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Variety of body styles and AWD make the Impreza a nice alternative to other mainstream economy cars.
Pros: All-wheel drive, scrappy personality, bulletproof reliability record, fun to drive.
Tight rear seat, no ABS option for L models, a bit pricey.
Available Impreza Models
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For 2000, Subaru introduces the new Impreza 2.5 RS Sedan, a cross between an aggressive driver's car and a sedan. More standard equipment comes on the 2.5 Coupe and Sedan while the L model remains unchanged. The Outback Sport receives some exterior design changes. All Impreza models now come with 24-hour roadside assistance.
The Impreza was originally built to battle the Ford Escorts, Toyota Corollas and Chevy Cavaliers that sold so well to young adults, but a zippy advertising campaign touting the underpowered Impreza as "What to Drive" alienated traditional Subie buyers and turned off the young adults it was supposed to attract. Sales of the Impreza were less than successful, and Subaru scrambled to find a solution.
The first Subaru to wear an Outback badge was the Impreza Outback Sport wagon in 1994. The success of this model led to the Legacy-based Outback Wagon in 1995 and the mini-SUV-challenging Forester in 1998. Features unique to this version of the Impreza include a heavy-duty four-wheel independent suspension with 6.5 inches of ground clearance, 205/60 R15 M+S tires, splash guards, a two-tone paint scheme and a rear bumper step pad. The wagon has a small cargo area when the rear seat is raised, partially due to the steeply raked rear window. Drop the seat, though, and you've got 62 cubic feet to mess around with. Quibbles about the Outback Sport include a cramped rear seat and ugly plastic wheelcovers.
For 2000, Subaru introduces the Impreza 2.5 RS Sedan, a vehicle that combines the performance and handling of the race rally-inspired 2.5 RS Coupe with the comfort and convenience of a four-door sedan. For a $100 base price increase, the 2.5 RS Coupe and Sedan receive more standard fare, including cruise control and viscous limited-slip rear differential.
Overall, we find much to like about the Impreza. We've driven 2.5 RS, Outback and L Coupe models, and thoroughly enjoyed them. All Imprezas behave like street-legal rally cars, and they're a hoot to toss around. Fling one into a corner, and it clings to the pavement. Imprezas are a blast to drive hard and fast, and the all-wheel-drive system performs brilliantly on a variety of road surfaces. Each Impreza model is available with an $800 automatic transmission. Interiors are comfortable -- though the side glass feels a bit too close -- and steering and braking are communicative.
There is one thing that bothers us about the Impreza lineup, and that's the lack of an antilock brake option on the L model. To get ABS, you must order the 2.5 RS. This doesn't make much sense coming from a company touting safety in its advertising. We'd also like Subaru to offer one of their turbocharged engines in the 2.5 RS. The company makes an amazing Japan-only performance car, based on the 2.5 RS, called the 22B. Alas, this twin-turbocharged monster is not available in the United States.
Though prices haven't changed much for the millennium, we've always thought they were a bit on the high side to begin with. Despite the benefits of all-wheel drive, the budget-minded compact shopper must ask whether the price commanded by this Subaru is worth it. As much as we like the Impreza, we're skeptical.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.