The bling spoiler has been binned, the flashy alloys have gone - the Subaru Impreza is returning to its roots!
While the subtle looks will score with some drivers, there's no escaping the fact that the Impreza is getting old. Despite the interior upgrades, the car can't match its rivals' luxury. Yet it re-mains incredibly exciting to drive - and in that respect is still without peer.
Subaru has built a special-edition model called the Spec D - that's D for discreet. Inside, black leather replaces the blue suede seat covers, the blue carpet has also been ditched in favour of black and there's extra sound deadening. On the outside, the grey metallic paint is classy, and while the current Impreza will never be handsome, it no longer draws as much attention to itself.
Sadly, the cabin is a disappointment. The stereo has been upgraded, but it looks and behaves like an aftermarket unit, and while an Apple iPod adaptor is included, this takes the form of a loose wire in the dash with a connector that plugs into your player. Similarly, the Smartnav satellite navigation - bolted on as an afterthought - is too tacky for a car with a price that puts it in competition with VWs and BMWs.
The Spec D uses the same 2.5-litre turbo engine as the WRX STi, so there's plenty of urge higher in the rev range, although the lack of low-down grunt means the driving experience is far from relaxing. What's more, the racing-style Bridgestone tyres generate too much road noise and make the ride too hard. But if you're wanting entertainment, this Impreza will still provide it, and the six-speed manual box is a delight, with a beautifully positive shift and short gate.
Sadly, the driving dynamics are let down by overly light steering. Yet even so, the newcomer is sure to be a hit with those who don't want their car to shout about its performance.