Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we hit the archives and take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars. This week it’s Alex Wikin's Subaru Impreza WRX feature from 2014…
Who says you need a boring Qashqai or Zafira to drop the kids off at school? Sammy Housden’s low-down WRX STI proves you can be sensible and silly at the same time…
There was a time when it looked like the UK wouldn’t be receiving any more saloon-bodied WRXs. The third-generation Impreza threw a dramatic curveball into the performance car market in 2007, by screwing up all the years of rally-bred sports car heritage into a tight little ball and seemingly throwing it in the bin. It was a hatchback, you see, and that confused people.
As it turned out, the performance variants were pretty epic, and they did make a saloon version, just to throw further confusion into the mix for the marque historians of the future – and then the fourth-gen arrived in 2011 and all bets were off.
Another hatchback, with an offshoot which was a four-door saloon, the VA series, which wasn’t badged as an Impreza at all. They simply badged it WRX or, in sportier guise, WRX STI. So having resigned ourselves to the fact we wouldn’t be getting any more Impreza WRX saloons in Britain, we suddenly got a new one unexpectedly in 2014. Except we didn’t because it wasn’t called an Impreza. Confused? Yeah we kinda need a drink just thinking about it.
Befuddling as it all may be, if we bear in mind that it’s essentially an Impreza under the skin, the WRX STI all makes perfect sense. It certainly does to Sammy Housden, who’s been an Impreza enthusiast and fervent tuner for years. “I’ve owned modified cars since I learned to drive at 17, so it’s something I’ve always been into,” she explains. “I’ve had Imprezas since I was 19 and gradually just got newer and newer ones. There’s something about the sound of them that no other car I ever looked at could compare to! They’re reliable and practical too, ideal for me as a family car.”
We know what she means about the sound. It’s the unmistakeable wubba-wubba-wubba idle which transmutes into an offbeat thrum before rising to a gargling crescendo that keeps these car’s fans awake at night. And practical? Yeah, these machines tick a lot of boxes: that towering rear spoiler is bolted to a massive boot, there’s plenty of room in the back (and ISOFIX, of course), and you get all the toys you need for comfort and convenience. All that said, we’re not What Car? We don’t do standard car reviews. So you’ll be pleased to note Sammy’s followed her established route of modding the family mumwagon to a pretty savage degree.
“My boyfriend actually bought me the car, along with an engagement ring – I think he must have thought he needed something more to guarantee a yes out of me than just the ring!’ she laughs.
“It already had a few bits like the exhaust system, splitter, skirts, gauges and air filter, so it stood out compared to any of the others that were for sale.” A decent base for modding then, and as anyone who’s driven an STI knows, there’s a whole bunch of potential for hilarity in there. We had one on test back when they were new and the delivery driver pointed out two things that really sum up what sort of car this is: “Just remember, everyone tries to race you in this car,” he said. “You’ve just got to learn to ignore people. They’ll always be trying it on. Also, whenever you check your blind spot, you’ll think there’s someone under- or overtaking you; nine times out of 10 it’ll just be the spoiler catching your eye.” That’s what sort of car this is. A belligerent, shouty, aggressive one. Don’t go thinking practical means boring.
Keen to maximise this performance potential, Sammy’s car has been remapped to churn out a robust 331bhp, backed up by a thudding 350lb/ft of torque, which is more than enough to turn the school run into a white-knuckle thrill-ride. “I got the car in July last year and spent some time thinking about where to go with it,” Sammy explains. “I was weighing up the options of air-ride or coilovers, but having had both on cars I’d previously owned, I knew I’d never be happy with coilovers! So I set my heart on air and spent five months saving for parts that would instantly improve the look, rather than doing it bit by bit. I got inspiration from some of the American builds, so I knew exactly what I wanted.
“My fella is pretty handy when it comes to cars,” she continues. “So he fits all my parts for me. It conveniently worked out that when my air-ride turned up, he’d got a week off work, and spent the whole week sorting mine for me – despite the fact he’d been planning to work on his own car! Luckily we didn’t really hit any hurdles along the way, so far so good.”
Indeed that phrase ‘so far so good’ really sums up the build. Every decision here is a right one and it proves you don’t have to go completely mental with a project to create something that really stands out. We love the idea of bagging Subarus in general anyway, simply because it winds up the purist rally nutters. And it can’t be denied that the WRX STI looks fabulous when it’s laid out on the tarmac. Those chunky haunches and long, straight sills really react well to a drop in altitude, and the bronze-powdercoated Grid Drifts are an excellent accompaniment to the dazzlingly menacing metallic black paintwork.
“People always ask how I get over speed bumps,” she laughs. “I use the car on a daily basis for things like the school run – it’s a pricey way to get the kids to school, but who wouldn’t want dropping off in it?!”
See, what Sammy’s doing here isn’t just cruising around town in a badass ride (although that is indisputably what she is doing). She’s making her mark on posterity, creating memories for her kids’ futures. So many times when we talk to feature car owners, their inspiration stems back to the cool cars their parents had when they were little, and that’s what we’re viewing in real-time here: the creation of the next generation.
This car is the culmination of years of Subaru love. Sammy’s show-stopping daily is packing a true all-in-the-family proposition. Fast, practical, agile, tactile, with a trophy-winning finish – it’s brilliant at everything it does. There’s no Impreza badge on it, but there might as well be. Rapid boxer-engined saloons rock on many levels, and Sammy’s family transport is ruling the game.
TECH SPEC: SUBARU WRX
Metallic Black; Perrin wing stabilisers; wind deflectors; front
splitter; sideskirt extensions; rear bumper corner extensions; black vortex generators.
2.5-litre turbo flat-four; remapped (331bhp, 350lb.ft); Invidia cat-back exhaust system with rolled titanium tips; HKS dump valve, Hella horns; Perrin air filter; alloy radiator; Samco silicone hose kit; Exedy organic clutch.
9.5x18in ET38 Rota Grid Drift wheels – powdercoated in Pure Bronze; 225/35 Nankang tyres; Air Lift Performance 3P suspension; Brembo brakes.
Pro Sport oil temp and pressure gauges; Pioneer headunit.
Thanks to my boyfriend Sim for fitting all my parts and putting up with it all (and me); and also to VIP Motorsport; Fix A Wheel; Number Plate Clinic; Reflec Signs & Graphics; Meguiar’s UK; and last but not least QM Supplies for use of the location.
Words Dan Bevis Photography Daniel Pullen