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CATEGORIES (articles) > Donor vehicle information > Subaru > Subaru Impreza History

Subaru Impreza History

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Impreza  |  Impreza Turbo
Subaru Impreza
Manufacturer: Fuji Heavy Industries

Subaru Impreza Wagon (1999) manufactured for Japanese market
Subaru Impreza CasaBlanca Limited Edition manufactured for Japanese market

For the high-performance versions of the Impreza, see Subaru Impreza WRX and Subaru Impreza WRX STi

The Subaru Impreza is a compact car that was first introduced by Subaru in 1993. The Impreza was Subaru's entry into the small-car market segment in the Japanese, U.S., European and other world markets.

"Impreza" is a coined word, deriving from an originally Italian word, impresa, meaning a badge or motto. In Polish, "Impreza" also means to celebrate, or party.

First generation - "GC"

Introduced in November 1992, the Impreza was offered in either front wheel drive (FWD) or all wheel drive (AWD) versions and as a four-door sedan/saloon or five-door station wagon/estate. In late 1995, a two-door coupe was introduced. The Impreza, like all Subaru-built cars, was equipped with a flat engine, a distinguishing Subaru characteristic. Initial engine choices included 1.5L and 1.8L naturally-aspirated engines as well as the turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L engine. The basic turbocharged motor, the EJ20, produced from 240 to 280PS in Japanese market WRX trim depending on model and year. Outside Japan, the turbocharged model was initially rated at 211PS (208 hp) and known variously as the Turbo 2000, GT, GT Turbo, or WRX.

In 1994, Subaru introduced Subaru Tecnica International (STi) versions of the Impreza in the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) and European Domestic Market (EDM). These models were upgraded from the WRX in many categories, including blueprinted performance-tuned engines, transmissions, and suspensions. The STi versions of the Impreza were immensely successful in rallies and popular among street racers. The first STi models featured higher power ratings than the WRX, while later versions of both WRX and STi were rated at 280PS due to the Japanese manufacturers' informal agreements around power ratings. Its top speed was electronically limited at 250 km/h (155 mph) and it had a 0–100 km/h time of 4.7 seconds. RA (race altered) versions of the WRX and STi were also available in the Japanese market. Targeted for race and rally, the RA versions were generally lighter in weight; featuring reduced soundproofing, manual windows, no air conditioning, and added desirable features such as more robust engines, driver controlled center differentials, and shorter gearing.

Special editions of the Impreza were very common in Japan and Europe, many coinciding with a significant World Rally Championship victory. These editions included the Series McRae, 555, Catalunya, Terzo, RB5, P1, and 22B, the latter still considered by many to be the ultimate Impreza of all time with its wide arched rally style body.

In the same time Subaru made a limited edition of Impreza Wagon called CasaBlanca.

The Impreza received an external facelift for the 1997 model year, followed by an interior redesign in 1998.

The story of the North American Impreza is much different than the rest of the world. North American markets never received a turbocharged version of the first generation Impreza (it was heavily rumored in 1998 and 1999){except for California, Florida and Oklahoma, which emissions laws were completely non-existent}. Suburu had never had much of a performance image in North America. As such, Subaru initially offered the Impreza with the 1.8L engine, with 2.2L engine and AWD as options. In 1995, Subaru's North American divisions decided to move to the niche market of only AWD cars, subsequently all Subarus (including the Impreza) came equipt with AWD standard.

However, there was a minority that knew of the Impreza's accomplishments overseas and was very interested in having a high performance Impreza. To cater to these enthusiasts' demands and to test the waters for a full-fledged turbo model, the 2.5RS performance model was introduced in 1998. A naturally-aspirated 165hp 2.5L DOHC engine and larger brakes, borrowed from the Legacy, were fitted into the coupe body with large 16" gold five-spoke wheels. The 2.5RS also featured several external cues from its overseas bretheren such as hood vents, a hood scoop, and a rally inspired rear spoiler. The 1999 model featured several changes: The newly designed "Phase II" SOHC version of the same 2.5L engine featured a slightly higher peak torque (166 ft-lbs vs. 162 ft-lbs), retained the same wheel design but colored silver, an updated interior, and US versions became visually similar to its Japanese contemporaries with an updated front bumper. 2000 and 2001 (North America didn't see the GD model until model year 2002) 2.5RS models became available in sedan form with more features and options each succeeding year. The highest production numbers for the 2.5RS was in 2000.

The Outback Sport model was introduced in 1995 as an updated L Sport Wagon. Subaru found success with this model and that of the larger Legacy-based Outback. It offered similar ride height changes, body colors and trim levels to the larger model.

Second generation - "GD"

Subaru Impreza (2001) manufactured for Japanese market

Subaru introduced the so-called "New Age" Impreza to the world market in 2001. The second generation Impreza was intended to be larger, safer, stiffer, more refined, and more responsive. For many enthusiasts, the changes in the new car made it less desirable because it was heavier and slower with less of a raw edge to it. The WRX Sedan had a 20mm wider track than its predecessor to aid handling, while the wagon remained the same. The coupe model was no longer available. The ovoid headlamp "bug-eyed" styling of the New Age Impreza was polarizing, but the improvements to the car brought greater mainstream acceptance.

In the United States, release of the basic 227 hp 2.0 L turbocharged Impreza, the WRX, did not occur until the 2002 model year, and the Impreza WRX STi was delayed until the 2004 model year. The US version of the STi includes various departures from the Japanese and European counterparts, such as a turbocharged 2.5 L EJ25 engine (not to be confused with the naturally-aspirated engine used in the 2.5RS which is also called EJ25), rather than the twin-scroll turbo 2.0 L engine sold elsewhere. All 2006 American Imprezas use some form of the 2.5 L EJ25 engine since natrually aspirated and turbo charged are available.

Some customers' and the press' negative reaction to the New Age Impreza's styling forced Subaru to facelift the car by 2003, with more conventional, squarer headlamps. All 2006 Imprezas, including the performance models, have been redesigned again with the controversial "jet intake and wings" grille first debuted on the Subaru B9 Tribeca SUV, along with new headlights, taillights, and bumpers. Opinion on this style is split, but is generally regarded as better applied on the Impreza than the Tribeca.

Models offered in Australia in 2005 included the GX (2.0 L engine, this model has become the baseline Impreza in Australia), RV (2.0 L engine, styled for active lifestyles), RS (2.5 L engine, sport model) along with the WRX and STi version thereof. The RX model has been abandoned in Australia, and its position in the Impreza line-up has been subsumed by the GX (which had formerly been a sparsely outfitted budget model).

In late 2005 a new range was released; including the entry-level 2.0i (formerly GX), RV, 2.0R (formerly RS), WRX and WRX STi models. The 2.0R changed from a 2.5 L engine to a slightly more powerful 2.0 L engine; while the turbocharged WRX changed from a 2.0 L engine to a 2.5 L engine. The automatic transmission was dropped from the WRX despite the popularity of the sports shift automatic in other Subarus such as the Outback. Side airbags were added as standard across the range.


Stephane Sarrazin driving a Subaru Impreza WRC on the Monte Carlo Rally

The Impreza chassis rose to prominence in rally racing more effectively than Subaru's previous contenders. Prior to the introduction of the Impreza into WRC in 1993, Subaru had fielded its larger mid-size Legacy for rally purposes. However, as rally competition shifted toward smaller and lighter chassis, Subaru needed a smaller and faster car—a role in which the Impreza was immediately successful and in which the Impreza continues to compete effectively, albeit in more powerful versions than were initially introduced. To jumpstart its rally efforts, Subaru had initially teamed with Prodrive in 1989, a very successful partnership that has lasted to this day. Prodrive also provided input during the Impreza's development to help it become a better rally car.

After winning its first World Rally Championship event in the Legacy at Rally New Zealand, Ari Vatanen finished second in the debut rally of the new WRC Impreza. Carlos Sainz brought the Impreza its inaugural victory in the 1994 Acropolis Rally.

The Impreza brought Subaru three consecutive WRC titles (1995–7) and a driver's championship for Colin McRae in 1995, the late Richard Burns in 2001, and Petter Solberg in 2003. While its rivals have come and gone, Subaru and the Impreza have remained one of the only consistent contenders in WRC during the last 13 years.


In Australia, the 1993-2004 Subaru Impreza was assessed in the Used Car Safety Ratings 2006 as providing "average" protection for its occupants in the event of a crash. ([1] -B8F8655488907260CA256FD300241C1A-66 ...)

Awards and Acknowledgments

The Impreza was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 2000. Car and Driver Magazine named the North American market WRX to its prestigious 10-best list in 2002, with a follow-up performance in 2003.


Subaru used the Impreza chassis for the mechanical underpinnings of the Forester, a small SUV designed to compete in the segment comprising the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape; also, as a result of GM's investment in Fuji Heavy Industries and ownership of Saab, the hatchback—or Impreza Wagon—formed the basis of the Saab 9-2X released in 2004 (given the tongue-in-cheek moniker "Saabaru").


  • Maisto makes a die cast Impreza
  • Takara makes a Choro-Q of the 2.5RS coupe and 2006 WRX with new grille
  • There are various scales of die cast and plastic models
  • Most of these are not available for retail in the US, but can be had online.

Cultural References

The movie Hoodwinked has a blue sedan with a huge spoiler and hood scoop characteristic of a WRX.


1997 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport
2005 Subaru Impreza Sport Wagon
2005 Subaru Impreza GX Sport UK in WR Blue
Subaru Outback Sport

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