,500k service interval, the extremely unreliable air flow meter, expensive spark plugs and a need for fully synthetic oil all conspire to make ownership fairly expensive for an older car. But considering that every drive is engaging, fun and has a definite sense of occasion, I’d say it’s more than worth it.

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1999 Subaru Impreza Review Review
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