Used 2003 Subaru Impreza Review

Edmunds expert review

From the TS Sport Wagon to the WRX, the all-wheel-drive Impreza is an enjoyable alternative to more mainstream cars.

What's new for 2003

As the Impreza was redesigned just last year, not much changes for 2003. Convenience has been improved; keyless entry is now standard equipment on the 2.5 RS, TS Sport Wagon and Outback Sport. For the WRX, Subaru will offer a standard rear spoiler on the sedan (though you can still get the car without, if you want) and Sonic Yellow is available as an exclusive WRX color.

Vehicle overview

Introduction:Are you looking for a small car or wagon? Just about every automaker offers one. How are you to choose? Well, if you want your car to be more than just basic transportation, you should consider the Subaru Impreza.

The Impreza nameplate has been around since 1993. It was a replacement for the Loyale, and it has been Subaru's smallest car in America since the pint-sized Justy disappeared in 1994. Since that time, the Impreza's design and marketing have slowly moved toward the sporty end of the small-car spectrum. Subaru redesigned the Impreza in 2002. It has been a big success, especially because of the WRX version. This is the first time the company has offered this race- and rally-bred car in the U.S. Packing a turbocharged engine and a sport-tuned suspension, the WRX can keep pace with many cars costing thousands more. It's even available as a wagon. If the WRX doesn't suit your needs, there are other trim levels available, including the Outback Sport, which might be for people who want extra utility and a more rugged image without having to pay for a full-blown Outback.

There's not much that can be said negatively of the Impreza. There are plenty of options and trims, the interiors are nice and the car has solid reputation for reliability. The main thing to note is that the Impreza does cost more than most other small cars, so you'll need to take this into consideration when shopping.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The Impreza is available in five trim levels: the 2.5 RS sedan; the WRX sedan and wagon; the 2.5 TS Sport Wagon and the Outback Sport wagon. Standard equipment levels are above average. The 2.5 TS has air conditioning; keyless entry; a height-adjustable driver seat; 15-inch wheels; power windows, locks and mirrors; and a CD player. The Outback Sport adds bigger (16-inch) wheels, a two-tone paint scheme, a bit more ground clearance, massive foglights, floormats and cargo area enhancements like a power point and cargo tie-downs.

The RS sedan features a sport-tuned suspension, 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. The all-out WRX has the performance hardware mentioned earlier as well as a functional hood scoop, a limited-slip rear differential, an even stiffer suspension, bigger brakes and the option of 17-inch wheels. Inside the cockpit are alloy pedals, a six-disc CD changer, sport seats and a Momo leather-wrapped steering wheel. Many additional items are optional for the Impreza, including cargo trays, roof rack components and additional gauge packs.

Powertrains and Performance: Powering the 2.5 RS sedan, TS Sport Wagon and Outback Sport is a 2.5-liter 165-horsepower horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. A smaller, though more powerful, engine can be found in the WRX sedan and wagon. This turbocharged 2.0-liter mill (also a flat four) kicks out an impressive 227 horsepower. Zero-to-60 mph takes less than 6 seconds in the WRX. For all models, transmission choices are a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard.

Safety: All Imprezas have antilock brakes, three-point seatbelts for rear passengers, and pre-tensioners and force limiters for the front seatbelts. Side airbags are standard on the WRX. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to test the Impreza, though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the car a "good" rating for front offset crash protection and made it a "best pick" overall. Interior Design and Special Features: Though by no means a match for the cockpit of a Volkswagen Jetta, the Impreza's dash is modern enough in appearance, and the materials used are agreeable. For cargo, the wagons can hold 27.9 cubic feet of stuff, or 61.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.

Driving Impressions: There's no question that the WRX sedan and wagon are an absolute blast to drive. Because of the turbo, power delivery is soft at low rpm. Once past 3,000 rpm, though, the WRX blasts off. On this car, you'll definitely want the manual transmission to maximize performance. The car's handling is quite grippy and stable because of the AWD. Even the 2.5 RS and TS Sport Wagon are enjoyable. Other than looking different, we don't see as much usefulness in the Outback Sport; whatever dirt-infested place you plan on taking it, the TS Sport Wagon would likely get there just as easily.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.