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The New Look 2003 Impreza

On sale in the UK in February 2003, the new-look Impreza boasts a totally different front-end combining an aggressive presence with pedestrian-friendly safety features and aerodynamic efficiency. The facelift is shared with the 2003 World Rally Car which will benefit from a similar reduction in drag coefficient and improved high-speed stability.

Unlike some WRC competitors, Subaru has always striven to ensure its road cars inherit the technical and design DNA of its rally machines.Key design changes include a new front bumper, spoiler, bonnet, wings and three-dimensional headlamps. In addition, circular lamps are inlaid in the main headlamp units themselves which have a striking curved dip to their inner edges.

A strong flowing character-line sweeps from the lower edge of the circular headlamps and runs over the more steeply sloping bonnet to the windscreen. The top edge of the bumper is rounded, giving a sleeker look with improved airflow. The front wings now have a muscle-bound appearance and this menacing presence is complemented by larger air-intakes both above and below the number plate.

At the rear, all models have new bumpers and light units with a curved dip to their inner edges - similar to the headlamps - to enhance design integration. The WRX Sti gains a larger high-rise rear spoiler, front corner spoilers and new side sill spoilers which all contribute to improved high-speed stability. Meanwhile, a larger bonnet air intake enhances intercooler cooling.

Big news for WRX fans is an increase in power from 218 to 225 PS for the turbo-charged 2.0 litre boxer' engine. Equally important is improved throttle response thanks to revisions to the exhaust manifold aimed at smoothing the flow of exhaust gases. Meanwhile, the cooling performance of the 265 PS Sti engine has benefited from a change in the shape of the intercooler water spray nozzle and the air baffle plate inside the air scoop.

The Sti also has improved front suspension thanks to strengthened mounts for the transverse linkages and new cross-performance rods. As a result, handling and steering response are even better thanks to a reduction in geometry change during hard cornering. Both the WRX and naturally-aspirated 2.0 and 1.6 litre imprezas also have crisper handling characteristics, with increased steering precision - already highly praised by road-testers and customers alike.

The reason is sophisticated new shock absorbers. Featuring multiple-layer valves, damping forces are optimised in various speed ranges, with enhanced ride comfort as an added bonus.

New, high-quality cloth is used throughout the 2003 Model Year Impreza range with each model having its own pattern and character. On all 2.0 litre models, the centre console which houses the audio and heating controls is now in a dark metallic tone instead of being silver coloured. Sporty changes for the WRX include gun-metallic finish wheels and the repositioning of the rev-counter to the centre of the instrument display like the Sti. The Sti itself gains a new, smaller diameter (375mm) Momo steering wheel and blue carpets to match the seats and door trim.

Both occupants and pedestrians are better protected in the 2003 Impreza thanks to a whole series of safety measures. These include new anti-raindrop door mirrors which stay cleaner, enhancing visibility.

Like the new Forester, the new look Impreza has active front head-restraints which reduce the risk of whiplash injuries. The brake pedal is now energy-absorbing, being designed to snap away under severe impact, protecting the driver's lower limbs. In the rear seat are two ISOFIX-compatible child seat mountings.

Outside, pedestrian injury is reduced thanks to a more rounded contour to the top of the front bumper, a gently curved bonnet and windscreen wipers which crush, softening any impact.

The 2003 WRC (World Rally Car) Impreza.

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© 2003 Tim Price-Bowen / (all rights reserved) -