Used Car Road Test
Subaru Impreza
2.0 GX 16V estate 2001

 Movie Clips of this Car

Exterior Movie Interior Movie
Ooooohhhh, the new model Scoobydoo Impress Yea.

Well, almost new as the restyled again version is in the shops now.

But this is the most recognisable version. OK, it's not the WRC version or a Prodrive hopped-up version. In fact it's not even the stonking turbo version but it looks the same and it's still four wheel drive despite being 100bhp deficient. 

With the first ice starting to arrive I’ve already taken two spills off my push bike so four wheel drive and handicapped power starts to sound really quite attractive.

The first thing you need to get your head around is just how small the Impreza really is. When you stand next to it and study its diminutive size you start to understand how, power aside, it generates so much performance. Even in so-called 5 door estate version it's really more of a 5 door hatch.

From the front it is well and truly bug eyed and those big spots are distinctive if not exactly attractive. The pictures do not really do it justice as, in Subaru's favoured blue suit, it really is an attractive little car.

It's obviously well endowed with aerodynamic aids but they are not completely over the top, though they are perhaps aimed somewhat towards the "I wish I had a Turbo but I cant afford the insurance" brigade.

All it's really missing are those gold wheels, though some find them a little too in-yer- face. The silver alloys look okay though. They are shod with surprisingly average rubber but stick a big pipe on the back and nobody will know the difference.

Inside the cockpit the slim, hard body-hugging seats and neat steering wheel tell you of its intentions. The Interior is plain but functional, the dash is bland but easy to read.

 

 

 


The car has a lot of gear which Subaru would see as part of the design rather than just plain spec level. Hence even the basic car is a 4x4 mini tractor. 

To be fair to Subaru, it's fairly obvious that this chassis and its fittings are simply a vehicle on which to build its rally cars. The lesser models seem to be there just to allow them to sell some extra models to the lean of pocket. 

Still, it's just about as well equipped as a normal Japanese car and goes as far as air con and heated mirrors but it's not a car which is about wallowing in luxury as it has a far harder edge than that and its fittings edge towards sporty.

 

A Subaru trademark is the Flat Four, beloved of Beetles and Alfa Suds but somewhat more powerful and reliable in build. The engine churns to a start with cough and settle to an off beat burble of latent intent. The Flat Four is hard on lateral space under the bonnet especially with front drive shaft to accommodate as well but allows a low bonnet which is aerodymically sound and sets the weight low down good for handling. Quad cams and 16 valves sound quite complicated but it’s a well proven, long lasting design with stone axe reliability. Economy isn't outstanding but it is fair. The engine is 2 litres in swept volume but puts out a conservative 123bhp. Plenty for the little body but also really quite averagely tuned and hence gives excellent torque low down and through the mid range.

A Flat Four is never going to be very smooth and Subaru do little to help leaving a slightly rough vibey feel but, hey, who cares?  It's just a feeling and enhances the tactile and aural stimulation that the car gives out. In a world of ever more user friendly and soulless euro boxes it adds to the little cars character.

It revs happily to its high red line approaching 7000rpm, the roughness apparent at idle staying constant throughout the rev range but never really worsening.

A notchy but strong shifting 5 speed box is matched up with a fairly short top gear. Bolted on is a high low box that defeats reason. The car has not the ground clearance nor the tyres to use extra ratios off road, Subaru would be better off with a six speed box with a low first and higher top.

The Estate runs to a conservative 115mph on its short gearing and squirts to sixty in 9.8seconds, but frankly feels much faster. Hard launches don’t get ruined by wheel spin but a good bit of clutch balancing (read slip) would be required to get the absolute best. Once moving, performance in all gears is more than adequate, top being short enough not to require excessive downchanges at the first sight of an incline.

On paper it does not sound like killer performance does it? In reality it’s a quick little car that's got plenty enough poke to keep most happy.

Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Front Fog lamps fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Full Time 4 Wheel Drive
Full Time 4 Wheel Drive
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rear Spoiler
Rear Spoiler
Rev Counter
Rev Counter

OK, the ride's not great, let's get that over to start with. Not great but bearable and certainly not the worst riding car around.

But that’s a trade-off against super-glue like grip on the road. For all the fertile imaginations of car makers around the world, rear wheel, front wheel drive, mid engine, front engine, little can live with an Impreza on real roads. The Four Wheel Drive transforms what is a fairly ordinary chassis to legendary superstar status. Grip, grip and more grip are the only sensations that are transmitted to you backside. Even when the hard suspension fails to follow the strange deviations of our British roads, the Four Wheel Drive adjusts and grips the instant the rubber touches back to road surface. The car seems to pull you around corners tighter than you can believe, changes of direction (even for the most ham fisted) result in the car tugging incessantly towards the apex of the corner with the seat holding your body tight in its vice-like grip.

Add in brakes which invite you to take a good hard squeeze without unsettling the car and responsive steering that feeds the road back to you and you have one of the fastest point-to-point cars you can buy. Only when excesses of 125bhp can be employed continuously will this car be found wanting. If you know where this is and there are no cameras there please tell me.

The steering is especially pleasant. Seemingly perfectly judged in weight, sending little messages tugging at your hands, the chassis does everything in its power to flatten bumps and straighten corners. The racy little wheel helps here and looks good to boot.

Time to mention size again, remember real minis? Yep old ones? Remember how they can run rings around most things as soon as the road goes twisty and disappears over the horizon when the roads get narrow? The Impreza is a bit like that though its small size is a potent weapon on choked-up modern roads. It's easy to work out how one of these with double the power or more can blitz most anything down narrow country lanes.

 

Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Central Locking
Central Locking
Child Locks
Child Locks
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Rear Seat Belts Fitted
Rear Seat Belts Fitted
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

A full compliment of features are fitted here - Antilock Braking System, Engine Immobiliser, Side Impact Protection, Visible Identification Number, Child Locks, Pre Tensioned Front Seat Belts, Central Locking, High Level Brake Light, Front Twin Airbags.
Personally, I doubt whether you can ever make it secure enough. Its reputation is just too hot for you to just park and forget. Group 14 insurance seems reasonable though I suspect reputation drives it a little higher than it perhaps merits, though a GTI badge rather than GX would probably add another 3 or 4 groups.

 

From a safety point of view, one of our test pilots trashed the previous version and walked away so we are sure that the air bags and crumple zones work very effectively thank you very much.

 

As a small to mid sized car in the focus class the Impreza makes no sense at all. It's quite cramped, out-economized and out-ridden by many of its competitors but, as we said before, this is just an extending marketing vehicle for the all-conquering image creating Turbo. 

The Impreza has created an image for Subaru that could not be bought by many millions in advertising budgets and hence makes great sense to the company.

I love it as a little car for zapping around in for the daily chores.  It's reliable and practical yet provides long-lasting driving fun that few cars can surpass. Whether it becomes tiring after a longer term of ownership is probably the real question though you will have little trouble disposing of it when you grow weary of its involving nature.

The five door presents a more practical proposition than the little saloon and if you see it as a small/medium hatch then it will please you with its usability.

It is the modern embodiment of the old GTI cars taken to a logical end.


It's all fairly roomy inside with plenty of leg and head room all round. The cut back dash gives a feeling of space to the front. Rear seat passengers are also fairly well catered for.

Being a fairly tough, well-sized saloon and not bowing to any particular fashion criteria of its day, this could well be a car which would last you a good, long time without complaint.

 

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