Buying used: Subaru Impreza WRX

Buying used: Subaru Impreza WRX
Buying used: Subaru Impreza WRX

How to navigate the multitude of models that make up the 2000-2007 Impreza WRX

If you like ample choice to pick from when buying a used performance car, you’ll love the idea of a 2000-2007-era Subaru Impreza WRX. There are three versions, three distinct body styles, official add-on performance kits and no end of aftermarket tuned-up editions to join the endless official special models.

You need to do your homework. Let us thus be your guide – and take you back to where it all started, the 2000-era saloon, which had a 215bhp 2.0-litre boxer turbo engine naturally driving all four wheels. There was an open differential at the front, a limited-slip diff in the rear, and a viscous coupling in the middle.

 

But there was an elephant in the room. The most bizarre set of ‘bug-eye’ headlights, which proved immediately controversial. So controversial, Subaru had to rush out a facelift, today colloquially known as blob-eyes. Another reason to want these models was a slight power boost to 222bhp.

Subaru also took the opportunity to launch an even faster and more powerful WRX STI variant. Instead of the regular five-speed gearbox, it had a stronger six-speed manual; more to the point, it also had 261bhp, plus faster steering and a more high-tech limited-slip front diff. Those in the know reckon this is the one to have.

But a year or so is a long time in the world of the WRX; in 2005, another facelift came out – this one’s known as the hawk-eye. You’ll spy these quickly from the stats, as they feature a larger 2.5-litre boxer engine, tuned to 226bhp in the WRX and 276bhp in the STI.

These cars had a wider track: Subaru owners call them, yes, the wide-track editions. These experts also reckon, however, that the engine is a bit more fragile than the 2.0-litre, so buy with a bit more caution. Perhaps this is why the final STI 9s may be considered the ones to have: they had later-spec transmission, including an ingenious Driver Control Centre Differential (DCCD), mated to the 2.0-litre STI engine.

If you don’t like the saloon, you can also find estate versions of the WRX. There are special editions – look out for the RB320 and GB270 – and many cars carry the Prodrive Performance Pack (PPP) which are well worth looking out for.

Owners also like to tune them up. Len Carlyon from Subaru4You is one; his earlier 1994 model puts out a whopping 480bhp. As for the 2000-2007 car, he admits it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but “it’s light nimble and nippy… it’s tough and reliable too, if you look after it. Pound for pound, there’s little to beat an Impreza”.

You won’t want for support, either. “Whichever model you go for, there’s a huge community to support you.” Some expert engineers will even give your car a full expert health check for around £120 or so. You just need to get a good one in the first place. Let us thus be your guide…

What to check

Engine: Oil leaks from the cam cover on 2.0-litre cars, the head gasket on 2.5-litre cars. If it’s been tuned to over 350bhp, make sure the internals have been strengthened – and check the power output on a rolling road if you can. Make sure it’s been serviced on the dot every 10,000 miles, with 10W-40 or 10W-50 fully synthetic oil.

Gearbox: Check the rear diff isn’t leaking. Keep an ear out for bangs and whines from the gearbox, the centre viscous coupling and the rear diff.

Suspension: Surprisingly little to check here: the most common issue is sticky rear struts – the damper rod seal dries out.

Body: On some cars, the rear wheelarches rust, as do the front radiator support panels and C-subframes. Does it have aftermarket headlights? Make sure they’re fitted correctly. Has it been crashed? Check the shut lines for any evidence of unevenness. Is it a genuine 2005-reg wide-track STI? Check the plastic trim which wraps around the rear wheelarch and feeds into the rear bumper.

What to spend

£3000-£4999: Early, high-mileage bug-eye cars; tired blob-eyes
£5000-£6459: Early blob-eye cars with average miles; higher-mileage WRX STIs
£6500-£8499: Clean 06 and 07 WRX; broader choice of WRX STI
£8500-£10,999: The pick of late-model WRX; low-mileage hawk-eye STIs
£11,000-£15,000: The world of WRX and STI yours to choose from

Bloodhound SSC: 1000mph – on land

Bloodhound's driver Andy Green tells us why he’s driven to try and set a new world land speed record – and the challenges

Tackling the Azores in a Mazda2

Thank goodness for satellite navigation, that’s all I can say. Forget about trying to find your way to an address in town. That’s

Used Greats: Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution

Not so much an SUV as (maybe) the first SSUVStop! Don’t click off thinking you’re looking at some rubbishy old Mitsubishi Shogun

2017's reliability winners and losers

Small cars are a growing sector, so we look at the most and least reliableThe UK market loves small cars, many of them city cars, and it’s