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.