Subaru Impreza

Special-edition Subaru Impreza marks end of an era

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The Subaru Impreza once set the benchmark for performance, but while its rivals have moved on, the WRX has been rooted to the spot. Thirsty and dated, it remains a guilty pleasure, thanks to its four-wheel-drive abilities and charismatic boxer engine. But the latest hot hatches – led by the Honda Civic Type R and VW Golf GTI – are more entertaining to drive, less expensive to run and far more practical.

The end is nigh for Subaru's Impreza, and this sign-off model represents its last hurrah. It features a host of extra goodies and signals a change in dir­ection for the Japanese brand. There won’t be a WRX variant of the next Impreza – so is the GB270 a sure-fire future classic, or simply a quick fix to clear out the old production lines?

Only 400 of the final-edition cars will be sold in the UK (300 saloons and 100 Sport Wagons), and each comes loaded with additional kit. For a start, there’s a stainless steel mesh grille, a huge rear wing, silver alloy wheels and an STi-style front bumper. In case you don’t spot those, unique GB270 badging and an individually numbered plaque on the console also highlight its special-edition status.

Buyers also get lowered suspension, a ‘quickshift’ gearchange and Subaru’s Prodrive Performance Pack, which increases the engine’s output from 226bhp to 266bhp.

According to Subaru, that’s £7,600 worth of extra kit, while the GB270 will cost £2,898 more than the regular saloon when it arrives in September. The Sport Wagon has a £1,898 premium over its standard equivalent.

Fans will certainly appreciate the performance boost, with the benchmark 0-60mph time cut from 5.9 to 5.3 seconds. The flat-four-cylinder boxer pow­erplant is charismatic, too, and its unique burble sets the Subaru apart from its rivals.

However, it doesn’t feel as energetic as the figures claim, and the steering is overly light and short on feedback. The Impreza still provides huge amounts of traction, and the ride remains comfortable given its firmer set-up, but the best hot hatches are more involving and nearly as fast.

They also trump the Subaru inside – the cabin now feels dated. Worse still, the branded Alcantara trim in our model is an expensive £1,400 option. The Clarion sat-nav system – complete with Bluetooth phone kit and built-in iPod adaptor – also costs an extra £1,750, and looks scruffy.

However, the GB270 is no ordinary swansong. When the all-new Subaru hatchback arrives here this autumn, it will come in basic guise only, and the top-of-the-range STi model won’t appear until next spring. As a result, this is the last chance to buy into the Impreza legend – and if you want its in-your-face styling additions, the GB270 is well worth a look.

RIVAL: Mazda 3 MPS THE front-wheel-drive Mazda lacks the Subaru’s 4WD composure, but the hatch is less expensive, more practical and just as well built. The 3 MPS is also much more discreet.

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