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New Subaru Forester launched – and it’s a hybrid

New Subaru Forester hybrid off-road

The all-new Subaru Forester has gone on sale in the UK. The general recipe remains familiar, but the big news is the fitment of a new petrol-electric hybrid powertrain.

Called e-Boxer, the system pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 148 hp with a 16 hp electric motor. It’ll deliver 34.7 mpg on a WLTP combined cycle – a 10 percent improvement on the outgoing Forester.

Around a mile is achievable on electric power up to speeds of 25 mph, bringing the CO2 emissions figure down to 154 g/km.

It’s not particularly quick: zero to 62 mph takes 11.8 seconds, while the top speed is 117 mph.

New Subaru Forester hybrid

The electric motor and battery pack are aligned longitudinally, with the heavy motor placed near the Forester’s centre of gravity. Positioning the battery and other components above the rear axle delivers “noticeable handling improvements”, Subaru claims.

The new Subaru Forester hybrid’s off-road ability is likely to be of more interest to its core audience, who have made the Forester Subaru’s best-selling car in Britain.

To this end, the familiar symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is retained and is combined with 220 mm of ground clearance. A revised X-mode off-road system can now switch between modes to adapt to extreme weather and road conditions.

X-mode has two modes: snow/dirt for use on slippery road surfaces, and deep snow/mud for surfaces where the tyres can become buried.

New Subaru Forester e-boxer

Body strength is up 40 percent compared to the old Forester, while Subaru’s excellent EyeSight driver assist technology is fitted as standard.

The system includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane sway and departure warning, lane keep assist and lead vehicle start alert.

Other safety features include blind spot assist, rear cross traffic alert and, for the first time in a Subaru, facial recognition.

A camera is installed on the visor of the multi-function display to monitor the driver’s seat area. It will alert the occupants if it senses the driver is dozing off. The system will also configure the seat position, door mirror angle and some settings based on who is sat at the wheel.

New Subaru Forester hybrid interior

The new Subaru Forester hybrid is 20 mm wider and 30 mm longer than before, creating more interior space. The towing capacity is up to 1,870 kg.

Standard features include an eight-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, keyless entry, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and heated seats.

The standard Subaru Forester 2.0-litre XE Lineartronic costs £33,995, while the 2.0-litre Premium Lineartronic is priced at £36,995.

For the additional £3,000, the Forester boasts leather seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, satellite navigation, privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels, sunroof and an electric tailgate.

New Subaru Forester boot open

The new Subaru Forester hybrid is on sale in the UK now and benefits from a five-year/100,000-mile warranty. We’ll let you know what it’s like in the new year.

Subaru Impreza is the UK’s most clocked car

Subaru Impreza is the UK most clocked car

The Subaru Impreza is the UK’s most clocked car, according to a study conducted by Rapid Car Check.

The car history check specialist tested 50,000 vehicles in July 2019 to discover how many have a ‘dodgy’ mileage.

For the purposes of this study, this meant a vehicle that had its mileage reduced between MOT tests, or a vehicle with a mixture of odometer readings in kilometres and miles.

Of the 50,000 vehicles tested, 3,964 had a mileage discrepancy of some kind, giving a fail percentage of 7.92 percent.

A total of 3,664 vehicles had their mileage reduced, with 510 showing a mixture of odometer readings. This means 7.32 percent of the 50,000 UK cars tested have likely been clocked.

Clocking a car

Earlier this year, we revealed that as many as one in 14 cars have been clocked – a process that involves ‘winding’ the odometer back to provide a lower reading.

With a fail rate of 17.72 percent, the Subaru Impreza tops the list of the UK’s most clocked cars, ahead of the Ford Transit, Toyota Yaris, Renault Clio and Vauxhall Vectra.

Subaru also topped the manufacturer table, with a fail rate of 16.98 percent. This put it ahead of Mitsubishi (13.89 percent), Toyota (13.73 percent), Mercedes-Benz (10.83 percent) and Renault (10.63 percent).

‘Almost impossible to tell a clocked vehicle’

Clocked car

It’s difficult to spot a clocked car, but checking the service and MOT history will lower the chances of ending up with a dodgy motor.

You can also ask HPI to check the car against the national mileage register. Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at HPI, said: “It can be almost impossible to tell a clocked vehicle just by looking at it, which makes a vehicle history check an even more vital form of protection for buyers.

“A clocked vehicle could be hiding serious levels of wear and tear, especially if it has been previously used as a high mileage private hire vehicle for a couple of years, meaning the additional cost of unexpected repairs or even a potentially serious safety threat to driver, passengers and other road users.”

Top 10 clocked cars in the UK

Make and modelTotal checkedTotal failedFail rate
Subaru Impreza2203917.72 percent
Ford Transit90614215.67 percent
Toyota Yaris3033812.54 percent
Renault Clio6407311.40 percent
Vauxhall Vectra3653810.41 percent
Honda Civic626629.90 percent
Mini Hatchback699639.01 percent
Volkswagen Passat558488.60 percent
Ford Mondeo537458.37 percent
Volkswagen Golf2,8462197.69 percent

Toyota and Subaru to develop new electric car platform

Toyota and Subaru to develop electric car

Toyota and Subaru have agreed to jointly develop a new all-electric platform for mid-size and large passenger vehicles.

In a statement, Toyota said the “two companies will apply Subaru’s all-wheel-drive technologies and Toyota’s vehicle electrification technologies”.

The Japanese companies signed an agreement in 2005, with the joint development of the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ the most high-profile result of the partnership.

Toyota said both companies “are required to conduct technological development with a sense of speed across a broader-than-ever spectrum of initiatives”, with all-electric vehicles and self-driving cars requiring a huge amount of investment.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Subaru used Toyota’s plug-in hybrid knowledge during the development of the Crosstrek Hybrid in the United States, but is in desperate need of an all-electric vehicle ahead of the expected surge in demand for EVs.

It also needs to mirror its success in the US with stronger sales in Europe. Subaru of America sold 680,135 vehicles in 2018 – its best-ever year – with its Indiana plant producing its fourth millionth car in April 2019. 

Toyota has been at the forefront of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid sectors since the launch of the Prius in 1997, but it has fallen behind its key rivals in the race to bring all-electric vehicles to the market.

‘Crossing over industrial boundaries’

Toyota Prius PHV cutaway

“It is necessary to pursue a business model that goes beyond convention, crossing over industrial boundaries together with various types of other entities that share their aspirations”, said Toyota in a statement.

Subaru added: “Following this agreement with Toyota, Subaru will now shift its existing BEV (battery electric vehicle) development resources to this new joint project. Within this new framework, Subaru will continue its efforts to create an attractive BEV SUV for our customers, while improving efficiencies in terms of engineering, development, purchasing, and other areas through the new joint project.”

The platform will accommodate multiple vehicle types, including C- and D-segment class saloons and SUVs, with the first vehicle expected to be a C-segment SUV sold under each company’s own brand.

The coolest Subaru Collection

Super-rare 360 microcar heads up one man’s all-Subaru collection

The coolest Subaru Collection

Subaru is one of the most interesting Japanese car manufacturers, if hardly the most prolific. A steady stream of incredible Imprezas defines it in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, but there’s much more to this eclectic brand – as we’ll see.

Taking Subaru on merit of the Impreza alone is like looking only at the 911 for all things Porsche. How, then, do you get a grip on the weird and wonderful world of Subaru beyond the WRX? You start by visiting perhaps the most eager Subaru collector in the country.

Paul Cowland is a PR wizard, TV personality and self-proclaimed 1980s tat enthusiast. That is, of course, a very self-deprecatory way of describing a very cool collection of cars, many of which are Subarus. There is a token Impreza – although not a typical choice – but the rest is leftfield, foreign market-specific or just plain weird.

Let’s dive in to perhaps the most unique all-Subaru car collections in the world. 

Subaru Impreza WRX STi

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Firstly, that Impreza – it’s not the typical rally refugee you might expect. Paul himself is a veteran of a very specific era in car modification culture. He had a (now very sought-after and expensive) Impreza 22B around the time it was new – the archetypal stage-splattered Scoob. This… is not a 22B.

It’s a saloon version of the Impreza hatchback launched in 2010. The car spent its working life ripping around skid pans, showing people what the Impreza can do. It’s also a parts guinea pig for in-house tuner Pro R and boasts a not-inconsiderable 370hp. This wingless white wonder is the perfect Scooby sleeper.

Subaru BRZ

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This is quite an important car in the pantheon of Subarus, especially in the UK, as it’s the first BRZ registered here. Naturally, that suggests this was once in the careful ownership of Subaru UK. We say ‘careful’ because it, like the Impreza, has seen a decent amount of action. In its current, perfectly-optimised state, it’s broadly reminiscent of what this car was for – a prototyping vehicle for tuning parts.

It’s got 40hp over standard, dialled-in coilover suspension for perfect fitment, Toyo track tyres and a proper exhaust rasp to boot. This is the ultimate Subaru track toy.

Subaru SVX

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The best way to introduce the weirder years, meet the Subaru SVX. It’s four-seat, low-slung GT car, not unlike what the Lexus LC is today – funky window line and all. It has a 3.3-litre flat-six engine and, at the time of release, was something of a rival to Porsche’s ageing 928, the Mitsubishi 3000GT and Lexus SC. Infamously, it put power to all four wheels via a much-derided automatic transmission.

The Giugiaro-styled body is as arresting as it is unconventional: contemporarily beautiful from some angles, just plain peculiar from others. Paul’s is a later 1997 car with 60,000 miles. Despite the need for a good thrashing and some TLC, it runs like a watch.

Subaru XT

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The tale of curious Subaru coupes continues with this delightful pre-restoration XT. Yes, it’s fresh out of the container from Washington and the perfect example of a ‘beater’ car, as the Americans call it – even down to the tired ‘University of Washington’ window stickers. Paul was amazed at the car’s clean bodywork given a life in one of the chillier (read: saltier) US states.

Yet again, even this daily driver coupe (not unlike a modern Honda Civic Si) is delightfully unconventional in a way only Subaru (and 1980s car design) could muster. That wedge shape boasts a drag coefficient that would impress even today. The cabin looks as if it was ripped from a Star Trek set. Space age and humdrum have never met in quite the same way. Expect Paul to pump out an immaculate restoration on this one.

Subaru Leone

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Where can the trail-ripping Imprezas trace their heritage back to? Why, the humble Leone – the first Subaru rally car. In this case, it’s part-way to a World Rally battle axe, being the pumped-up 4WD variant. Paul rightly says this car is the crossover that came before all crossovers. Up on stilts and with switchable all-wheel-drive, this humble saloon is ready to tackle the outback. Anyone wonder where later Legacy Outback models got their name? These cars proved popular in the colonies…

Paul found this example a good way closer to home: in Cornwall. Given it was rescued from a lifetime at the seaside, it’s remarkably devoid of rust – something old Scoobies often suffer with. It seems to have enjoyed a relatively easy life, too, with just 59,000 miles showing on the odometer.

Subaru 360

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Here we arrive at arguably the coolest car out of this set. Not that the others aren’t without their curiosities and quirks, but the 360 is Subaru’s first proper car and, as such, was built in service of its home nation. This tiny little machine is an early Kei car, a sub-500cc-engined vehicle that weighs less than 500kg thanks to its tiny dimensions and simple construction. Introduced in the late 1950s, it was an effort to get Japan mobile in the post-war years.

Paul’s car, on loan from Subaru, is mid-restoration, with its stunning paint and interior complemented by a few niggles. In short, it didn’t run and was in need of parts – the most difficult element of restoring this car. Although Subaru built nearly 400,000 examples, spares are a real challenge to track down and are expensive to buy when you do. When it came to pushing the little 360 into position for shots, we hit a snag. A sticking brake would have rendered any other non-starter immobile. Not the featherweight 360 – we got it yanked out of there in no time.

Subaru XV

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From where it all began, we end with where Subaru is now. From a distance, the XV is a paint-by-numbers crossover, but the Subaru magic soon shines through. Especially when found in a car park full of its ancestors. While it shares very little with that tiny 360 that started it all, there’s something of the angular design of the XT and Leone. The arches of the old Impreza are evident, and the curious form – and indeed colour – of the SVX is plain to see.

There’s also the tactility you expect of a Subaru. Not luxurious or gratuitous in the traditional sense, it simply feels hard-wearing. Then of course, under the bonnet, you find a distinctive flat engine – a Subaru hallmark evident in all cars here except the 360. This is still a proper Subaru, perhaps not in the tyre-ripping sense of the BRZ and Impreza, but rather the honest, well-thought-out style of that old Leone.

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Subaru XV

Subaru XV: robust crossover tackles Beast from the East

Subaru XV

When we first drove the new Subaru XV back in December, we described it as a niche product. There are only two powertrains on offer in the UK – both of them petrol, and it’s only available with a CVT automatic gearbox.

As such, it’s never going to outsell the Qashqai. But we also admitted to being rather taken by the Subaru. We rated its off-road ability, and the feeling that its development budget had been spent on making a car that’ll last forever, rather than look good on the school-run.

Just how indestructible is the new XV? It’s not something we can find out in a week-long UK road test, so we’ve added one to the Motoring Research long-term test car fleet. The MR team will spend six months putting it through its paces. Read on to discover how we’re getting on – and check back for regular updates.

Report 1: robust crossover tackles Beast from the East

Subaru XV

Throughout the recent visits from the Beast from the East, I’ve been looking at our test car calendar and wishing the end of March – and the delivery of our XV – would come sooner. Sure, there have been other cars that have been entertaining in the snow (the Subaru WRX springs to mind), but my experience of driving the XV at the launch in Latvia was always in the back of my mind as I attempted to clear snowy, rural roads in less-capable vehicles.

Eventually the XV arrived and – amazingly – so did another flurry of snow, conveniently timed to coincide with a bank holiday trip to Shropshire I had planned. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough snow for heroic shots of the XV overtaking BMWs on steep hills, but there was enough for me to be thankful of the XV’s permanent 4×4 system.

In fact, the XV feels more like a grunty off-roader than I remember from my initial drive. Its engine is quite vocal on start-up, although it quietens down when you’re moving – unless of course you floor the throttle and there’s all of the noise thanks to the CVT transmission.

Subaru XV

But there’s something quite satisfying about the XV’s feeling of invincibility. There are more plush materials in the cabin than before, but it still feels robust rather than premium. Driving it through soggy Shropshire while wearing walking boots and waterproofs feels kind of right. Could you say the same for driving a new Land Rover these days?

Of course, some of the XV’s rough edges might start to grate after a while. On first impressions, though, I remain rather taken with it… warts and all.

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Rallying cry: 30 years of hot Subarus

Rallying cry: 30 years of hot Subarus

Rallying cry: 30 years of hot Subarus

April 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Subaru’s performance brand – Subaru Tecnica International, or STI for short. To celebrate we’ve delved into the archives, so expect lots of blue paint and gold wheels to feature.

1989 Subaru Legacy RS

1989 Subaru Legacy RS

The performance Subaru story started with the fairly innocuous first-generation Legacy saloon. It may have looked plain, but beneath the bodywork was a 220hp 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four engine and four-wheel-drive combo that would become the trademark of the brand.

In January 1989, STI used four modified Legacy RS models to set a new world endurance record in the scorching heat of Arizona. Covering over 62,000-miles across 20 days, the Legacy RS proved to be both quick and reliable, averaging a speed of 138mph.

1993 Subaru Legacy RS Group A

1993 Subaru Legacy RS Group A

Marking the link between Subaru and Banbury-based Prodrive, the Legacy made a limited World Rally Championship debut in 1990. More WRC events followed in 1991 and 1992, with a certain Colin McRae picking up British Rally Championship titles in the same years.

However, 1993 would mark the introduction of sponsorship from the State Express 555 tobacco company, creating the now iconic blue and yellow livery. The year would also see the Legacy take Subaru’s first WRC win, with McRae tasting success on the Rally of New Zealand.

1993 Subaru Impreza 555 Group A

1993 Subaru Impreza 555 Group A

Subaru may have been successful with the Legacy, but the WRC field was turning towards smaller, nimbler cars. This made the recently launched Impreza perfectly placed to start competing, with its first outing at the 1993 1000 Lakes Rally. Starting as it meant to go, the Impreza would finish second on its debut, with Ari Vatanen proving the ability of the new car.

1994 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000

1994 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000

The Impreza was launched to UK buyers in 1993, but it wasn’t until May 1994 that the real fireworks began with the release of the 211hp Turbo 2000 model. Although the power output might seem tame today, at the time it pitched the Impreza into direct competition with the Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford Escort Cosworth.

It may have looked apologetically drab, but performance of 0-60mph in 6.0 seconds, combined with the offbeat burble of the flat-four engine, helped the Impreza win fans.

1994 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Version

1994 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Version

Japanese buyers had been able to purchase a 240hp Impreza WRX saloon since late 1992, but 1994 saw the launch of the first STi-branded model. Built to order in limited numbers of 100-200 per month, the WRX STi saw a 10hp boost in power, courtesy of a special handmade version of the flat-four engine.

Also added were bigger alloy wheels, a taller rear spoiler, strut bracing for the suspension, with new sport seats inside.

1995 Subaru Impreza Series McRae

1995 Subaru Impreza Series McRae

Just two years since the introduction of the Impreza, Subaru and Prodrive found World Rally Championship success in 1995. Colin McRae, with co-driver Derek Ringer, overcame retirements early in the season to beat teammate Carlos Sainz to clinch the WRC drivers’ title.

To celebrate the success of McRae and the Impreza, Subaru UK offered a limited edition of the Turbo 2000. Only 200 cars were produced, all wearing gold Speedline alloy wheels, dark blue paint, and special commemorative decals.

1997 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000 Wagon

1997 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000 Wagon

The four-door Impreza Saloon may have been the one claiming wins on rally stages, but mere mortals could also have 4WD fun with a practical five-door hatchback/estate bodyshell. It may have looked slightly awkward, but the Impreza wagon brought greater boot space to the party.

Japanese customers were able to enjoy the five-door version in full-fat STi specification which by, 1997, had been pumped up to an impressive official output of 280hp. The real figure was closer to 300hp, but claimed as lower to honour a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with other Japanese manufacturers.

Subaru Impreza WRC 97

Subaru Impreza WRC 97

With a new set of rules and regulations for the 1997 World Rally Championship, Prodrive picked the two-door Impreza coupe model as the basis for Subaru’s new WRC-specification car.

With less need for WRC cars to closely match their road-going counterparts, the WRC 97 featured wider bodywork, extra aerodynamic appendages, and a boost in power to 300hp. The Subaru team picked up another Constructors’ trophy, but Colin McRae would lose the Drivers’ championship by just one point.

1998 Subaru Impreza 22B

1998 Subaru Impreza 22B

Arguably the closest to a road-going Impreza rally car, the 22B was built to celebrate Subaru’s three successive WRC Constructors’ titles, and the 40th anniversary of the company. Limited to just 400 examples in Japan, the entire allocation of cars sold out almost instantly. A further 16 cars were imported to the UK under the Single Vehicle Approval scheme.

With a more powerful 2.2-litre version of the turbocharged flat-four engine, power was rated at 280hp with UK-spec cars capable of 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds. Yet it was the addition of the extra wide bodywork from the WRC machines that made the 22B stand out. Today, values are more than double the £39,000 original asking price.

1999 Subaru Impreza RB5

1999 Subaru Impreza RB5

Somewhat more affordable, but still highly regarded in Impreza folklore, the RB5 was launched to celebrate the return of the late Richard Burns to the Subaru WRC team. The 444 examples produced received metallic grey paint, titanium-finished 16-inch Speedline alloy wheels, special decals, and unique interior trim.

An optional Prodrive WR package saw the addition of a new exhaust and modified ECU, boosting power to 240hp. A larger rear wing also came as part of the deal.

2000 Subaru Impreza P1

2000 Subaru Impreza P1

With Subaru UK almost besieged by ‘grey imports’ of Japanese-specification Imprezas, Prodrive was once again called on to help. The plan was to offer an Impreza that matched the performance of the JDM machinery, but would meet all the relevant EU regulations.

Launched in May 2000, the P1 – standing for Prodrive One – featured the 280hp engine as used in the Japanese WRX STi. More important was the use of the two-door coupe bodyshell, with each of the 1,000 examples painted in Sonic Blue and fitted with 17-inch OZ Racing wheels.

2000 Subaru Legacy B4 Blitzen

2000 Subaru Legacy B4 Blitzen

Proving that Subaru didn’t only concentrate on developing performance models of the Impreza, the third-generation Legacy received special treatment in 2000. Developed in collaboration with Porsche Design, the Blitzen featured a bodykit and set of alloy wheels developed by the German company.

Mechanically, the Blitzen matched the regular Legacy B4, meaning a twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre flat-four engine with 280hp was mated to an automatic gearbox. Naturally the power was sent to all four wheels, with the Blitzen offered in both saloon and estate bodies.

2000 Subaru Impreza WRX

2000 Subaru Impreza WRX

If the original Impreza had been labelled as looking bland, the second-generation car sought to change that immediately. Perhaps cruelly labelled as the ‘Bug Eye’ Impreza, the large headlight units polarised opinion amongst Subaru fans. Also out was the unique names for the UK market, with the Turbo 2000 now badged as a WRX – just as it would be in Japan.

Only marginally larger than the outgoing car, in the UK the new WRX retained the same 218hp 2.0-litre flat-four turbocharged engine as its predecessor.

Subaru Impreza WRC 2001

Subaru Impreza WRC 2001

With no two-door coupe in the ‘New Age’ Impreza lineup, Prodrive was forced back to the four-door saloon as the basis for its latest WRC contender. The bodyshell of the second-generation Impreza was reported to have been widened specifically to make it better suited for rallying usage.

The looks may have been new, but beneath the surface the 2001 WRC car was mechanically similar to the previous generation. Richard Burns would go on to claim the Drivers’ title for Subaru, before departing for Peugeot at the end of the season.

2002 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Subaru Impreza WRC 2001

British buyers had their first opportunity to purchase a bona fide Impreza WRX STi model in 2002, with the launch of a specific Type UK version of the four-door saloon. With a 265hp version of the turbo 2.0-litre flat-four almost 80% different to the normal WRX, and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the STi model was a substantial step up from the regular car.

An optional ‘Prodrive Style’ version added a giant rear spoiler, deeper front bumper, and more shapely side skirts inspired by the WRC car. Inside was a riot of blue suede, with added extras including a button to spray water onto the intercooler.

2002 Subaru Legacy S401 STi

2002 Subaru Legacy S401 STi

Built as a celebration at the end of the second-generation Legacy, the Japanese-market only S401 was created with special help from STi. The 2.0-litre flat-four engine used sequential turbocharging to produce 293hp, and borrowed the six-speed manual gearbox from the new Impreza WRX STi.

With only 400 examples produced, the S401 is decidedly rare, but marked out by fancy 17-inch BBS alloy wheels, an STi-branded grille, and a unique bonnet scoop.

2003 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

2003 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Stung by the criticism of the new Impreza, Subaru acted quickly to create a facelifted version which went on sale in 2003. Designed by Peter Stevens of McLaren F1 and Lotus Elan fame, the ‘Blob Eye’ Impreza toned things down with a more conventional look.

The interior also featured a number of key tweaks, with the large Momo steering wheel replaced with a smaller diameter one more suited to WRC-esque arm twirling.

Subaru Impreza WRC 2003

Subaru Impreza WRC 2003

The 2003 changes to the Impreza clearly helped the WRC contender, with Norwegian driver Petter Solberg claiming the Drivers’ championship in the same year. Solberg took things down to the wire, sneaking the title at the final round by just one single point over Sebastien Loeb. Another Manufacturers’ crown eluded Subaru though, with the team managing only third place in the standings.

2004 Subaru Impreza WR1

2004 Subaru Impreza WR1

Somewhat predictably, Subaru opted to reward Solberg’s success with another limited edition celebratory model. 1,000 examples of the WR1 were produced, with 500 alone sent to Prodrive to cater for the UK market.

Special Ice Blue paintwork, a stainless steel front grille, extra decals, and seven-spoke Prodrive alloy wheels were the important visual changes. Power was increased to 320hp, achieved by a new ECU and exhaust system, both of which needed to be fitted after registration to circumvent EU rules.

2005 Subaru Forester STi

2005 Subaru Forester STi

With an image considered somewhat left field, despite impressive all-terrain ability, the Forester SUV has been a niche product in the UK. However, in Japan it was still on the receiving end of the full STi treatment.

WR Blue paint and gold wheels may be obvious changes, but there was also a 265hp version of a 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four engine, along with a six-speed manual gearbox.

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Seemingly not content with just one mid-life facelift, Subaru had another go at the Impreza in 2006. This time the ‘Hawk Eye’ front end design was claimed to have been inspired by the aeronautical origins of the company, with a fuselage and wings formed by the grille.

Changes were also afoot beneath the bonnet, with the old 2.0-litre turbo engine now replaced by a bigger 2.5-litre unit. Standard power for the WRX STi was 280hp, but Impreza fans were more upset about the new exhaust system which muted the classic flat-four burble.

2006 Subaru Impreza RB320

2006 Subaru Impreza RB320

Following the tragic death of Richard Burns in 2005 due to a brain tumour, Subaru decided to commemorate its most recent WRC champion with a limited edition Impreza WRX STi.

Featuring a Prodrive Performance Pack that boosted engine output to 320hp, along with Eibach suspension springs and Bilstein dampers, the RB320 was suitably impressive on the road. All cars came in Obsidian Black with black alloy wheels, plus stainless steel grilles.

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

If Impreza fans had been shocked by the face of the second-generation car, the third-generation one rendered them speechless. Gone was the saloon, replaced with the sole UK offering of a conventional five-door hatchback. The frameless side windows were also ditched, and it left many wondering just what the WRX STI now stood for.

Somethings did stay the same at least, with a familiar 2.5-litre flat-four engine underneath the bonnet, but this time producing 300hp. It was still four-wheel-drive, even if Subaru would announce its withdrawal from the WRC at end of 2008.

2010 Subaru Impreza Cosworth CS400

2010 Subaru Impreza Cosworth CS400

Possibly in a move to placate UK Subaru enthusiasts incensed by the hatchback-only third-generation, 2010 saw a new special edition Impreza created in collaboration with Cosworth. More famed for their work with Ford, Cosworth did at least live up their reputation by producing an impressive 400hp and 400lb-ft version of the flat-four Impreza engine.

A bigger turbo and uprated internals helped the CS400 do its thing, with 0-60mph taking just 3.7 seconds. Only 75 examples were produced, but a £49,995 price tag made it hard to stomach despite the performance on offer.

2011 Subaru WRX STI Saloon

2011 Subaru WRX STI Saloon

The four-door Impreza had never really gone away, having been offered in Japan and the USA from the outset of the third-generation car. By 2011 the saloon version was back in on sale in the UK market, but missing two key ingredients.

Firstly, there was no substantial rear spoiler bolted to the boot lid and, more significantly, the Impreza name tag was absent. Keen to further the WRX STI as its own brand, the Impreza name was now reserved for more mundane offerings. A hefty price increase was one of the few things the 2011 car did gain though.

2014 Subaru WRX STI

2014 Subaru WRX STI

A fourth-generation of the car formally known as Impreza arrived in 2014. Even if the name was still missing, the giant rear wing had at least returned, and the 300hp 2.5-litre flat-four engine continued where the previous model left off.

The world had moved on though, with hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R offering the same 300hp and four-wheel-drive ability, but in an upmarket package. By comparison the WRX STI looked decidedly old school, even if the driving experience was still fun.

2016 Subaru WRX STI Time Attack

2016 Subaru WRX STI Time Attack

Despite waning interest in the UK, Subaru of America were still keen to promote the potential of the WRX STI. The result was a series of lap record attempts, including one for the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course. Manx rally driver Mark Higgins set a new record on the 37-mile long circuit in 2011, before bettering it in 2014 and 2016.

The same Time Attack WRX STI, driven by Richie Stanaway, also set a new saloon car record at Nurburgring in 2016. A lap time of 6 minutes 57 seconds being faster than a Porsche 918 hypercar around the German circuit.

2017 Subaru BRZ tS

2017 Subaru BRZ tS

Proving that contemporary STI action isn’t all about the WRX, the BRZ coupe got some attention in 2017. The ‘tS’ part of the name stands for tuned by STI, but that doesn’t mean any increase in power – perhaps the one thing BRZ fans wanted the most.

Offered for the North American market only, instead of more horsepower there is more carbon fibre in the form of a huge rear wing, along with improved brakes, bigger wheels, and uprated suspension.

2017 Subaru Levorg GT BTCC

2017 Subaru Levorg GT BTCC

Keen to reinforce the idea that Subaru was no longer about rallying and gold wheels, an entry into the 2016 British Touring Car Championship with the new Levorg was an unexpected move. Using a Mountune-developed 2.0-litre flat-four engine, but powering just the rear wheels, this was a radical departure.

While 2016 was a testing time, things came together in 2017 when Ashley Sutton claimed the Driver’s championship for the Subaru team. We’re now anxiously awaiting a ‘Series Sutton’ special edition Levorg…

2017 Subaru WRX STI Final Edition

2017 Subaru WRX STI Final Edition

With Subaru deciding to bring the current WRX STI to an end in the UK, the last hurrah came with a limited edition of 150 cars. Being branded as the ‘Final Edition’ is certainly a definitive move, but the buyers of the last cars will benefit from a range of subtle modifications.

The centre differential is electronically controlled, there are larger 19-inch alloy wheels, and the bigger Brembo brakes feature yellow-painted calipers. Power, of course, is from a 2.5-litre flat-four turbo engine.

2018 Subaru WRX STI RA

2018 Subaru WRX STI RA

Across the Atlantic, there is still life in the WRX STI, and Subaru is keen to celebrate the recent lap record successes. Enter the RA model, with the name standing for ‘Record Attempt’ and offering up a seriously modified machine.

Not only is the roof made from carbon fibre, but there is also Bilstein suspension, gold 19-inch BBS alloy wheels, a power boost to 310hp, and a big rear spoiler. Just 500 American buyers will have the chance to claim an RA model, and then surely need to find somewhere to set their own lap records.

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Subaru XV

2018 Subaru XV first drive: a budget Land Rover alternative

Subaru XV

The Subaru XV is the antithesis of the Nissan Qashqai. It’s a car that shrugs off concerns of image, bought by the kind of people who care more about space for their labradors than how low the monthly PCP payment will be. The firm has no shame in positioning itself where Land Rover was a few years ago: selling no-nonsense four-wheel-drives for those who care more about capability than how they look.

The outgoing Subaru XV has been on sale in the UK since 2012. If you’re not familiar with the XV or indeed, any of Subaru’s range  then don’t worry. Subaru itself is the first to admit that it does things differently to everyone else, and that means it can be difficult to place its line-up against competitors.

Subaru is keen to position itself as predominantly an SUV brand. Sure, there are anomalies (the GT86-twin BRZ and recently replaced Impreza, to name two) but the hot WRX STI that most of us picture when we think of Subaru is facing the axe. At the core of the Subaru range are its SUVs: the small XV, medium Forester and large Outback.

The new XV follows the Impreza in gaining Subaru’s new global platform, and is set to become the firm’s best-selling model in the UK.

First impressions

If you imagine a car company divvying up the budget for the development of a new model, Subaru definitely allocated the majority of the cash to its engineering department rather than design. It’s not a looker, in our eyes (and you may struggle to tell the difference from the old XV), but it certainly looks like it means business. The front end is apparently meant to reflect the boxer engine behind it  we’ll let you decide how successful that is. The rear, meanwhile, is wider, enhancing its almost-a-hatchback appearance.

While many rivals, and indeed the outgoing XV, try to look bigger and more SUV-like than they really are, the new XV almost does the opposite. At 1,570mm high, it’s no taller than its predecessor, and lower than the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Karoq. Despite this, it boasts an impressive 221mm of ground clearance, giving it a sort of ‘Impreza on stilts’ appearance.

First seat

Subaru XV

There’s been a bit more cash spent on the interior, but we’ll stop short of calling it ‘premium’. The brand itself highlights the lack of soft-touch materials in the cabin  you wouldn’t want your aforementioned labradors scratching the arm rests within weeks of taking delivery, would you?

While you’re going to be disappointed if you compare it with the new Volvo XC40, the interior of the Subaru XV is very much fit for purpose. It’s practical, with an extra five litres of boot space and a wider opening compared to the old model, and there’s plenty of space for front and rear passengers. Visibility is excellent, and we spent several hours in the seats without any complaints.

There’s a new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment screen with DAB radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. It’s intuitive enough to use, if not up to the standards of some upmarket rivals.

First drive

Subaru XV

There’s a very simple Subaru XV line-up in the UK. Buyer’s get a choice of two engines: both petrol, 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre. All XVs will come with a permanent four-wheel-drive transmission and a ‘Lineartronic’ CVT automatic gearbox.

We’ve only driven the 2.0-litre model, which Subaru estimates will account for at least 80 percent of sales, and found it to be reasonably refined. It’s a boxer engine, as per Subaru tradition, which the firm says brings various advantages: reduced vibration and noise thanks to its greater balance, as well as a lower centre of gravity thanks to the engine being mounted lower in the car.

Of course, some of those advantages disappear when paired with the CVT gearbox. Floor it, and there’s that tell-tale CVT noise as you ask for all of the power at once, but most post-WRX Subaru buyers won’t be driving quite so aggressively. It’s not the most unpleasant CVT ’box to use, either, with fake gear ratios mimicking a conventional auto transmission.

While buyers outside of Europe get the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, Subaru has no plans to offer that here in Blighty. The CVT gearbox is required for Subaru’s autonomous safety systems (packaged under the ‘Eyesight’ brand) to work to their best.

It also has an extra advantage off road  an area Subaru is pushing hard as the XV’s unique selling point. By having one continuous, adaptable gear, the CVT will never temporarily break the power when the driver dips the clutch to change up or down. Anyone who’s ever driven up a snowy or muddy hill will know how much momentum can be lost during a brief gear-change.

While XV buyers aren’t expected to take part in the recreational mud-plugging scene, they are likely to be the sort who’ll be traversing muddy fields to feed horses or driving along snowy mountain tracks to access remote farmland. A good chunk of our time driving the XV during its early-drive event in Latvia was spent off the beaten track, a sign of how serious Subaru is about its off-road intentions.

Fortunately, the XV is really in its element when conditions are challenging. Designed from the off as a four-wheel-drive vehicle, the symmetrical 4×4 system means everything  the engine, gearbox and propshaft  are in a straight line, resulting in an ultra-quick response to shift power around when traction is required.

Essentially, this means it’s much more capable in the rough than you’d expect from a small, relatively low-down vehicle. If things get particularly challenging, hitting the ‘X Mode’ button locks the CVT’s clutches, mimicking a conventional diff lock and making it difficult to get the XV stuck (trust us, we tried). There’s a hill descent mode too, which works brilliantly well  maintaining a gentle pace down snowy descents.

First verdict

Subaru XV

The Subaru XV is a niche product. With only two powertrains on offer, and both of them petrol, it’s never going to appeal to the mass market – especially as you can only buy the XV with four-wheel drive and a CVT transmission. Comparing the XV with rivals is also fairly pointless: people will buy the XV because they want a safe, practical, four-wheel-drive vehicle that’ll last forever, and the obvious rivals all have very different strengths.

This could be an issue for Subaru, as there’s very little on offer that’s going to tempt buyers from rival brands. With most Subaru drivers snubbing the three-year PCP cycle, the firm can’t rely on its customers returning every few years, either. As such, we’re never going to see a huge amount of XVs on the roads.

However, if it works for you, it’s a fundamentally good car. More convincing than the recent Impreza, the new XV handles better than before, with a focus on safety rather than flair, while the interior is a big step up from its predecessor. We also appreciate the XV’s feeling of invincibility. With so much of its development budget clearly spent on engineering, it’s not only very safe, but feels like it could last forever.

Despite its flaws, the shortage of good powertrains and a CVT gearbox only, we’re rather taken with the new XV.

Star rating verdict: 3.5

Five rivals

  • Mazda CX-3
  • Volvo XC40
  • Toyota C-HR
  • Skoda Karoq
  • Nissan Qashqai

>NEXT: 2018 Subaru Impreza first drive

Subaru WRX STi Final Edition

This is your last chance to buy a new Subaru WRX STi in the UK

Subaru WRX STi Final Edition

Subaru has revealed a limited-run special edition WRX STi as it announces that the legendary super saloon will soon be no more in the UK.

The WRX STi, previously known as the Impreza WRX STi, can trace its roots back nearly 25 years. It’s the car that Colin McRae made famous, and one of the first affordable performance cars on the market.

But, as hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf R get ever more competent, versatile and affordable, the WRX STi has been living on borrowed time. It’s no surprise, then, that Subaru is wielding the axe on its legendary flagship model. Unfortunately.

If you want to get your hands on a brand new WRX STi while you still can, get your order in for Final Edition as soon as you can. Subaru’s taking orders now, with just 150 available and prices starting at £33,995.

This isn’t a half-hearted special edition. While the standard 300hp 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four remains, the WRX STi now boasts 19-inch alloys. This isn’t just for aesthetics – they house bigger Brembo brakes with yellow calipers, offering better fade-resistance and performance when driving on the limit, says Subaru.

A multi-mode driver’s control centre differential, meanwhile, shuffles power around to provide maximum traction at all times.

The front bumper has been redesigned with a more aggressive look, while the grille has been enlarged to aid cooling.

Red stitching and seatbelts along with glossy black inserts brighten up the interior, while heated front seats add a touch of comfort. There’s also a larger 5.9-inch infotainment screen at the top of the dash, incorporating DAB radio and a reversing camera (just in case you can’t see over the large rear wing).

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>NEXT: 2017 Tokyo Motor Show: the star cars

Accidental thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

Thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

Accidental thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

A Subaru owner in America was gutted to find her car missing from her driveway on Tuesday night – only for it to be returned the next day with a handwritten apology and $30 to cover the fuel used.

Erin Hatzi, of Portland, Oregon, posted the escapade on her Facebook account. It started when her car went missing, with CCTV showing a lady slowly opening the Subaru with a key and driving away.

Police were confused by the theft, as CCTV footage suggested the thief wasn’t in a hurry to get away with the car.

“She actually spent seven or eight minutes in the car texting before she drove off,” said Hatzi.

The next Facebook update came a day later, when Hatzi announced the car had been returned – along with a picture of a note that had been left in the car.

It said: “Hello, So sorry I stole your car. I sent my friend with my key to pick up my red Subaru at 7802 SE Woodstock and she came back with your car.

“I did not see the car until this morning and I said, ‘That is not my car.’ There is some cash for gas and I more than apologise for the shock and upset this must have caused you.”

The letter also provided the writer’s name and phone number.

“So so sorry for this mistake,” she added.

The car’s bemused owner says that police have confirmed that keys for some older Subaru models are interchangeable.

Subaru Forester Special Edition

Subaru Forester Special Edition: green but not mean

Subaru Forester Special EditionSubaru has launched a special edition Forester for the summer – called, cannily, the Forester Special Edition.

The firm says it’s been rolled out to mark 50 years of its boxer engine, and will be more of a limited edition than a special edition: just 100 models will be available.

And there’ll be no missing them: Forester Special Editions come in Hunter Green metallic paint and are clad with wheelarch extensions, plus front, side and rear underguards and a stainless steel cargo step panel.

Inside, it’s even more old money: brown leather trim is standard, creating quite possibly the most visually appealing Forester colour and trim combo we’ve yet seen.

Subaru Forester Special Edition

Other kit included as standard includes Subaru Starlink touchscreen infotainment with sat nav and full device connectivity, and you can have the Forester Special Edition either with a 2.0-litre petrol or 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, both with Lineartronic automatic as standard.

Top tip: as the petrol lacks the all-important turbo, choose the diesel. You’ll never see the 41mpg claimed by the petrol but might see something approaching the 50mpg of the diesel, if you’re careful.

Subaru throws in its five-year, 100,000-mile new car warranty as standard too; the petrol costs £29,995 and the diesel costs £31,495. Sales begin on 1 September.