Subaru Impreza twin test

Subaru’s new hatchback Impreza has already divided opinion. But is the first hot version, the WRX, a match for the Honda Civic Type R?

Impreza WRX vs Civic Type R

It’s the car that reinvented Subaru. Helped by its rally exploits, the Impreza transformed the firm from a farmyard 4x4 manufacturer to a brand with an incredibly loyal following among performance car fans.

Employing Subaru’s trademark boxer engine and all-wheel drive, the WRX first appeared in 1992, and through its various incarnations has been available as a coupé, saloon and estate. However, the latest version is a real departure. Bosses are keen to see the standard Impreza rival mainstream models such as the Ford Focus and Honda Civic – so that means the new WRX is now a hatchback for the first time.

As a result, buyers need to get used to the idea of the Impreza being labelled a hot hatch. OK, so its four-wheel-drive system isn’t standard fare in the class, but with 227bhp it’s level pegging with most opponents.

And there’s another Japanese hot hatch which is held in equally high esteem. Ever since the first Integra Type R was launched in 1995, Hondas wearing that badge have been known for delivering sizzling front-wheel-drive dynamics – on a par with the 4WD reverence given to the Impreza.

And the latest version is arguably the greatest of all: the Civic Type R. Race bred, rev-hungry and normally aspirated, it’s poles apart from the Impreza on paper – but will the two be equally matched in reality? Find out as we put these performance legends head-to-head on British roads.

Verdict

Even though the Impreza WRX is now a hatchback, owners of the previous model will undoubtedly feel at home. The trouble is, that’s not necessarily a good thing – we don’t think the latest model moves the game on enough.

True, the distinctive boxer engine note is still a big draw, and the four-wheel-drive traction and accessible performance make it relaxing to drive. But where’s the progress over the old car?

While the Subaru has a better ride and more grip, it’s let down by poor economy and high emissions, and is more expensive to buy, own and run than its opponent here. The styling is questionable, the interior is drab and it can’t match the Civic for space or quality. The Impreza WRX simply doesn’t come across as being terribly modern or desirable.

More importantly, the Honda handles better. It feels lighter and more agile in the corners, has sharper and more communicative steering, plus superior brakes. Add in the fact that it has a slicker gearbox and keener throttle response, and it’s the Type R which is the more enjoyable car to drive – and that makes it the winner in this test.

Most Popular

New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range
Kia EV6 - front
Kia EV6

New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range

Kia reveals more specs for its bespoke electric car, with the EV6 offering long range and an 18-minute 80 per cent rapid recharge time
21 Jul 2021
New 2021 Audi RS 3: 395bhp mega hatch priced from £50,900
Audi RS 3 Sportback - front
Audi RS3

New 2021 Audi RS 3: 395bhp mega hatch priced from £50,900

Full exterior and interior reveal for Audi RS 3, with aggressive styling and racy cabin to match strong performance
19 Jul 2021
Ioniq 5 vs Volkswagen ID.4 vs Ford Mustang Mach-E
Ioniq 5 vs Volkswagen ID.4 vs Ford Mustang Mach-E
Hyundai Ioniq 5

Ioniq 5 vs Volkswagen ID.4 vs Ford Mustang Mach-E

Can the Ioniq 5 provide substance to match its style? We test it against the Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E to find out
17 Jul 2021