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Underrated Lookers: The ’93-’01 Subaru Impreza

March 23, 2012 by Matt

Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Blue

A discussion of the Subaru Impreza could have fit into a couple categories: The one it’s featured under, Underrated Lookers; or another one, Sophomore Slumps. The grounds for its inclusion under the latter would been the atrocious, bug-eyed styling visited upon the second-generation car; however, apart from its looks, the 2nd gen is actually a brilliant machine: relatively lightweight, tossable, simple, rugged and easy to tune for power. It certainly isn’t slumping as far as its dynamics. So, by process of elimination, the first-generation ’93-’01 Impreza slots into the category you see; and I might add, one that it fits very well.

Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Blue

It’s one of Subaru’s most cohesive designs. Even with the addition in later years of rally-racing-themed scoops, vents, spoilers and lighting, the basic shape still looks understated, handsome and capable. Chiefly responsible for the ’93-’01 Impreza’s visual impact are its simple-yet-aggressive grille treatment, its athletic stance and especially its subtly-flared fenders, which give the car an ever-so-slight waisted look. The effect emphasizes Subaru’s characteristic AWD system and the fact that tractive power can be transmitted through the tires’ contact patches at all four corners. The fender flares also make the car look lithe, agile, nimble and playful. It’s a car that invites a drive, in other words.

Subaru Impreza 4 Four Door Silver

Even the four-door form looks fresh, as the automaker wisely decided to retain all the key styling features from the coupe version. Both body styles shared all underpinnings, in the same way that BMW 3 Series coupes and sedans are mechanically identical, and to this day I (and most enthusiasts) lament the fact that Subaru declined to market the very fast, turbocharged variants of the Impreza—the WRX and WRX STI—in North America (the rest of the world got them). No, we had to make do with a naturally-aspirated, 165-hp 2.5l flat-4 and wait until the arrival of the 2nd generation car for forced induction and real speed. So we American enthusiasts are placed in the awkward position of having to decide between looks (1st gen) or factory speed (2nd gen). Unless, that is, one was willing to undertake an engine swap and combine the best of both, which in this case might be the way to go for the Subaru buff who wants to construct a modern classic.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring cars whose design I find appealing, in contrast to mainstream opinion. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: Aesthetics, Subaru, Underrated Lookers

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