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Subaru Impreza

Date: 04 October 2006

Category: Lower medium
Prices: £12,307-£26,515
Key rival: Mitsubishi Lancer

Here's an interesting one. For pretty much the same price as an entry-level Ford Focus, you can have a Subaru Impreza parked outside.

As good a car as the Focus is, that rally heritage and halo effect of the supercar-bashing turbocharged models makes a fairly compelling case.

The Impreza in question is Subaru's new 1.5-litre entry model, pitched at £12,495. Although it's only a 105PS unit, it sends the power to all four wheels, like the rest of the Subaru range, but unlike pretty much every car at this price. That's why Subaru think farmers, district nurses and vets will be among those most interested in its new model, especially as it's only available in more practical five-door form.

Subaru Impreza spec panel

The company also hopes to pick up a few people who used to buy the old all-wheel drive Justy supermini killed off several years ago.

As you'd expect, the engine needs a little work to wind up to the speeds you normally see Imprezas travelling at, and the ride quality's good while offering secure and rapid progress along twistier roads. But a big letdown is the ultra-light steering, which doesn't offer any kind of sensitivity or feedback. This means almost aimless twirling linked to a presumption that the wheels are doing what they're told.

Compared with the entry-level lower-medium models at this price point, the 1.5 Impreza is also generously specced. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, climate control and four airbags.

It remains to be seen how the costs will stack up, but the low price, low numbers and prestigious badge should all work heavily in the car's favour.