2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS
2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS
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by Greg Wilson

Though the new 2002 Impreza WRX has captured most of the limelight, the other Impreza models, TS Wagon, RS sedan, and Outback Wagon have also been improved. This week’s Test-Drive vehicle, the 2.5RS sedan, has new ‘rally-car’ styling, a stronger body structure, a wider track, a roomier interior, a new rear seat armrest and pass-through, and an emergency release handle in the trunk. The MSRP is $26,995.

Mid-level Impreza RS model handles well, but could use engine refinement

Subaru’s entry-level compact car, the Impreza is offered in four trim levels and two bodystyles for the 2002 model year: TS Sport Wagon, Outback Sport Wagon, RS sedan, WRX sedan, and WRX wagon.

While the new turbocharged, rally car-derived WRX is the star of the Impreza lineup this year, it’s priced considerably higher than the other Impreza models and will likely remain more of an image car than a sales leader.

The bread-and-butter Impreza, the base TS Sport Wagon, starts at $21,995, and replaces last year’s TS sedan ($22,195) and Brighton Sport Wagon ($18,395). The 2002 TS sedan offers a new standard 2.5 litre four cylinder motor replacing the previous 2.2 litre engine and adds such standard equipment as power windows and doorlocks, air conditioning, CD player, and anti-lock brakes.

The Impreza Outback Wagon ($26,395) whose styling and higher ride-height imitate the ‘outdoor’ theme of the Legacy Outback, also gets the new standard 2.5 litre engine, 16 inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, cargo cover, and roof rack.

The Impreza 2.5RS sedan ($26,995) the subject of this week’s test-drive, retains the same 2.5 litre engine but the two-door RS coupe model has been discontinued. The Impreza 2.5 RS sedan has a new ‘sport-tuned’ suspension, wider front fenders, a rear seat armrest with trunk pass-through, and a child safety release in the trunk.

New for the 2002 model year are the WRX sedan ($34,995) and the WRX wagon ($34,995). They have a new 227 horsepower turbocharged 2.0 litre engine, and an optional automatic transmission fitted with Subaru’s new Variable Torque Distribution (VTD), a more sophisticated all-wheel drive system that enhances vehicle stability.

More interior room

All 2002 Impreza sedans and wagons have new styling, a stronger body structure, and a slight increase in size which provides more headroom, legroom, and shoulderroom. This is particularly noticeable in the rear seat where the hip point has been raised 37 mm and the seat moved back 28 mm to increase rear legroom.

Subaru claims the new Impreza has 147 per cent more torsional rigidity and 82 per cent greater bending rigidity than the previous Impreza, and provides greater crash protection. This is due in part to a new ring-shaped reinforcing body structure, a new hydroformed subframe, and improved side-impact protection.

Compared to 2001 Imprezas, new Imprezas have larger, oval-shaped headlamps instead of rectangular ones, larger tailamps, and prominent fender bulges. Headlamps and turn signals are located underneath the large oval clear plastic lense covers, and on models without front fog lights, there are body-coloured inserts in the round slots where the fog lamps would normally be. I think this looked rather unattractive, but the only other way to fill the hole is to put a fog light in it.

The new front bumper has a large, central rectangular air intake and smaller ducts for the brakes on each side of the bumper, and unlike earlier Imprezas, there is no hood scoop or air ducts.

At the rear are new, larger taillamps with built-in back-up lights, and a single exhaust pipe. An ‘AWD’ decal in the rear window reminds those following the Impreza that some cars, not just trucks, have full-time four-wheel-drive.

Sporty interior for four

With its emphasis on performance, the 2.5RS has a very sporty looking interior which includes comfortable front seats with wide thigh and torso bolsters which provide excellent lateral support when cornering. Front and rear outboard seating positions have distinctive, bright seat inserts and matching door inserts which look very attractive.

The driving position offers a clear view of the instruments, controls and the road ahead – the Impreza’s fairly tall ‘greenhouse’ design, and comparatively low trunklid provide good outward visibility to the front and rear. The driver’s seat is manually-height adjustable.

The driver faces a small, sporty, leather-wrapped four-spoke steering wheel, and three metal-rimmed round gauges with big white-on-black lettering: a central speedometer, tachometer, and fuel/coolant gauges. The centre dash area has some attractive metallic-look trim surrounding the controls, as do the round air vents in the dashboard. A single cupholder pulls out of the dashboard at an angle so that when a cup is inserted, it doesn’t obscure the radio controls below it. There’s also another open cupholder behind the shift lever.

An AM/FM/single disc CD player with four speakers is standard and there’s an open storage area above the stereo to store CD’s. In addition, there’s another open storage area at the bottom of the centre console, a covered coin storage bin on the lower left dash, glovebox, front door pockets, and a small closed bin between the front seats. Despite all these, I felt there wasn’t enough storage space in the Impreza.

The power window and door lock buttons are located on the door armrests, but unusually, the power mirror buttons are on the centre console behind the hand brake lever.

As with most Japanese cars, the light switch is on the left stalk, and the wiper controls, including variable intermittent wipers, are on the right stalk. A separate, easy-to-reach stalk operates the cruise control functions.

The rear seat has plenty of legroom and headroom but the cabin is too narrow for three adult passengers even though there are three three-point rear seatbelts. The rear seat has a new folding centre armrest, and behind it is a pass-through to the trunk for skis, poles and other long objects. I noted that there are no cupholders for rear passengers and the rear side windows roll down about 80% of the way.

All Impreza sedan models (2.5RS, WRX sedan) have a fixed rear seatback while all wagon models (TS Sport Wagon, Outback Sport, WRX wagon) have split folding rear seatbacks. I think a folding rear seatback, even if its optional should be available in the sedan as well as it greatly increases cargo carrying capability.

The trunklid is easy to lift, but doesn’t have a grab handle which means you have to put your fingers under the lip to open it. The trunk, though not big, has a wide opening and a useful shape.

Driving Impressions

Because of its comparatively large 2.5 litre horizontally-opposed four cylinder engine, the Impreza has generous torque (166 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm) and is responsive to the accelerator pedal throughout its rev range.

In straight-line performance, the all-wheel-drive 2.5RS is not quite as quick as some of its front-wheel-drive competitors, probably because it weighs a few hundred pounds more. In a recent acceleration test performed by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, the 165 horsepower Impreza 2.5RS went from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.5 seconds. That compares to 9.4 seconds for the 130 horsepower Mazda Protégé, 9.8 seconds for the 130 horsepower Ford Focus ZX5, and 8.5 seconds for the 175 horsepower Nissan Sentra SE-R.

Still, I’m willing to bet that the Impreza is faster, and safer, in the wet or snow. Its full-time all-wheel-drive system provides much better traction and stability on slippery roads. The 2.5RS also has a surprisingly high ground clearance of 150 mm (5.9 in.) which makes it capable of driving on gravel backroads or light packed snow streets.

The 165 horsepower engine offers acceptable, but not class-leading fuel consumption, again due to the car’s extra weight and all-wheel-drive system. With the standard manual transmission, fuel consumption in the city is 11.5 l/100 km (25 mpg) and on the highway, it’s 7.8 l/100 km (36 mpg). Equipped with an automatic transmission, fuel consumption is better in the city and worse on the highway: 10.6 l/100 km (27 mpg), and 8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg). The engine uses Regular grade gasoline.

Under acceleration, the engine makes a growling sound, and is noticeably ‘rougher’ than the 2.0 litre turbocharged engine in the Impreza WRX, or the Impreza’s previous 2.2 litre four cylinder engine. At highway speeds, the engine settles down to a low rumble � the engine does 2800 rpm at 100 km/h and 3300 rpm at 120 km/h.

The standard five-speed manual shift lever has relatively short, easy-to-manage throws which takes some of the drudgery out of stop-and-go city driving. For 2002, Subaru added a new flexible flywheel to suppress driveline vibrations and reduce driveline noise. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional.

In braking tests, also conducted by AJAC, from 100 km/h to 0, the 2.5RS stopped in 62.6 metres (139 ft.). That compares to 61.5 metres (136 ft.) for the Protégé, 60.1 metres (139 ft.) for the Focus ZX5, and 61.6 metres (135 ft.) for the Sentra SE-R. The 2.5RS has standard disc brakes with ABS.

The 2002 Impreza 2.5RS has nicely-balanced handling due to mostly to its fully independent MacPherson strut ‘sport-tuned’ suspension, beefy Bridgestone Potenza RE92 P205/55R-16 inch all-season tires, and a slightly wider track. I found that the RS exhibited good balance and stability when required to change directions suddenly, absorbed bumps well, and had minimal dive under braking. The turning circle is a relatively tight 10.8 metres (35.4 ft.) and the engine-speed sensitive power rack and pinion steering feel is light and quick.

Driving on rain-soaked roads, the RS is noticeably more composed than rear-drive or front-drive competitors, with greater traction and stability, and as a result, safety. In a way, the Impreza is an ideal car for Canadian weather conditions � there are no other cars in this price range that offer all-wheel-drive. Overall, I was impressed with the Impreza RS’ vehicle dynamics, but I would like to see a little more engine refinement.

Price and features

For its base price of $26,995, the 2.5RS comes well-equipped with standard features such as air conditioning, AM/FM/CD with four speakers, woven cloth seats, dual front airbags, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power windows, door locks and mirrors, 16 inch tires and WRX-style alloy wheels, and four wheel disc brakes with ABS.

Noteworthy items missing from the standard equipment list include fog lights, keyless entry, and side airbags. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional.

Imprezas are made in Japan.

Technical Data: 2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS sedan

Base price $26,995
Freight $300
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.5 litre 4 cylinder, SOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 165 @ 5600 rpm
Torque 166 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5 speed manual
Tires 205/55R-16
Curb weight 1345 kg (2965 lb.)
Wheelbase 2525 mm (99.4 in.)
Length 4405 mm (173.4 in.)
Width 1730 mm (68.1 in.)
Height 1440 mm (56.7 in.)
Trunk space 311 litres (11.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.5 l/100 km (25 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.8 l/100 km (36 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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