We’d pretty much given up on extracting any pleasure from the new Impreza. Then we drove the new 330S and – shock, horror – it’s very good indeed. Even more surprising, the differences between the 330S and the WRX STI aren’t particularly striking.
And the differences between the Subaru Impreza STI and 330S are...
The 330S begins life in Japan as the WRX STI. The factory then adds 18-inch five-spoke alloys, Alcantara/leather Recaros, keyless go and DVD sat-nav. UK cars, however, are a little more gifted, being fitted with the Prodrive Performance Kit once they land in Blighty. This boosts power from 300bhp to 325bhp and torque from 311lb ft to 347lb ft courtesy of engine management tweaks, freer-flowing intercooler piping, performance-friendly catalytic converters and chunky-looking quad exhausts.
So you’re saying you like it?
Love it. Particularly revealing was the fact that I drove the 330S back-to-back with my longterm Mitsubishi Evo X FQ-360. The Subaru has a nicer, slicker gear change with a sixth gear (the Evo’s manual gets just the five speeds and is far less tactile); the ride is better if still understandably firm; the steering is more progressive and less hyperactive immediately off-centre than the edgy Evo; and the engine is a whole lot better.
It's down on power, though
Forget about that. After all, the boggo Evo has slightly less power for less money, and the FQ-330 has the same power for slightly more cash. Yet I prefer this car to the FQ-360 – a car that costs £9k more. The Prodrive mods give the Subaru back its characterful flat-four burble, and the power delivery is far more progressive too when compared with the nothing-power boost-nothing of the thrashy Evo. And it’s this that allows you to better balance power against agile chassis where the Evo fires down the road like a ballistic weapon as you hold on tight for the ride.
The new Impreza’s perception as a bad car now has such momentum that the downward spiral will be very hard for the company to break. But don’t dismiss the 330S. It looks great, is more enjoyable to drive than the Evo – and this from someone who’s always voted Mitsi when push comes to shove – comes better equipped and offers better value for money.