When the first generation Subaru Impreza was released in 1993, it kicked off with dismal sales figures. In the following year, this car’s fortunes changed for the better with a rise in sales figures.

Subaru made a critical decision to introduce the WRX (World Rally Experimental) versions of the Impreza which came with rally motivated technology such as All-Wheel Drive (AWD), stiffer suspension and turbo charged four cylinder engines.

In 1994 Subaru launched the STI (Subaru Tecnica International) versions of the WRX in Japan which featured performance tuned engines, transmissions and suspension.

As a result of the innovations, Subaru Impreza was powered to victories at the WRC (World Rally Championship) races with veteran drivers.

This made the car a popuar choice for race car drivers, rally enthusiasts or ‘gear heads’ as well as Police interceptors in Japan, Australia and the UK.

Last weekend I joined the fray when I was invited to test a Subaru Impreza WRX 94-98 Sti street version at the first official drag race held at the Namanve Industrial park. This was what I found out.

Performance and handling
When we were flagged off, I could hear the EJ20 2.0 litre turbo charged engine roar as I accelerated the 155 KW of engine power and felt the jerk as its turbo kicked in at 2,500 rpm. I managed to briskly up shift comfortably with the short shift manual gearbox to reach 100 KPH in 7.1 seconds.

Within a short time I could hear my navigator command me to power down as we reached the first round about of the drag race.

As I down shifted from gear 4 to 3 and 2, I carefully adjusted the steering to a half left lock to allow a mini drift at low power through the roundabout. I was conscious to avoid a fully-fledged drift maneuver which though entertaining would cost me drag race time.

This is when I appreciated the power of the low positioned horizontally opposed 4 cylinder Subaru boxer engines which worked well with the stiff suspension and All Wheel Drive (AWD) to allow me maintain dynamic stability and good traction. I could hear the cheering crowds amidst my navigator’s command ‘to power up’.

While enjoying the thrilling adrenaline pumping performance, I confidently powered the compact and aero dynamic car through the roundabouts and surged forward to the finishing line.

When I stopped, I concluded that driving the WRX STI first generation Subaru Impreza requires a driver to know the capabilities and limits of the car’s design and attributes to avoid crashing to a halt.

Newer generation WRX STI Subaru’s come with engines which have higher torque curves and lower rpm curves thanks to refined fuel delivery, AVCS variable valve timing technology and CVT transmissions.

Comfort and styling
The first generation Impreza does not look as bold and as impressive as the second generation one until it roars to life.

Interior of the one I test drove was crumped up, basic and rigged with gauges to monitor oil flow, engine temperature and turbo performance. It is a battle station with competition type pedals which remind you about the task at hand.

The subsequent generations come with sleeker and sharper features with bigger and bolder profiles. Comfort and infotainment features are world class as though to suggest a shift to a balance between performance and comfort.

Maintenance and reliability
Subaru Impreza cars are built to take some form of a beating, and the first owners usually don’t ‘spare the rod’. When buying a used one from Japan or the UK you need to inspect it carefully for major accident repair.

Have the engine compression examined in case you are inheriting a damaged engine. Maintenance in Uganda is much easier with the presence of an appointed Subaru dealer who stocks maintenance filters.


It is larger in size compared to the first generation. The sedan increased its width by 40 millimetres (1.6 in), while the hatchback notably increased by just 5 millimetres (0.2 in)—placing the two variants in different Japanese classification categories.

The third series of the Impreza is slightly longer, wider and offers a longer wheelbase. Two Subaru traditions were discontinued with the new model: the parking light switch atop the steering column is no longer present, and for the first time the windows have frames.