Disappointing sales of the 2000 version prompted a cosmetic make-over in 2002, only two years after its introduction. Now the Japanese firm has tweaked its best-seller again, and the updated car is expected to hit showrooms in October.
Visual changes include the company's new central grille, as seen on both the B11S and B9 concepts and the Tribeca SUV. Creases in the bonnet exaggerate the nose and Legacy-style headlamps also feature on the revised front end.
Mesh grilles will now appear across the range as well as a new bumper design, while air vents in front of the wheelarches mark out the hot STi variants. Traditional Impreza trademarks such as the bonnet-mounted air scoop remain.
The huge boot-mounted wing on the flagship STi is joined by a second high-level spoiler across the rear screen, while revised tail lamp clusters also identify the new model. Another addition is the underbody diffuser, which is meant to boost high-speed stability. Interior changes are still under wraps, but the current cabin design has been well received by customers, so major alterations are unlikely. However, under the bonnet is a rather different story, as the 261bhp STi is outgunned by Mitsubishi's latest Evo IX FQ 320, which delivers a mighty 326bhp.
As a result, Subaru's engineers have been busy, and the storming new STi is expected to boast a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, pro- ducing at least 300bhp.
According to our sources it will replace the current 2.0-litre unit, but will still come with a six-speed manual gearbox. The bigger four-cylinder unit already powers US versions of the Impreza, but will be officially available in the UK for the first time.
Performance fans will be able to improve the new powerplant thanks to Prodrive. The specialist tuner already provides a range of packages for the existing line-up and upgrades to the STi should see power top 350bhp. The turbo-charged WRX should also get a small power hike, thanks to tweaks to the existing 2.0-litre engine, while a normally aspirated 2.0-litre unit will continue to be available for entry-level cars.
Further changes to the suspension should ensure that the new Impreza keeps up with its rivals around corners, as well as in a straight line. Revised settings will see all models benefit from the wider track of the current STi.
Prices are yet to be announced, but the good news is that big increases are unlikely. Despite the improvements, the range-topping Impreza STi should still cost less than £27,000 when it goes on sale, while the standard WRX is expected to be priced at around £20,500.
The changes are designed to keep the rally legend ahead of the current crop of powerful hot hatches. The class-leading Volkwagen Golf GTI is priced at £20,495 in five-door form and produces only 198bhp, compared to the 221bhp of the current WRX.