Used 1997 Subaru Impreza Wagon

Style:
1997 Subaru Impreza
List price range

Pros

  • Outstanding handling, all-wheel drive, spunky good looks, comfortable seats

Cons

  • Could use a few more ponies under the hood, price

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

Subaru built a solid reputation for itself in the Seventies building inexpensive (and built to stay that way) four-wheel drive passenger cars. The company enjoyed success in the Northeast, Rocky Mountains, and Northwest, providing people with reliable transportation that could thwart most attempts by Mother Nature to keep them from arriving at their destinations. Aside from a major rusting habit and offbeat styling, Subarus kept loyal owners happy.

Then Subaru decided it wanted a bigger piece of the auto market pie. The Impreza was originally conceived to battle the Ford Escorts, Toyota Corollas and Chevy Cavaliers that sold so well to young adults. A zippy ad campaign touting the underpowered Impreza as What to Drive alienated traditional Sube buyers and turned off the young adults it was supposed to appeal to. Sales of the Impreza were less than successful, and Subaru scrambled to find a solution.

Wonder of wonders, the company decided to reacquaint itself with its legend. Subaru is concentrating on all-wheel drive cars again, and is emphasizing AWD in every ad, article and brochure you can lay your hands on. Ah yes, The Beauty Of All-wheel Drive. The Impreza is available in coupe, sedan and wagon form. Traditional front-wheel drive editions have been banished from the roster.

For 1997, Subaru infuses the anemic 1.8-liter and 2.2-liter engines with additional horsepower and torque. Peak torque occurs lower in the 2.2's rev range, providing more useable oomph. The Outback Sport is the big news this year; it features a suspension lift, more ground clearance, and snazzy styling that should appeal to SUV intenders. All Imprezas are facelifted, featuring new grilles and large functional hood scoops that suck in air to help cool the engine bay.

Good thing the hood scoop has been added, because you'll keep the zingy 2.2-liter boxer engine revved up. The Impreza behaves like a street-legal rally car, and is a hoot to toss around. Fling it into a corner, and it clings to the pavement. The Impreza is comfortable, though the side glass feels a bit too close. Steering and braking is communicative, and the interior is well-laid out with easy-to-use controls and legible analog gauges.

Two other developments for 1997 disturb us, however. The LX model disappears from the lineup, and most of its standard equipment can be ordered for the L Coupe. Model simplification is a good thing, but the LX's anti-lock brakes did not make the transition to the L's options list. To get ABS, you must order the Outback Sport. This doesn't make much sense from a company touting safety in its advertising. Also new are the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) controls. The 1996 Impreza had three simple to use rotary dials. For 1997, HVAC controls are a combination of slide levers and knobs that don't look or function as nicely as those from last year.

Overall, we find much to like about the Impreza. We've driven Outback Sport and L Coupe models, and thoroughly enjoyed them. 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. Other quibbles include a cramped rear seat and ugly K-Mart issue plastic wheelcovers on the Outback Sport.

Subaru is aiming the Outback Sport at consumers who would otherwise be considering a Toyota RAV4, Geo Tracker, or Kia Sportage. Unfortunately, it has trouble delivering what most folks want in a sport-utility. It's not capable of serious off-road adventure, and it doesn't provide a commanding view of traffic. Cargo volume with the rear seat up can't match the Kia or the Toyota for usability. However, Imprezas are a blast to drive hard and fast, and the all-wheel drive system performs brilliantly on a variety of road surfaces.

What's it cost for a fun car with all-wheel drive peace of mind? Brightons start at just over $14,000 including destination charges. Better accommodations will run you as much as $17,500 for an L Wagon with an automatic transmission. Want ABS? Plan to spend at least another grand. As good as all-wheel drive is, the budget-minded compact shopper must ask whether the price commanded by the Impreza is worth it. As much as we like the Impreza, we're skeptical.

Top consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Subaru Impreza.

My '97 Outback Sport
dbfrmarc, 8/21/2011
Well lets start with the fact that this is my first car but I have driven many cars before but I love this car. I can take turns down mountain passes at 85 and this car wont have a problem doing it. I dont get great mpg but my work is at the top of a mountain and so i drive up and down a mountain pass everyday so i didnt expect it to be great. All my family has replaced on it is the clutch system and a transmission bearing. Considering this car has 269,000 miles on it, im pretty damn impressed by it. We also replaced the stereo system but if you dont feel you need an extra loud stock stereo, I would recommend this car to anyone and everyone.
15 years and counting
thomas68, 2/24/2011
I bought the car new. It has never left me stranded. Have had to replace multiple CV Axles. The car has been spring leaks like crazy the last few years and I have had to replace just about all the hoses, gaskets and seals. That said it is still fun to drive and the engine runs as smoothly as the day i bought it. If you find one for sale by owner that has all the maintenance records you will probably be getting yourself a great car for around $3,000.
Subaru Impreza built to last
yomom, 7/16/2007
My husband, who is absolutely not into cars at all, who wouldn't know a ping from a thump, and who therefore could conceivably really run a car into the ground without even knowing it, has been driving this vehicle for 11 years now completely problem free. I make sure that all the regular maintenance is up to date, so that does help, but seriously, I think this is a super-car, to have survived this long this well. Utterly great in snow, and we're in a snow-belt area, so we really know. Fantastic car.
My First
wickedawsome7, 4/29/2013
I bought this car to commute me around. I bought it after saving up a little money(600). Once I got past the body repairs, it ran like a top. It has been amazing through the New England weather even without anti-lock brakes. The major issue is that cars of this time have issues where they rust in the rear wheels. I think the previous owners must have gone off-roading. the only major scare I have had is replacing the speedometer sensor, and replacing the radiator cap(my mechanic thought it was the was the engine gasket, I almost junked the car.) I love this car and I will run it into the ground.
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Features & Specs

MPG
20 city / 27 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
137 hp @ 5400 rpm
MPG
20 city / 27 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
137 hp @ 5400 rpm
See all Used 1997 Subaru Impreza Wagon features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    0

More about the 1997 Subaru Impreza
Used 1997 Subaru Impreza Wagon Overview

The Used 1997 Subaru Impreza Wagon is offered in the following styles: L 4dr Wagon AWD, and Outback Sport 4dr Wagon AWD.

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