The Subaru Impreza was launched in the UK in 1994; originally, it was available with front wheel drive and four wheel drive, although the former option was never very popular. There were two bodystyles - a four-door saloon, and a clumsy-looking five-door 'estate' version.

At the time, Subaru were very popular in rural areas (such as Wilton), as their cars were, and remain, tough, reliable, and quite cheap. Until the Impreza, their best-selling model had been the Legacy. It was in a Legacy that Colin McRae started his professional rallying career.

However, he became the first British Word Rally Champion in a Subaru Impreza in 1995, and at the same time press interest in the Subaru Impreza Turbo reached fever-pitch. The car cost £20,000 - about the same as an entry-level BMW, but it could reach 60mph in 5.5 seconds, and had handling and roadholding that rivalled a Porsche 911. It was a modern equivalent of Ford's Cosworth cars, and had insurance premiums to match. Along with the Playstation game 'Gran Turismo', it started off a wave of interest in grey imports and obscure Japanese speed machines, such as the Nissan Skyline and the Mitsubishi Evo.

The non-turbo models were obscured by the success of the turbocharged version. For those who don't need or want four wheel drive, they are competent, but a bit dull. The range was replaced in 2000 by the next-generation Impreza; the press complained that some of the raw appeal of the original Turbo had been diluted, and that the looks had been spoiled by bug-eyed headlights.

The Subaru Impreza (From italian impresa, meaning "emblem" or "badge") is one of the most popular all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles ever made, and in fact one of the better-made vehicles in general, typically receiving high ratings for reliability and safety. The WRX model of Impreza is one of the most powerful and capable Japanese imports of all time, and the Impreza has been used to win the World Rally Championship (WRC) multiple times. This particular guide currently covers the first generation (MY1993-2000) Impreza.

The Subaru Impreza was introduced in the US as a 1993 model, which began selling in November of 1992. It was available in three trim levels; Base, L, and LS. Without going into too much detail here (this all changes with year) the base model in '93 was offered only as a no-frills vehicle with front wheel drive and a manual five-speed transmissions. The L is offered as AWD or FWD, manual or automatic, and both comes standard with and optionally offers more doodads. The LS comes only with an automatic transmission and is the only model to offer ABS; It, too, was available as FWD or AWD. 1994 models are not substantially changed from 1993.

1995 saw the expansion of the line to include additional models with new engine options; these models are the L, 2.2L, LX, and Outback. The base model was offered with AWD for the first time, the Outback Sport (outback sport is an Impreza; there is also a Legacy-based outback) made its first appearance, and the 2.2 liter was offered in the Impreza for the first time.

1996 didn't change things much either, save that the base model is now called the "Brighton" and all models come standard with all-wheel drive. This is marked as a turning point for Subaru - even today they product only two FWD vehicles, both Japan-only. The base model comes with the 1.8 liter, while all other models get the 2.2. The base model gets spruced up a bit, gaining some of the niceties (like tilt steering wheel) of the other models.

The first-generation Impreza is, surprisingly, an amazingly well-engineered vehicle. It has been given an A+ reliability rating (specifically the 1993 model) and it is, in general, a highly agreeable vehicle to drive. The AWD model does offer new drivers one surprise; it is heavy for its size, as typical for AWD. The added weight of the center differential, rear differential, and connecting shafts is significant. However, it more than makes up for this added weight by being all-wheel drive; it dramatically improves handling, even in the best conditions, while in inclement weather it is nearly a necessity. The 1.8 liter engine is surprisingly punchy for its size and low horsepower output, and has that markedly odd Boxer exhaust note.

Later models (see Subaru Impreza WRX - it's the STi model with the high power output, the base WRX has 227) are offered with more than 280 horsepower, limited slip differentials front and rear, and a computer-controlled variable center differential, as well as traction control and yaw control. Subaru's ABS system is considered to be among the best, as is their all-wheel drive system - first in reliability, and second only to Nissan's ATESSA-IV AWD system used on (for example) the Nissan Skyline R34.

Generations of Subaru Impreza:

  • First generation: MY1993 (prod: 1992) to MY2001 (prod: 2000)
  • Second generation: MY2001 to present

First Generation

Information given here applies to MY1993 unless otherwise specified.

  • Impreza: base model available as a front wheel drive, manual transmission sedan only
  • Impreza L: sedan or Sport Wagon, AWD or FWD, automatic or manual
  • Impreza LS: Sedan or Sport wagon, AWD or FWD, automatic only

Powertrain:

  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    • Offered with 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic
      • Manual: 5 speed
        Final Drive 4.44:1
        1st Gear Ratio 3.17:1
        2nd Gear Ratio 1.89:1
        3rd Gear Ratio 1.30:1
        4th Gear Ratio 0.97:1
        5th Gear Ratio 0.78:1
      • Automatic: 4 speed
        (Ratios currently unknown)
  • Drivetrain:
    Offered in FWD or AWD
    • FWD:
      Transaxle system with CV joints, transmission inboard of front axle
    • RWD:
      Transaxle system, center differential, rear differential

Electrical:

Body:

  • Type: 4 door sedan or 5 door wagon
  • Cd: 0.32 (Sedan)
  • Construction: Full-Unibody, high strength steel
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 171.3 in/4,350 mm
    • Width: 67.5 in/1,690 mm
    • Height: 55.3 in/1,405 mm
        AWD: 55.7 in/1,415 mm
  • Curb Weight: 2728 lb/1237 kg

Suspension:

  • Front: MacPherson Strut
  • Rear: Modified MacPherson Strut
  • Steering: Rack and Pinion, engine RPM sensing variable power assist
  • Tires:
    • Type: Tubeless steel belted radial
    • Tire Size:
      • 13" Wheels: P165/80R13 83H
      • 14" Wheels: P175/70R14 84H
    • Spare Tire Size:
      • FWD: T125/70D15
      • AWD: T125/70D16
    • Tire Pressure:
      • Front: 32 psi (2.2kg/cm, 220 kpa
      • Rear: 29 psi (2.0kg/cm, 200 kpa
      • Spare: 60 psi (4.2kg/cm, 420 kpa
    • Wheel Size:
      • FWD: 14x5.5JJ
      • AWD: 13x5B
      • FWD Spare: 15x4T
      • AWD Spare: 16x4T
  • Brakes:
    • Base and L models:
      9.4" ventilated front discs, 9.0" rear drums
    • LS model:
      4-channel ABS with 10.4" ventilated front discs, 10.3" rear discs
  • wheelbase: 99.2"
  • Track:
    • 13" Wheels:
      • Front: 57.9 in/1,470 mm
      • Rear: 57.7 in/1,465 mm
    • 14" Wheels:
      • Front: 57.5 in/1,460 mm
      • Rear: 57.3 in/1,455 mm
  • Ground Clearance: 6.1 in/155 mm
      AWD: 6.5 in/165 mm

Capacities:

  • Fuel Capacity: 15.9 US gallons/60 liters
  • Engine Oil: 4.2 US quarts/4 liters
  • Transmission Oil
    • AWD: 3.7 qt/3.5 l
    • FWD: 2.8 qt/2.6 l
  • Automatic Transmission Fluid: 8.3 qt/7.9 l
  • AT differential gear oil: 1.3 qt/1.2 l
  • AWD rear differential gear oil: 0.8 qt/0.8 l
  • Power Steering Fluid: 0.7 qt/0.7 l
  • Engine Coolant: 6.2 qt/5.9 l

Safety:

  • Driver's Air bag
  • Front, rear crumple zones
  • height adjustable front shoulder belts, rear outboard shoulder belts
  • Child-proof rear door locks
  • 5 MPH impact bumpers
  • Side-impact door guard reinforcing beams

1994: Very little changed; FWD vehicles could get 14" wheels, and a power tilt/slide sunroof was made available.

1995: Besides the addition of a two-door coupe, 1995 also marks the introduction of the EJ22S motor, 2.2 liter SOHC 16 valve flat four - 135 hp, 140 torque@4400rpm. This brings output closer to sports-car levels. The 1.8 liter EJ18S was still available, normally with the 5-speed manual, or in the base model only, with the 4-speed automatic transmission - the 2.2 liter was only coupled to the automatic trans. The Outback sport wagon was introduced; this is simply an Impreza wagon with the "active safety group" package, some plastic doodads, and two-tone paint. There are also Outbacks based on the Legacy. The "active safety group" basically includes AWD and ABS. All models but the Outback are offered as either sedan or coupe.

1996: All models are now AWD. There are now four models: Base, now known as the "Brighton"; L and LX; and the Outback Sport Wagon. The Brighton was only available as a 2-door coupe with the 1.8 liter motor and a 5-speed manual transmission or $800 option for the 4-speed automatic. Brighton and L get front disc and rear drum, LX and Outback get ABS with four-wheel discs. New motor mounts were apparently employed because 1996 is the first year Subaru advertises a "drop-down motor" as a safety feature - a truly massive crash will cause the motor to fall out of the bottom of the engine compartment so you're not bouncing around with it.

1997: 1.8 liter EJ18S is upgraded to 115 hp, 120 torque; EJ22S upgraded to 137 hp, 145 torque. Passenger airbag is added. Only three models are available: Base (Brighton), L, and Outback. Brighton and L are Disc/Drum brakes without ABS, and outback is four wheel disc, with ABS. Wheel sizes increase: Brighton with 1.8l gets 14", with 2.2l gets 15" (up from 13"/14".) All models offered with steel wheels only. Aside from the power bump, this is probably the darkest year for the Impreza - why wouldn't you want ABS, and why does ANYONE still use drum brakes? Great mysteries of life, there.

1998: RS model (coupe only) with 2.5 liter engine is introduced; 1.8 liter engine is retired. The 2.5 liter has 165hp @ 5600 rpm and 162 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm, putting the vehicle in range with most other "sports" cars with similar displacement for the first time. Base, LS, and LX models retired; L is now the base Impreza, Outback takes the middle spot, and the 2.5 RS model is the flagship. The L continues to lack ABS while the outback and 2.5 RS both have it, though outback also has rear drum brakes (again, why?) 2.5 RS also gets 16" gold honeycomb wheels (L has 15" steel, Outback has 15" alloy.)

1999: 2.2l engine gets another power bump, up to 142hp. 2.5l engine goes SOHC (insead of 98's DOHC) which develops torque at lower RPMs than the DOHC - 165hp @ 5600 rpm, 166 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm. Automatic transmission redesigned for smoother shifting. RS gets a facelift and some other cosmetic tweaks. Brakes don't change, and the only wheel change is the RS wheels go from gold to silver. RS also has updated headlights.

2000: RS sedan introduced, with little or no other changes worth mentioning.

The second generation begins in 2001, which is when the Subaru Impreza WRX STi is introduced...


The first generation Impreza, even with the original 1.8 liter engine, is a joy to drive. While the engine's output would best be described as "anemic", the only time I find myself wanting for power is on steep grades, and on some medium grades when already traveling at high speeds. The later 2.2 liter motor provides more adequate power, and I have read of a H6 3 liter flat six motor being swapped into a first generation Impreza.

As for handling however, the car does an impeccable job. This is probably primarily because the drivetrain is set very low in the car overall. Because Subarus use horizontally opposed "Boxer" engines, in which the pistons cancel the opposing piston's vibration, the engine can be set very low in the body, lowering the center of gravity (CG). The vehicles use a transmission that lies almost entirely behind the front "axle" (the car actually has fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts at each corner) which helps reduce the polar moment of inertia, making the car turn faster. Since the engine and transmission are mounted low, the driveshafts and differentials (including the transfer case) can also be mounted low-down. The overall result is excellent weight balance and a very low CG.

The Impreza is actually fairly roomy, although some additional accomodations could be made. The driver's seat in particular could have another two or three inches of rear travel; when the seat was fully back it would eliminate the usefulness of the rear seat on the driver's side, but it would better accomodate excessively tall persons like myself, who are over two meters. The cupholders (which are, amazingly, present) are directly above the stereo, whose controls cannot be accessed when the cupholders are in use.

Internal controls are excellent, with the exception that there is no clock. This is a fairly significant omission but it can be overlooked for a number of reasons. First among them (for me, anyway) is that it has an actually functional tilt steering wheel system that allows even very tall people to see the gauge cluster through the steering wheel. Next, in vehicles with automatic transmissions, the gear indicator is not only shown on the floor with the shifter, but also in the center of the cluster. Bright lights for "POWER" mode (engaged when you depress the gas pedal quickly) and "MANUAL" mode (engaged when you press the "manual" button on the side of the automatic trans gear shift lever) are at the lower edge of the cluster, to let you know when you're guzzling fuel and when you've locked the shift points, respectively. Cruise control is well-labeled and located; enabler switch on the console near the cluster, controls accessible to the right fingertips on the steering wheel.

The steering wheel itself, in fact, is very well designed, with sculpted thumb grooves and the like. All models have an airbag in the center, with clearly visible horn buttons to its left and right. The aforementioned tilt wheel does not have fixed stops, but can be placed anywhere along its range of travel. The handle on the shift lever is fat and stout, making for a better grasp. It can be shifted between neutral, drive (fourth gear) and third gear without depressing the shift button - needed to put it into reverse while moving, to get into park, or to shift into second or first gear.

The interior is nothing to write home about, even on LS models, but it is clean. All models have vinyl dashboards and such, and cloth upholstery. The locking system locks and unlocks all doors from the driver's side; the passenger side also unlocks all doors, but does not lock them.

References:

  1. Subaru Impreza 1993 Owner's Manual. 1992, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.
  2. John Stewart, Steve Breen, Adam Curtin and Peter Croney, Subaru Impreza FAQ. March 8, 1998. (http://www.sidc.co.uk/faq.htm)

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