2002 Subaru Impreza Image
Owner Review

2002 Subaru Impreza Review

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Stand on the clutch, give the loud pedal a boot-full and let the needle lurk threateningly around 7000, then give it a sidestep and disappear with haste, literally smashing through the gears engulfed in the aural symphony that is simply: the boxer engine. However try the same trick again and risk spending your free time in futile attempts to piece together a former 5 speed jigsaw.

You see owning a WRX is like living the famous words once uttered by Austin Powers; “I too like to live dangerously” comes to mind each time you get on the power or shift gears with any form of ferocity; one of the many perks of having a gearbox made from matchsticks coupled with a motor with all the volatility of a hand grenade.

Speaking of perks, while the wagon does have some drawbacks, such as a marginally narrower track, less flared guards and rear roof spoiler giving it the appearance of a hooligan wearing a backwards cap; it does have some key advantages over the sedan.

For example, being a wagon it's clearly a family car, which makes it sensible enough to pass the “mother in law” test, while the badge makes it simultaneously playful enough to encourage you stop on the way home, fold down the seats and get started on making grandkids.

The interior of the WRX is a pleasant, albeit somewhat Spartan place to sit. While form hugging bucket seats now come standard in a myriad of cars from cheap hot hatches to Audi RS4s, the WRX was one of the first to offer it as standard.

Even for someone like me, towards the “please, one at a time” end of the scale, the seats provide good lateral support while not sacrificing comfort. Partnered with a leather clad momo wheel and shifter as well as a metal pedal arrangement nigh on perfect for a spot of heel-toe, the focus is very much on “feel”.

This experience just builds as soon as you start shifting gears, while turbo lag strangles life from the motor for the first 3500, the next half goes by in a blur, aided by the close ratio box and simply epic AWD system you are reaching the ton in sub 6 seconds, on your way to a top speed of…”oh, hello officer”.

I must say, given the WRX's rally heritage, prior to purchase I would expect things to only get better as you reach some tight corners, but alas in standard form this is not always the case, thanks to dreaded understeer.

So that people didn't slide themselves into the nearest lamp post at each opportune moment; the chassis was set up particularly conducive to understeer, however even in standard form that can be overcome with a bit of wheel work and utilising the natural brake balance. Once you get the hang of it, it's really a package you can simply point and shoot.

Now if you are someone like me who's ideal weekend features a track day and Colin McRae videos, you should be fine, however if you are a pimple faced teenager with facial hair resembling genital trimmings, you may well end up heading for ditch, desperately turning the wheel and mashing throttle hoping for an Evo style ex-machina centre diff intervention, but you will have no such luck here.

That being said, with a few tweaks, all is not lost and here is where the WRX comes into its own. Whether it's taking advantage of Subaru's interchangeable mechanicals or utilizing the plethora of aftermarket suppliers, correcting the understeer is just an anti-lift kit and swaybar replacement away. While with a quick turbo swap and injectors from a later generation STi, combined with the beauty of tuneable ROM, you are well on your way to muscling the bantamweight boxer up the weight divisions.

In terms of consumer advice, you have a choice; WRX or STi. The standard WRX is much like the STi, for a fraction of the cost, except the STi goes harder, handles and stops better, looks better and features a drivetrain which won't spontaneously turn itself into shrapnel the first time you put it through its paces; so you might think... No brainer right?

Well maybe, but consider this; at some point you will drive your pride and joy to a club, converse with some girl, maybe talk about your ride. At which point, amongst the loud music, you will face the peril of publicly announcing, that you in-fact have a STi.