Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $3,200 – $21,000*


2002 Subaru impreza 2.5 RS 4-door sedan


2002 Subaru Impreza Sport 4-door wagon


2003 Subaru Impreza WRX interior


2003 Subaru Impreza WRX 4-door sedan


2004 Subaur Impreza WRX STi 4-door sedan

Pros:
  • Acceleration (WRX, STi)
  • All-wheel drive
  • Control layout
  • Steering/handling
  • Brake performance
Cons:
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Rear-seat room
  • Ride

With the 2002 redesign, Impreza sticker prices moved above the Honda Civic to Volkswagen Jetta level. But workmanship and refinement belie Subaru’s “premium small car” billing. Still, all-wheel drive is an asset for any model. Then too, WRXs and STis are fast fun, if rather rowdy for some tastes.

Overview

Subaru redesigned its smaller series for 2002, repositioning the Impreza from an entry-level car to a “premium” subcompact. Coupe models were dropped.

Sedans now came in 165-horsepower 2.5 RS and 227-horsepower turbo WRX versions. Wagons reflected that choice with 2.5 TS and WRX models, augmented by an SUV-flavored Outback with the 2.5-liter engine.

All models had new styling, four-cylinder engines with horizontally-opposed cylinders, and manual or optional automatic transmissions. WRX Imprezas were patterned after Subaru’s World Rally competition cars. All Imprezas had all-wheel drive, antilock braking, a CD player, and power windows/locks.

Sedans had slightly wider front bodywork than wagons. WRX sedans and wagons included a sport suspension, an aluminum hood with functional scoop, and special interior trim and seats. Rivals included the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Golf/Jetta.

Yearly Updates

2003 Impreza
Only detail updates were evident for 2003. The 2.5 RS sedan, 2.5 TS wagon, and SUV-flavored Outback Sport wagon used a 165-horsepower 2.5-liter engine. Counterpart WRX models had a 227-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter.
All Imprezas had cruise control, a CD player, and power windows/locks. For 2003, the 2.5 RS and the Outback Sport added standard remote keyless entry. All models gained dual visor vanity mirrors and a lighted ignition switch.
2004 Impreza
A super-performance WRX STi sedan joined the lineup for 2004, packing a 300-horsepower turbocharged engine. The STi was developed by Subaru’s performance division: Subaru Technica International. Equipped with 17-inch wheels, the STi featured a taller hood scoop, larger “biplane” rear spoiler, and unique cabin trim. Audio equipment was an option on the STi, which aimed at enthusiasts.
All Imprezas were facelifted for 2004, featuring larger headlamps in a reshaped nose. Also this year, WRX models gained revised front seats and gauge cluster. Heated front seats and a sunroof were newly optional.
2005 Impreza
Interior revisions and two new appearance-enhanced models highlight 2005 for the smallest Subarus. For ’05, Imprezas get upgraded interior materials, a new center console and door panels, and exchange a 4-spoke steering wheel for a 3-spoke design. WRX and STi gain automatic climate control and, along with the 2.5 RS Sport, an in-dash CD changer. New for ’05 is the 2.5 RS Sport sedan with WRX-style lower body trim, seats, steering wheel, and audio system. Also new is the Outback Sport Special Edition with rear spoiler, interior upgrades, and CD changer.
2006 Impreza
Impreza expands its sporty WRX roster for 2006, and all versions of Subaru’s smallest cars get freshened styling and more standard safety features. For ’06, base-level sedans and wagons are renamed 2.5i from 2.5 RS. Like the Outback, they have 173 hp, a gain of 10. WRX models gain a base WRX TR sedan and a top-line Limited sedan and wagon. These retain turbo power, but replace a 217-hp 2.0-liter engine with a 230-hp 2.5. WRXs exchange 16-inch wheels for standard 17s for ’06; the STI retains 17s. Front side airbags providing head and torso protection are standard on all Imprezas for ’06 vs. just WRX and STI previously. All get a revised nose and taillamps.
2007 Impreza
Impreza carries over unchanged.

Engines

transverse front-engine/all-wheel drive

Regular Imprezas used a 2.5-liter, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that developed 165 horsepower. A smaller (2.0-liter) turbocharged engine went into the WRX, rated at 227 horsepower. When the WRX STi debuted during 2003, it held a 300-horsepower turbo. Imprezas may have either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, but the STi came only with a six-speed manual gearbox. All Subarus have all-wheel drive. For ’06, base-level sedans and wagons are renamed 2.5i from 2.5 RS. Like the Outback, they have 173 hp, a gain of 10. WRX models gain a base WRX TR sedan and a top-line Limited sedan and wagon. These retain turbo power, but replace a 217-hp 2.0-liter engine with a 230-hp 2.5.

ohc H4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/150
Engine HP 165-173
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 166
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
21/27
21/27
Turbocharged dohc H4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 227
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 217
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
20/27
19/26
Turbocharged dohc H4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/150
Engine HP 230
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 235
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
20
21
26
26
Turbocharged dohc H4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/150
Engine HP 300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual

18/24

18.2

Road Test

Manual-transmission WRX sedans and wagons are fast–capable of accelerating to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. However, they suffer tepid throttle response below 3000 rpm or so, along with turbo lag. Regular Imprezas have adequate pep with either transmission. Explosive is the word for STi acceleration–once the turbo boost arrives. An STi can reach 60 mph in a mere 5 seconds.

All-wheel drive negates torque-steer pull on hard takeoffs. In regular Imprezas, the manual shifter demands a firm hand to select the desired gear, and frequent use for maximum “go.” The short-throw lever in the WRX, on the other hand, is a joy to operate.

Fuel economy falls short of subcompact rivals. A test WRX sedan averaged 20.5 mpg in mixed driving with performance testing–respectable in view of its rapid acceleration. An extended-use WRX wagon averaged 21 mpg, including mostly highway travel.

In mixed city/highway driving, an STi averaged 18.2 mpg. Impreza 2.5 models use regular fuel; WRX and STis require premium.

Although the ride is satisfyingly stable at highway speeds, a WRX is choppy and jiggly even on fairly smooth roads. Standard 16-inch tires slap and thump intrusively over tar strips and expansion joints. Optional 17-inch tires transmit even more impact harshness. No Impreza deals well with sharp bumps, and the STi is almost brutally stiff.

Imprezas are more agile than most subcompacts. Handling is helped by all-wheel drive and accurate steering. The WRX corners with great poise and stability, though grip could be better. Response is marginally sharper with available 17-inch tires. The STi is even more nimble, though its performance tires are unlikely to cope well with snow. Stopping power is strong enough, but brake-pedal feel on test models has been numb, with inconsistent modulation. Brakes are superb on the STi.

The WRX is a fairly relaxed medium-speed cruiser, but the engine moans like a vacuum cleaner on light throttle and is throaty-loud at high rpm. Ever-present tire drone rises sharply on coarse pavement. Road and engine sounds are considerably more prominent in the Sti than in other models.

Primary gauges and controls are fine. A Momo-brand steering wheel and metal-look interior trim reinforce the WRX’s competition image. Fabrics, plastics and general finish are acceptable, but rank below those of the class-leading Volkswagen Jetta/Golf. Doors close with a tinny clang, as does the sedan’s trunklid,

Six-footers have acceptable head room up front, but rearward seat travel is limited for the long-legged. Imprezas have a tilt steering wheel and height-adjustable driver’s seat. The WRX and STi add bolstered bucket seats, providing secure lateral location in aggressive cornering.

Not everyone is able to find a satisfying wheel/seat/pedal relationship. Visibility in sedans is impaired by wide rear roof pillars and the STi’s mammoth spoiler.

Imprezas are slightly roomier in the rear than like-sized subcompacts. Head room is sufficient for those up to 5-foot-11, but knee/leg space gets tight behind a like-sized front occupant.

Too narrow for three adults, the rear bench seat is not well-shaped. Entry/exit is hampered by a fairly deep step-down, narrow floor-level passageways, and doors that should open wider.

Sedan trunklids open wide to a moderately-sized hold. Wagons swallow most anything a car like this would normally carry. Sedans (except for STi) have a rear center pass-through, wagons a more useful 60/40 split-fold seat. Interior storage is on the lean side.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan, manual

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 7
70%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 4
40%
Steering/Handling - 8
80%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 49

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
99.4 173.4 68.1 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.0 15.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.6 36.7 42.9 33.0
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
99.4 173.4 66.7 58.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
61.6 15.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.7 37.3 42.9 33.7
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Clutch
Description: The clutch pedal may not return fully, requiring replacement of the clutch fluid line and slave cylinder (naturally aspirated 2.5-liter) or fluid line only (2.5-liter turbo). (2002-03)
Engine mounts
Description: Due to the multitude of configurations (bolt holes, accessory attachment points, etc.), cylinder heads for 2.5L engines are extremely difficult to interchange, often making the simplest solution replacement of the engine. (2002-05)
Keyless entry
Description: The remote keyless entry (RKE) transmitter buttons may be activated inadvertently and an improved RKE case has been made available. (2005-06)
Windshield washer
Description: The washers for the windshield and/or rear window may not work properly unless a revised check valves have been installed in the hoses. (2006)
Seatbelts/safety
Description: The seatbelt male latch may slide down the belt because the top button breaks or falls out, requiring a replacement button. (2002-03)

Recall History

2002-03 Impreza with automatic
Description: Defective transmission parking rod may allow vehicle to roll when in Park. Dealers will replace defective paring rod.
2002-03 Impreza
Description: Left front bolt that retains forward part of driver’s seat may loosen; bolt will eventually fall out, and seat may separate.
2002-03 Impreza wagon
Description: Over time, the rear-gate support may separate from the gate, causing the gate to drop, increasing the risk of injuries to those under the gate. Dealers will inspect, and, if necessary, replace the rear gate support.
2002-03 Impreza WRX models
Description: Vehicles originally sold in or currently registered in the states of: South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Colorado, Wisconsin, New York, Wyoming, Michigan, Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. During cold starts, typically under extremely cold temperatures, fuel leaks in the fuel delivery line could occur where the line connects with a rubber hose. Fuel leaks, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire. Dealers will replace the fuel line free of charge.
2002-04 Impreza
Description: Defective cruise control cable might cause vehicle to remain in cruise even though driver wishes to cancel. Dealers will install a retaining clip on the cruise control cable.
2002-2007 Impreza
Description: Vehicles in certain states have front lower control arms that may break at the hanger brackets due to corrosion caused by salt and humidity.
2004 Impreza
Description: Engine oil leak at oil control valve might lead to engine fire. Dealers will inspect and retighten the oil-flow control valve cover bolts.
2004 Impreza
Description: Cover bolts for engine oil control valve may not be sufficiently tightened, allowing oil to leak around cover gasket.
2006 Impreza
Description: The wiring harness for the air bag occupant detection system in the front passenger seat may have been pinched during production, resulting in a possible electrical short. Dealers will inspect to see if the wiring had been incorrectly routed under the seat bracket.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.