How Does a Tired Impreza Stack Up Against the New Type r?

You buy these cars because of how they make you feel, how they look, the noise they make and, of course, the blistering performance.

3y ago

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This is an unfair test, surely? An excuse to batter the Subaru community over the head by testing their beloved Impreza against a newer, more sophisticated and more expensive Japanese export. Certainly, as a car, as a functional machine to transport persons and luggage to their destination, the Civic is a much better car. Cruise control, bluetooth connectivity, reversing camera, blind-spot indicators, dual-zone climate control that actually works, all contribute to make the Civic a much nicer place to be on longer journeys. Although the cabin on the 2003 blobeye WRX STi is reasonable considering it is a thirteen-year old car, it simply cannot match up to it's newer rival. Score one to the Type R.

The gaping mouth of the Type R negates the need for a huge obnoxious air-scoop to obscure the driver's view

The gaping mouth of the Type R negates the need for a huge obnoxious air-scoop to obscure the driver's view

Then again, if we're completely honest here, neither car is particularly good at performing the basic function of being a car. Neither could be described as comfortable, owning one requires significant sacrifice in terms of practicality and cost of ownership, and both are awkward about town, with pathetic turning circles and numerous blind spots. You buy these cars because of how they make you feel, how they look, the noise they make and, of course, the blistering performance. On paper, both cars are fairly similar, yet in the real world they are very different animals.

The obligatory over-sized rear wing and quad exhausts

The obligatory over-sized rear wing and quad exhausts

The Type R delivers it's performance in a comparitively sophisticated manner. The front-wheel drive and limited slip differential help the car change direction extremely quickly, although this can result in an unnerving skittish sensation in the wet. The turbo gives a fairly linear power delivery with only a mild hint of turbo lag, but this can make it difficult to keep all 306 horses from spinning up the front tyres under a hard launch. The gear change action rewards the enthusiastic driver, and the power and handling ability mean it is difficult to get anywhere approaching the car's capabilities on the road. R+ mode is perhaps slightly too firm for Britain's roads - even the mildest blemish in the road surface causes chronic neck pain.

R+ mode turns the rev counter a menacing shade of red.

R+ mode turns the rev counter a menacing shade of red.

Yet, for a weekend blast, the Impreza will put the bigger smile on your face. It's big, brutal turbo and obnoxiously loud exhaust giving voice to the renowned boxer rumble makes it feel special. There is a huge surge in power beyond 3,500rpm right up to the 7,500rpm red line accompanied by a cacophony of noise, which adds to the sensation of speed. Although the gear change and clutch are slightly heavy, and the turn-in less sharp than the Honda's, it is a more rewarding experience behind the wheel on the public road. The Type R's buzzy engine noise is disappointing for a car with those looks and a quad exhaust. Honda's argument is that adding scripted engine noise was irrelevant to making the car faster. I suspect in their quest for the front-wheel drive Nurburgring lap record, Honda overlooked adding the sense of fun and theatre that goes with owning a hot-hatch. I have no doubt the Type R would be quicker than the standard WRX STi around the track, but the enjoyment of owning these cars does not solely come from laptimes. The Impreza is a simple recipe, but it delivers drama in spades. For an A-road thrash, despite it's less capable handling and more cumbersome controls, the Impreza would be my weapon of choice. 1-1.

For an A-road thrash, I'd have the Impreza.

For an A-road thrash, I'd have the Impreza.

At this point, you might be questioning why I chose to sell my £7,000 Subaru in exchange for a £32,000 Honda (if you're not, I certainly am). I, like many first-time Impreza owners, became concerned with the long-term cost of ownership. I'd accounted for the petrol and insurance costs - mid 20s mpg, if you're careful, and a car renowned for being wrapped around lamposts by youngsters means the costs aren't exactly frugal - but the potential for mechanical failures was much higher, and my shopping list for future modifications was growing exponentially by the day. If you speak to Impreza owners, irrespective of the model or extent of existing aftermarket parts, they will have a list of things they want to do which will transform the car.

When I sat down and considered my list, the servicing costs, the probable mechanical failures I would inevitably experience from a car with 90,000 miles on the clock, I deduced that a PCP rate on a hot hatch would, over a longer period, amount to roughly the same, given I am not mechanically-minded so can only perform the most basic of maintenance myself. With a baby on the way, the known, predictable cost of a PCP and the security of a warranty versus the unknowns of an older car were an attractive prospect. In addition, I was captivated by the look of the FK2 Type R and it's limited run of just 2,500 UK cars. Factor in an improved claimed fuel economy (although after 1,000 miles, I have managed just 30.5mpg) and reduced insurance costs, and it seemed a no-brainer.

The Impreza is an iconic car - I've wanted one since I picked up my first Micro Machine. It has left an impression on me, despite only owning for five, grin-filled months. By comparison, prior to the announcement of the FK2's release, I have never considered a Civic Type R. I know the Focus RS on paper is a better car if you believe the reviews (although I beg to differ - see previous post WHY I CHOSE THE TYPE R OVER THE FOCUS RS) with a much stronger pedigree, but the lastest Civic looks like a hot hatch should.

But the acid test - would I buy another one?

Type R: Probably not. Don't get me wrong, I love my new toy - it's great fun on the road and I think the marmite looks are superb. But it's almost too capable for the road, to get the best from it you need to take it on a track, and the way it delivers it's performance is almost too clinical, too efficient.

Subaru Impreza? Definitely. It's silly, unnecessarily obnoxious and a whole heap of fun. 2-1 to the underdog.

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