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This is the last of the 'classic' Imprezas, which are about to be replaced by a very different hatchback model. It's called the GB270, a name apparently combining a reference to Subaru’s most successful WRC event – Rally GB – with the power output of the Prodrive-tweaked 2.5-litre engine. Because it's based on the WRX rather than the range-topping STI, the GB270 is neither the most powerful nor the best-equipped Impreza Subaru has ever offered, but it is an appealing package.

Exterior

Lowering springs give the Impreza GB270 a purposeful stance, and the arches are packed with Prodrive GT1 7.5x18in alloys wearing Pirelli PZero tyres. On the saloon the wheels are silver, and the same theme is picked up with a polished stainless steel mesh grille. By contrast the Sports Wagon has gloss black wheels and black grilles, giving it a more aggressive mien. Rear privacy glass and a waist-level tailgate spoiler complete the picture. The saloon has a more flamboyant style, with a WRC-style Prodrive rear wing and an STI front lip spoiler. Privacy glass is available as an option for the saloon, at £405.

Interior

Special floor mats and badges mark out the GB270 inside, and you also get a very nasty Momo gearknob which has clearly been designed for a left-hand drive car. It doesn't work in a right-hand drive one because razor sharp edges across the top of the knob shave your palm as you change gear – sharp edges which the Italian designers have clearly arranged to be out of the way of a driver’s right hand. It would be the first thing to go if the car was mine.

If all that still isn't enough there are a couple of option packages – an 'ICE pack' consisting of a Clarion SatNav and iPod adaptor and Bluetooth phone kit (£1750) and a stylish GB270-branded leather or Alcantara/leather interior (£1400 on the saloon, £1600 on the Sports Wagon).

Performance and Economy

Chief among the extras included in the GB270's price is Prodrive's Performance Pack, normally a £1700 option. In standard form the WRX, with the 2457cc Active Valve Control System engine, develops 230ps at 5600rpm and 236lb ft of torque at 3600rpm. Prodrive's upgrade improves engine breathing by fitting less restrictive intercooler pipework and higher-flow exhaust silencers, and the breathing improvement is complemented by a retuned engine management system.

The result of these relatively minor mods is an increase in power to 270ps at 5700rpm and a leap in torque to 310lb ft at just 3000rpm. And it's not just the high torque peak which is significant – the shape of the curve is also important. The PPP-equipped WRX can generate more torque anywhere between 2400rpm and 5500rpm than the standard car can at its peak. On the road, the effect is electrifying.

Of course it's quicker than the standard WRX, as the headline figures suggest: the 0-60mph time drops from the standard WRX's 5.9 seconds to 5.3, and the 0-100mph time is cut from 14.4 seconds to 13.9. There's an effortless superiority to the way it accelerates past slower traffic in almost any gear that the WRX, swift though it is, can't match. Even the more powerful STI struggles to keep up unless you make the best use of its six-speed gearbox to keep the engine spinning at optimum speed. The STI only really shows its 10ps power advantage above about 3500rpm, and the rest of the time the PPP-equipped GB270 delivers similar performance in a more relaxed style.

The engine upgrade is complemented by a 'quickshift' gear linkage which cuts lever movement and delivers swift, crisp changes. But because the GB270 is based on the WRX rather than the full-house STI, you have to make do with a five-speed gearbox.

Ride and handling

The GB270 does without the Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD) fitted to the STI models, but in practice that makes little difference. The revised spring rates have been carefully chosen to deliver excellent grip without compromising too much on ride quality, making the GB270 a more practical everyday proposition than the more stiffly-sprung Mitsubishi Evo IX. But indirect steering and an over-large steering wheel let the side down, making twisty lanes a chore.

Ownership

Saloon and Sports Wagon versions are available, both costing £22,995. That means the saloon is £2898 more than the standard car, the Sports Wagon £1898 more than normal – yet both carry special equipment which would normally set you back over £7000.

Verdict

Judge the GB270 on its own merits and it's a likeable package. It has most of the performance of the STI but with a slightly more relaxed demeanour. It has some subtle styling enhancements which set it apart without being garish. It will also be a very rare car – just 300 saloons and 100 Sports Wagons are due to be made – and it will have some kudos in years to come as the final derivative of the 'classic' Impreza series. But what it doesn't do is advance the Impreza's reputation, it doesn't in any way push the boundaries of Imprezadom to new heights. It's just a shame that the Impreza which will go down in history as the last of a classic breed, isn't likely to be remembered as one of the greatest.

Published by Total Impreza 2007