In 1989 Subaru introduced the Legacy to Japan. The Legacy was an all-new car that took a dramatic evolutionary step forward from the previous Leone. The Legacy was larger than the compact Leone, approaching a mid-sized classification. Subaru needed a compact car in their lineup that would appeal to the entry level car buyer. To fill this gap in its product line, Subaru shortened the Legacy platform and created the Impreza for the 1993 model year.
Unique to the perception of the Impreza was Subaru's new rally image. The Legacy was becoming known in the WRC as one of the best cars on the circuit despite the team's frequent failings during its fledgling years. Subaru, recognizing a good marketing opportunity, claimed that the upcoming Impreza would be even better. Minor changes were made to the Legacy platform, in creating the Impreza, that made the car more durable, easier to work on, and better handling. Subaru's engineers kept the Legacy's easily field-repaired strut suspension setup and rugged drivetrain. While almost any car can become a rally car, few production cars can be said to have been engineered with rally in mind.
The Impreza was launched worldwide in sedan and sportwagon varieties, all equipped with a 110hp EJ18 engine. In North America, the base model sedan came in FWD with a manual transmission while an automatic transmission and AWD were independently optional features on the L and LS models. The Impreza was launched with a standard driver-side airbag, unavailable on the Legacy at that time. Otherwise, the Impreza's feature list was sparse to distinguish it's pricing from that of the Legacy.
In North America:
- -Impreza is introduced in sedan and wagon forms with 110hp EJ18
- -A 2-door coupe was introduced. The 2 door body (technically a 2-door sedan) shared all the same dimensions and most of the body panels except for a repositioned B-pillar and longer doors to ease ingress and egress for the rear seat passengers.
- -The Outback Sport was introduced.
- -A 135hp EJ22 was made available for upper trim-line AWD cars. The automatic transmission was no longer available paired with the EJ18.
- -Several safety upgrades made to meet 1997 standards.
- -AWD now standard on all Subaru cars in the USA.
- -Interior and Exterior refreshening. Hoods complete with vents and scoops from the WRX began appearing on 2.2L Imprezas to lend a sporty look.
- -The 2.5RS receives the WRX's front bumper and fog lights and replaces the gold paint on the wheels with silver.
- -The 2.5RS is made available in both coupe and sedan forms.
- -A new, stiffer chassis is introduced, based off of the 3rd Generation Legacy (2000-2004). This model is known as the "Bugeye" due to it's large round headlight clusters.
- -The turbocharged WRX powered by the EJ20 is introduced in the U.S. This is the first turbocharged Impreza sold in North America.
- -The 2.5RS becomes the base model, as the EJ22 is dropped from Subaru's lineup.
- -Due to slow sales and numerous complaints about the "cheery" styling of the Bugeye in foreign markets, the front end of the Impreza is restyled by Peter Stevens. A minor change was made to the rear taillights and bumper. This model is known as the Blobeye.
- -The WRX STI finally reaches North America with a surprise twist: a 300hp EJ25 instead of the expected 276hp EJ20.
- -Subaru decides to start restyling the nose of the Impreza every two years to keep the looks fresh. This time the nose was done in the style of the anticipated Subaru family look. The central yoke and bar-shaped grille openings were reminiscent of the head-on view of an aircraft's fuselage and wings, alluding to Fuji Heavy Industries aircraft manufacturing, both present and past. This model is known as the Hawkeye, or the OT as the Oinker Nose.
- -The 2.5RS name is dropped in favor of 2.5i.
- -A new chassis is introduced again, based off of the 4th Generation Legacy (2005-current). This model differs more radically from the other two generations with a stiffer frame, taller overall height, longer wheelbase, and for the first time, a dual-wishbone rear suspension.
- -The STI is differentiated from the standard Imprezas (2.5i & WRX) by bulging fender flares, among other things.
1st Generation - The GM/GC/GF
For more detail, see the GM/GC/GF article.
Often referred to as the GC8 even though that particular model (WRX) never even made it to North America in this body style, the 1st generation Impreza did not gain significant notoriety among the North American public until 1997 when the 1998 model year 2.5RS was launched. The Impreza was always well rated in print as long as AWD was involved. Consumer Reports claimed that the FWD version was unremarkable compared to its Honda and Toyota rivals. The only major gripe with most critics was the lack of power compared to its rivals, which the 2.5RS addressed.
2nd Generation - The GD/GG
3rd Generation - The GE/GH
- 1995 Manufacturers Champion
- 1996 Manufacturers Champion
- 1997 Manufacturers Champion
- 1995 Drivers Champion - Colin McRae
- 2001 Drivers Champion - Richard Burns
- 2003 Drivers Champion - Petter Solberg