Tight European emissions laws mean buyers won't be offered the WRX model in some European countries when the hatch arrives here later this year. But we can now reveal the first pictures of a storming new STi hatchback. While dealers will get the first five-door Imprezas late this summer, the performance STi won't debut until October's Tokyo Motor Show. As a result, customers will have to make do with the entry-level car until the flagship arrives in 2008. The STi is powered by a tuned version of the 2.5-litre boxer engine, turbocharged to produce more than 300bhp and around 400Nm of torque.
It will be mated to Subaru's existing six-speed manual box, while a new automated manual, sourced from specialist firm Aisin, is expected to join the line-up when the latest Impreza is facelifted in 2009.
That will ensure the hot STi can compete with its arch-rival, the Mitsubishi Evo X, which will get a paddleshift gearbox when it debuts next spring. The top Impreza gets a range of unique styling additions, including a specially developed bonnet, grille and a wide front bumper with big air intakes. Flared wheelarches smart 18-inch alloys, which will hide the existing STi's Brembo brake system. Buyers can expect to see minor tweaks to the all-wheel-drive system, and engineers have also taken the opportunity to tune the handling, thanks to a more compact double wishbone rear suspension set-up. Inside, the new Impreza range benefits from higher-quality trim, and the STi will also get a pair of supportive bucket seats up front to boost its sporty appeal.