Parkers overall rating: 3 out of 5 3.0

Just one engine is available in the Impreza WRX STi - a 2.5-litre that's fitted with a turbocharger to produce 300bhp in standard form. This is in fact the same engine that was used in the previous model, so it's well proven and reliable but has been heavily revised to produce more power. As a result the STi is quicker than its predecessor with a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds.

Acceleration is instant and brutal, but the Impreza copes well in terms of traction so even in the wet it rarely struggles to translate all that power to the road. The STi's turbo ensures it pulls strongly from low revs so the engine doesn't need to be worked hard in order to get decent pace. However the six-speed manual gearbox, while positive, has a very tight action and as a result it's hard to make quick yet smooth shifts - driving can quickly become tiring.

That said the STi does have plenty of character thanks to the distinctive 'boxer' engine note and there's a back-to-basics raw appeal to its performance which few alternatives offer. It's also fitted with a new system called Si-Drive which gives the driver three different engine response programmes (controlled by a switch next to the gear lever), with Super-Sharp mode giving the ultimate in throttle response.

A more powerful limited edition version with 330bhp is also available which sprints from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds.

Given the reputation Subaru has, you'd expect the handling of the Impreza to be top class. There's certainly no denying that it corners well with plenty of grip but the steering is simply too light and not precise enough on demanding roads - as a result it doesn't feel as agile as its major rival, the Mitsubishi Evo X. It's also not as stiff and there's noticeable flex in the body if you suddenly change direction.

On the plus side the ride is good and the Impreza deals well with soaking up potholes and bumps, although there is still plenty of road noise. Overall however it lacks the sophistication of similarly quick alternatives and seems rough and ready in comparison.