Designed to make a big impression
Certain things still spring to mind when people mention the Subaru Impreza. Its success in the nineties and early noughties hinged around rally stage wins and high performance road cars which felt as though they'd proceeded directly from rally stage wins.
That Impreza did a fine job of democratising high performance with its turbocharged, all-wheel-drive brand of automotive hooliganism.
In 2007, however, the Impreza took a new direction. An all-new version aimed to convert its notoriety into bigger sales with a hatchback bodystyle and slightly less focus on going exceedingly fast. With both family-friendly and family-frightening versions widely available, it makes an interesting used buy.
The Impreza name was very well-known but it was always the high performance models that were getting all the attention.
Buyers of small to medium-sized family cars in the UK don't tend to like saloon bodystyles or estates: they like hatchbacks and Subaru surmised that a hatchbacked Impreza could get a slice of the enormous pie that the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf were constantly gorging themselves on.
In 2007, the car to deliver on this plan arrived. The all-new Impreza had a spacious five-door hatch body and unlike the previous models, the range was evenly divided between the barnstorming rally replicas and more mundane family car fare designed to muscle in on the family hatchback segment.
Despite their apparent complexity with all-wheel-drive and turbo charged engines, Subaru products tend to be highly reliable. With older cars, some extraneous bits of trim may have been lost along the way and the lustre may have gone from the shiny surfaces but you'd bet your bottom dollar on the important mechanical bits.
It means you can buy with reasonable confidence but remember that Subaru's performance and durability tends to make the Impreza attractive to people who fully intent to push the car to its limits.
Many WRX and STi models will have been driven hard, so check the tyres, brakes and clutch.
There's also the possibility that the vehicle's 4x4 system may have been put to the test by owners living at the wrong end of a rough track.
Have a squint at the underbody, wheels and sills for damage.
Subaru wanted a more mainstream Impreza that would appeal to a wider audience than the clientele of wide-boys and rally fans who craved the earlier models. The hatchbacked Impreza of 2007 was that car. It's more practical and better built, if still some way behind the family hatchback pace setters. The diesel engine is worth seeking out on the used market but despite Subaru's efforts, it's still the WRX and STi models that make the most sense.
In the UK, the Impreza was traditionally always either a saloon or a five-door Sport Wagon that trod the line between hatchback and estate but with this generation, it became a conventional five-door hatch. This car is 45mm wider than the old Sport Wagon and has 95mm extra in the wheelbase.
The interior in this model was a big step forward. The tough plastics and staid design of the old car were finally axed in favour of the better materials and modern layout in this design. Compared to leading hatchbacks, the styling of the cabin is a little staid and a top quality feel is still lacking but there should be few problems with the robust build and for Subaru, this was a major step forward.
The engines are all Subaru Boxer units giving smooth power delivery and a distinctive soundtrack.
These are modern engines but with 0-60mph sprint times of 13.7s and 9.2s respectively, they don't yield the kind of performance we've come to associate with the Impreza.
For that kind of shove, you'll need the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine in the WRX. Here, there's 227bhp which is enough for a 0-60mph showing of 6.1s. All the engines have been tuned to give improved low-end torque for a smoother driving experience. In the WRX, the vast majority of the 320Nm maximum torque is available at 2,000rpm. If you need more, there's the 296 or 326bhp WRX STi models at the top of the range.