The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Subaru WRX STI hatchback is blisteringly fast on a B-road, thanks to its standard four-wheel drive. It may be expensive to run and have a disappointing cabin, but it does benefit from an excellent reliability record.
Reasons to buy:
- Huge performance
- Equipment levels are high
- Sounds fantastic
How good does it look?
A hatchback bodystyle was a shock to Subaru Impreza purists who believe that a true Impreza should have a boot and four doors, so much so that Subaru has dropped the Impreza name from its fastest model. Beefed-up wheelarches hide a widened track for greater stability while four exhausts poke out the back. Subaru’s trademark bonnet scoop is featured to force air into the engine and high-speed grip is improved by a big rear spoiler.
What's the interior like?
The inside of the WRX STI hatchback is attractive, with clear, well laid out instruments and controls. However, they are all wrapped up in poor quality plastics. Like many of its performance contemporaries such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Nissan GT-R, its function over form, with racy bucket seats and buttons and switches positioned to activate in a hurry.
How practical is it?
There’s a decent amount of space in the WRX STI hatchback, with legroom generous in both the front and back. Headroom in the front is merely average, though in the back, there’s plenty of space for all but the very tallest of passengers. There’s only room for two in the back though, thanks to a sizeable transmission tunnel. The boot isn’t particularly generous either, with just 301 litres of luggage room. That’s considerably less than the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. With the seats folded down, this opens up to 1,216 litres. The loadbay cover is quite ingenious though, with a 4×4 style sliding cover, rather than a conventional fixed parcel shelf. Both the seats and steering wheel are multi-adjustable, so it’s easy to get a comfortable driving position.
What's it like to drive?
The WRX STI hatchback features a four-wheel drive system which can vary grip between the front, rear and sides depending on where the most grip is. It retains the old Impreza’s Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD), and allows the driver to select different modes which can tweak the way the car behaves, allowing it more bias to the back for a rear-wheel drive feel. The WRX STI hatchback has an astonishing level of grip when attacking bends at moderate speeds. At higher speeds the WRX STI’s front end does have a tendency to wash wide into slight understeer, which is where the DCCD comes into play. Both road and wind noise are well suppressed, with the only sound coming from the glorious sounding boxer engines.
How powerful is it?
The new WRX STI has a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, which with the aid of a big intercooler to force more cold air through the turbo, produces 296bhp and 300lb/ft of pulling power. That gives the STI a top speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph time of 5.2 seconds, making it among the fastest hot hatches available. Throttle response can be tweaked using the SI-Drive system, although most committed drivers will select ‘Super-Sharp’ and leave it there.
How much will it cost me?
The WRX STI isn’t cheap to run due to its engine kicking out 243g/km of CO2, and an official average fuel consumption figure of 26.9mpg. Insurance premiums will be costly too, but these costs are only slightly more than other hot hatchbacks. Few cars offer this level of performance for less than £35,000.
How reliable is it?
The Impreza always does well in reliability surveys. Subaru dealers normally provide a decent service and are well regarded and recommended by most Impreza owners. Used buyers should check carefully for crash damage and signs of abuse on trackdays.
How safe is it?
The Impreza scored a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2009, and since its name was changed to WRX STI, little has changed in the safety department. Standard-fit kit includes driver, passenger, side and head airbags, ISOFIX child seat tethers, powerful Brembo brakes and Subaru’s complex array of grip-enhancing electronic driver aids.
How much equipment do I get?
Only one version of the WRX STI hatchback is offered, and features a host of racy equipment. Recaro front sports seats with Alcantara trim, air-con, xenon headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a CD/MP3 player and keyless entry is offered as standard.
Subaru is synonymous with building extremely fast four-wheel drive cars. Buyers may miss the excitement of the Impreza badge, but the WRX STI flatters the driver like few other cars on the market.