Forgive me, but I’m going to go all nostalgic for a moment. When I first got my PS One, without doubt my favourite game was Gran Turismo 2. And in my garage of a hundred or so cars, were several Subaru Imprezas. This was the car for the PlayStation generation. Fast forward past the 22B, the bug-eye, the hawk-eye and the hatchback, to the car you see before you; the WRX STi. It’s a boxer-engined, 4WD saloon with a bonkers bonnet scoop and an even more bonkers rear spoiler. I was a little bit giddy when it arrived at my house. So I grabbed the keys, and headed straight out on the road.
The Subaru Impreza/WRX STi has changed appearance several times over the years. And I think the current iteration is one of the best. The car seems to suit a 4-door saloon best, although I didn’t mind the hatchback as much as others. The front end is aggressive, and looks daunting as it appears in your rear-view mirror, thanks to an angular front bumper. From the driving seat the bonnet scoop is barely noticeable, but from the front it looks big enough to inhale small children. There are broad arches front and rear, complimented by 18-inch graphite alloys. At the rear you get 4 exhaust pipes, a diffuser and the trademark large spoiler. The shark-fin aerial is a nice touch, and with my test car finished in World Rally Blue Pearl it looked superb. The Subaru turns heads wherever you go.
Inside you get half-leather and alcantara seats, although the front seats are no longer Recaro, which is a shame. The interior has lots of red throughout, from accents on the seats to stitching on the door cards and steering wheel. And the steering wheel is a thing of beauty; flat-bottomed, chunky and brandishing the STi logo it frames the red dials brilliantly. The information screen still looks a little old-hat now, but by the time you put the turbo boost gauge on it you don’t really care. The general feel of the interior is much better than previous years, with nicer plastics and a carbon-fibre effect trim. Sure, it’s not got the same feel as, say, a Volvo, but it feels much more premium than people expect from a WRX STi.
Handling/Performance – 8/10
The engine in the WRX STi is the same as was in the previous model, and that does put it on the back foot against more powerful rivals. It’s a 2.5-litre, turbocharged flat four. That gives you 300PS and 407Nm, accompanied by a familiar boxer ‘burble’. The gearbox is a 6-speed manual, and this is very involving for the driver. Get it off the line properly (easier said than done with 4WD) and you’ll it 0-62 in 5.2 seconds. The top speed is a licence-losing 159mph. There are three drive modes; Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp. The former is useful on the motorway and through town. You don’t end up in the car in front by breathing on the throttle and it almost feel civilised. Put it in sport sharp and the WRX STi is on maximum attack. Throttle response is lightning quick and allows you to haul yourself out of a corner with some force.
The WRX STi is a very capable car. The 4WD system is a proven one, and offers reassurance through ample grip. You can alter the centre differential which can make the car lean towards understeer or oversteer, and if you choose the latter then the Subaru becomes rather tail happy. The steering is nice and weighty, and allows you to point the nose exactly where you want it. Suspension is firm, but is composed on the uneven surfaces of a British B-road. On the motorway you can notice a little bounciness, but (despite being non-Recaro) the seats are comfortable enough to mitigate any spinal injuries. Stopping power is provided by large brakes with 4-piston calipers up front. This is a driver’s car, there’s no doubt about it. Find a good road and just eat up the miles. It’s not for commuters or long motorway hauls.
Economy – 5/10
Now many of you will say that “you don’t buy a Subaru and expect it to be good on fuel” and part of me does agree with you. However, other cars have shown that you can expect some level of economy. The combined fuel consumption for the WRX STi is 27.2mpg. I will admit that on a motorway run I managed to better this figure, but if you’re getting 30mpg then you’re doing well. Worse are the CO2 emissions; at 242g/km the WRX STi is in VED band L. And that means your road tax is a whopping £870 in the first year. Even after this, you will still begrudge the £490 each year. By sticking with the old engine, Subaru have left the WRX STi lacking the refinement of its competitors.
Practicality – 8/10
Fun – 8/10
Total Score – 38/50