Exterior & Styling

Let's not mince words here: When it comes to styling, Subaru went off the deep end a few years ago and brought us such gems as the B9 Tribeca Ч later blandified Ч and a couple models whose grilles were supposed to evoke parent company Fuji Heavy Industry's proud aircraft heritage. That the aircraft in question were the Japanese Zeroes that kamikazied themselves into the U.S. Navy in WWII must not have seemed significant to the Subaru product people. In the end, these designs were also zeroes, and they did more damage to Subaru's reputation than they did to us Yanks.

Along comes the 2008 Impreza WRX, looking still different than any other Subaru and a little odd in the front, but I must say it works better when you see it in person than it does in photos. The tail of my test sedan was more agreeable, recalling the Scion tC and any number of other cars. Its taillights are relatively simple, but at least they're not silver under clear lenses. Sadly, the same can't be said of the hatchback, which prolongs this tired trend that I'm confident history will judge as harshly as I have. The typical automaker sees a sedan as a more conservative choice that's likely to appeal to older buyers. Apparently hatchback buyers are perceived to have bad taste.

One improvement in the model's look is a better-integrated hood scoop, which draws in cooling air. Previously it stuck up higher Ч and does even more so on the STi.

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