I have owned this car for over 13 years and put 270,000 and counting miles on it. The car has held up to everything I throw at it and never left me stranded. It has even held up to numerous exhaust, engine and suspension modifications I have thrown at it during my weekend tinkering since the warranty expired at 50k in early '05. It currently produces about 195hp and 190ft-lb of torque, but it has been higher during past setups. Currently riding on STI suspension for the winter (AGX struts and springs in storage from the summer) Subaru accessories are great, I have the cargo box, the crossbars and the bike rack. With bike rack, there is no noticeable change in noise or drag, minimal changes with the cargo box. I elected to replace the trans at 200k because the syncronizers were failing (I highly suspect it was due to increased power from my mods). People will also tell you about the head gaskets failing, however this isn't as big a deal as it seems. I pull the spark plug boots every once in a while and if I see oil on them I replace the head gaskets for a whopping $20 and an hour of my time every 75-100k. Tires can last 60k or more, just be sure to rotate and cross-rotate them because the stock rear camber is slightly negative so they do wear if you don't rotate. Front brake discs and pads might need more frequent replacement since there is only minimal braking effort from the rear drums, however the original rear drums lasted until 250k. All this service has been performed by me and I can tell you from experience this is one of the easiest cars to work on.
Things I have done with this car:
-Gone out in virtually every snowstorm to hit in Northern Maryland and never gotten stuck. It even pulled a colleague's pickup when it was stuck in a snow drift. All of that with All-season tires. (I like Continental Pro-Contact, but have used Kumhos a few times when funds were low with good results.)
-Driven to Florida and Colorado multiple times (from Maryland)
-Some moderate off-roading (with stock suspension)
-Hauled 1000lbs of wood in the back and on the roof multiple times.
-Towed a loaded U-Haul trailer
-Gotten 27+ mpg on the highway (new, stock rating was 25)
With 75,000 miles on it the head gasket had to be replaced. At 85,000 the power steering gear box. There is no trunk light. There is no lumbar support in the seats. My back is killing me. The visors did not have enough range to block the sun. It rattled constantly. The ride was extremely bumpy all the time. The engine noise was very loud. The stereo was terrible. Cruise control was not even an option. Stupid cup holder mounted on the dash board above the stereo.
I have put 150,000 miles on car with no major problems. Changed timing belt at 90,000, as all Subarus are required, which is about a $400 job. The engine is solid and will probably run to 200,000 with very few issues. Great in snow and cold. One of the most fun small cars to drive out there. There are some quirks to the 2002 model. The driver side seat belt squeaks every time you move even an inch. I have talked with other 2002 impreza owners and this appears to be a common problem. Replacing fog lights is $200 per light! The wheels get thrown out of alignment after driving through deep snow. As with all AWD cars, all the tires have to be replaced at the same time. Auto windows both broke.
I purchased this car because I wanted AWD and a decent amount of carrying capacity while still being small enough to parallel park easily. The TS wagon fit the bill perfectly. As a CA native unaccustomed to the unique demands of winter driving in upstate NY, my Subaru has done a fantastic job of hugging the iciest roads. Curiously, my friends' SUVs often get irretrievably snowed into their parking spots, but my wagon can always get past the snowiest mounds. Reliability is excellent even on long roadtrips - I've driven her from NY to CA and back to MA. I have had no expenses beyond regular maintenance in my 7 years of ownership. After this car, I am absolutely sold on Subarus.