The range starts with a new 103bhp 1.5-litre 'boxer' petrol engine. It's pretty lively, despite having to carry around the added weight of the four-wheel-drive system. The Impreza 1.5R is about 70kg heavier than wider and taller Ford Focus 1.4 Studio. The five-speed manual gearchange isn't exactly smooth (a four-speed automatic is also available), and the 1.5R takes 13.5 seconds get to 60mph - not a great deal quicker than the 80bhp Ford Focus 1.4.
Higher up the range there is a 2.0-litre non-turbocharged engine with 160bhp. There's enough power to worry some hot hatches, but not enough to feel that you’re getting the most from what Impreza has to offer. Expect to get from 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds (although this figure reduces to 11.3 seconds for the auto) and a top speed of 130mph. Next up is the 230bhp turbocharged 2.5-litre in the WRX; it's more than powerful enough for most drivers' needs and is seriously quick: 60mph is achieved in 5.6 seconds and it has a top speed of 143mph.
The low centre of gravity offered by the 'boxer' engine with its cylinders laying flat, combined with a chassis developed and honed in the World Rally Championship meand the Impreza is a rewarding car to drive. While the WRX offers a glimpse of the savage acceleration experienced in the range-topping STi saloon all versions feel sharp and engaging on the road, with nicely weighted and direct steering, and a firm yet composed ride.
Non-turbo Imprezas are fitted with a dual-range low-ratio gearbox, which helps with towing and offer more control in slippery conditions, such as on wet grass, gravel or snow.