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Road Impressions: 1999 Subaru Impreza

by Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief

Subaru Full Line factory footage (10:22) 28.8, 56k or 200k

Regular readers will have read my highly favorable impressions of the Subaru Forester which did a brilliant job last winter transporting the family to the Sierras and back. There is no magic to these road tests, my old magazine CAR (UK) and Automobile mag in the United States all rated the ugly little ducking very highly indeed.

All the praise heaped upon the Forester is nothing compared to the hysteria surrounding the Impreza. Some of the latest get quick-rich merchants from England are not buying and selling Yahoo or IBM shares, they are living in Tokyo and shipping Imprezas to the UK just as quickly as they can get their greedy little hands on them. Yes folks, the WRX version or more recently the 22B Sti are the last great cult cars of the 20th century.

It all started with TV and magazine pictures of the dark blue cars with 555 written all over them winning rally after rally, from New Zealand to Monte Carlo. There was a similar cult -I hasten to add- 30 odd years ago back in England when the tiny Mini Coopers were winning everything in sight.

Well, I cannot pretend that the current version of the Impreza which is on sale in the United States for about 20 thousand dollars in going to win too many rallies any time soon. It looks the part and goes quite well but champion it ain't. The engine is the familiar 4-cylinder easy revving gem we all know and love from the Legacy and the Forester. The car comes with tons of goodies -A/C, power windows, a so-so radio/cassette system, and fog lights which must have been stolen from the light house at Point Reyes. Massive great things, I don't think I've ever come across these this side of a proper rally car.

There are 16-inch alloys, 4-wheel disc brakes, a beautiful leather steering wheel and excellent sports seats. Plus of the Subaru's signature-permanent all-wheel drive. Having said all that it isn't me. I am sure that millions of young people would love to have one, for me it's just a bit too boy-racerish. It's crying out for speeding tickets, which I am sure, is part of the attraction. I prefer to go quickly in more subtle cars such as a Mercedes or a Volvo. The spoiler on top of the trunk/boot I positively hate, it does nothing except hinder rear vision. It makes city driving that much more difficult. The hood/bonnet scoop again is purely for show on the U.S. version and just plain silly. It is of course a different story with the Japan/Europe versions where it helps to feed air to the intercooler.

Consumption worked out at 25.5 miles per U.S. gallon, perfectly acceptable. I can fully understand the marketing logic behind the car but it just isn't for me. Give me a Forester every time!