Subaru has always marched to the beat of a different drummer, and rather than try to compete directly with the small sedans from Honda and Toyota, Subaru goes its own way by offering a few things those mainstreamers don't: big power, all-wheel-drive and a wagon body style.
The Impreza has been redesigned for 2002 and is available in five trim levels: 2.5 RS sedan, WRX sedan, 2.5 TS Sport Wagon, Outback Sport wagon and WRX Sport Wagon. Powering these Imprezas are a 2.5-liter, 165-horsepower, horizontally-opposed (or "Boxer") four-cylinder engine for the RS, TS, and Outback models, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter Boxer kicking out an impressive 227 horsepower for the rally racing-inspired WRX. The Boxer engine layout allows for a lower center of gravity, which contributes to better handling. Transmission choices are a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
All Imprezas have fully independent suspension and antilock brakes. The high-performance WRX and 2.5 RS versions get four-wheel disc brakes with the 2.5 TS and Outback models having a more conventional front disc and rear drum arrangement.
Subaru claims that safety, handling and ride qualities have all been improved via its Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame body structure and overall increased structural rigidity. The former promotes greater protection in a collision (be it frontal offset, side or rear) while the latter enhances the Impreza's handling and ride.
Standard equipment levels are generous. The 2.5 TS has air conditioning, height-adjustable driver seat, power windows/locks/mirrors and an 80-watt stereo with CD deck. The Outback Sport adds bigger (16-inch) wheels, two-tone paint scheme, massive fog lights, floor mats and cargo area enhancements that include a power point and hidden storage compartment. The RS features a sport-tuned suspension with a wider front track, four-wheel disc brakes, high-performance tires on its 16-inch alloys, sport seats and leather wrapping for the steering wheel, gear shifter and handbrake handle.
Enthusiasts who want something they can really sink their feet into should look at the WRX. The all-out Subie has the performance hardware mentioned earlier as well as a functional hood scoop, limited-slip rear differential, dual-outlet exhaust and the option of 17-inch wheels. Inside the cockpit are alloy pedals, front side airbags, 6-disc CD changer, sport seats and a Momo leather-wrapped steering wheel. High power and relatively low weight allow this rocket to blast from zero to 60 mph in just over six seconds. And the all-wheel drive means that those who live in less than perfect climates can enjoy this performance car all year round.
Offering a generous helping of standard safety, performance and luxury features, the Impreza lineup strikes us as a nice alternative to run-of-the-mill small cars.