Tested: 2010 Subaru Impreza 2.0 RS AWD

The light-weight contender

Think before you speak, something I should’ve done last week before I had to eat my own words with a hefty side dish of umm’s and ah’s. When the friendly Subaru chaps dropped off a pearl-white Impreza sedan I immediately mistook it for a WRX, hence I pointed out their blunder: “No, no, I’ve tested this before” I alleged. “No, no, you haven’t!” they retaliated.

Whoops. So similar is the shape and bodywork of the Impreza WRX to its younger sister RS that even a seasoned car nut like me got it wrong. Besides, I don’t think anybody would really complain about testing a Subaru twice, or models that appear to be identical twins.

Perhaps I should quickly run you through the Impreza line-up for the sake of clarification. The Impreza sedan is available in two guises: 2.0 RS (today’s review victim) and 2.5 WRX. For even more wide-eyed motoring moments you have the 221kW hatchback STi in standard and Premium trim.

Good, now for the power figures. Take notes if you have to. Our sparkly white 2.0 RS test model has a 2-litre Boxer 4-cylinder engine worth 110kW (150hp), the 2.5 WRX uses a 2.5-litre turbocharged and intercooled Boxer 4-cylinder with 195kW, while both STi’s harness a 221kW monster version of the WRX motor.

Performance for the four respective models, in order of 0-100km/h acceleration and top speed, are as follows: 9.6 seconds and 193km/h, 5.3 seconds and 233km/h, 5.18 seconds and 255km/h (for both STi derivatives).

You may have just discovered, much like I did, that someone stuck us with the slowest and least powerful model in the Impreza range. But remember that we’re talking about a blue-blooded rally descendant here and that the 2-litre RS represents your entry into the world of Subaru.

Should you need more persuasion to stare at the base model Impreza, look no further than its price tag of N$269 000. That’s exactly N$90 000 less than the WRX and a heart-stopping N$200 000 cheaper than the window-licking-mad STi.

My mission became abundantly clear, to discover if the Impreza RS is deserving of its starry blue badge. As already mentioned, it looks like a carbon copy of the WRX and should swindle most members of the public into thinking you bought the dearer car.

Plus, from where I was standing I didn’t have an el-cheapo taste at all and the base-model seems to have escaped the fiscal chop with a decent amount of equipment. The upsides of a WRX seem to be HID / Xenon headlights with washers, leather (ish) interior, bigger wheels, different instrumentation and pedals, a bonnet scoop and a sunroof.

Most importantly, the 2.0 RS has retained the Subaru Symmetrical All Wheel Drive System with something called a Viscous-coupling Centre Differential. And at a grand below N$270 000, that should scare the nuts and bolts off most competitors in that price range.

The only negative remark I can make about the Impreza RS is that potential owners should never, ever, under any circumstances, take a WRX for a test-drive. The difference in performance is nothing less than monumental and the RS has a power-plant that is, dare it type it, civilised for a Subaru.

The overwhelmingly harsh power delivery of the bigger turbo engine is in stark contrast to the linear and smooth abilities of the 2-litre 4-cylinder. The exhaust music still plays a thumping Boxer melody, but at significantly subdued volumes.

Performance in daily traffic is quite acceptable and the 196Nm of torque invite you to change up early for better fuel consumption (8.9L/100km average). Unlike the force-fed engines, this engine comes alive at higher rpm’s and even switches off the air-con when you give it the spurs.

Surely I need not tell you that the AWD Impreza clings to tarmac like you-know-what to a blanket? Like the WRX it also leans into corners initially but hangs on to the road long after other cars have retired into the scenery. Its ABS brakes are slightly different from the higher-spec Subarus but I couldn’t detect much difference or any sign of weakness. They’re superb.

The Impreza’s interior is equally basic but not at a cheap ‘n nasty level, with our test-car flaunting a snazzy new double-din CD/mp3/radio unit. Sound reproduction is sufficiently crisp and the system is easily comprehended with buttons on the steering wheel for extra convenience.

So does the Impreza RS deserve its Subaru emblem? Absolutely. Is it worth the 90 thousand Rand saving? I’ll leave that one to you, but considering that I’m still terrified of the WRX and STi’s it does hold a sensible and comforting significance.

At N$269 000 it also represents exceptional value, coupled with its 3-year 63 000km maintenance plan and 3-year 100 000km warranty.

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