Buyer’s Guide: Subaru Impreza WRX (2002-2007)

The Subaru Impreza WRX is a paragon of cheap 2000s performance. The WRX is endlessly modifiable and production numbers are simply massive. The turbocharged boxer-4, making 224 hp to all four wheels provides great stability and traction, lending itself well to rally racing. That’s exactly what WRX stands for, in fact. The Impreza World Rally X (WRX) is a fine choice for a daily driver, and if you’re in the market, this guide will teach you all you need to know.

What Subaru WRX options to look for

The blue and yellow Subaru WRX rally car airborne in Perth
Peter Solberg’s WRX rally car | Robert Cianflone via Getty Images

There was a mid-life facelift for these cars that split them into two groups: bugeye, like the one above, and hawkeye. These terms refer to the shape of the headlights, making them easy to tell apart. Hawkeye WRX models are easier to spot due to their more modern looks and angular headlights. However, some prefer the bugeye for its cleaner look.

Options aren’t plentiful on the WRX, befitting of its economy-car status. Bugeye models could be optioned with a few paint options, the most desirable being Sedona Red Pearl and Sonic Yellow. These ones also got a nicer interior and MOMO wheel, pictured below. 2004 brought in the WRX STI, by far the most valuable of the bunch. There were some Impreza models with an automatic or stick, so be sure to option the transmission you want. Moreover, some can be found with sunroofs should you desire.

Known issues

The interior of the Subaru WRX with a MOMO wheel
Subaru WRX interior | Antony Dickson via Getty Images

Should the stick be the one you want, there’s an issue to look out for. Beware of any shifter that feels “off”, grindy, or just not right. The early WRX’s 5-speed is horribly fragile, and it’s worth it to hold out for a 2003 model or newer. While Subaru’s all-wheel drive is great, the center differentials are a known failure point. Common symptoms can include a clunking or grinding sound on tight turns.

Now, about that EJ-series motor. They can be a little fussy, so find a model with strong service history. Of course, there’s the notorious Subaru head gasket issue; you’ll want to ensure that and the spark plugs are fresh. Most motors will also eat oil, and it’s more question of how much than anything. Lastly, some of the wiring can be a little suspect. Make sure to inspect relevant sensors and harnesses in the engine bay. Just follow the wires and make sure they look in good condition.

Subaru WRX reliability and pricing

The EJ series engine of the Subaru WRX
The WRX’s engine bay | Antony Dickson via Getty Images

Now that you know what issues to look for, the reliability of your candidate should be strong. Subaru makes a pretty tough little car, and as long as the finicky stuff is sorted, it’s common to see WRX models eclipse 200,000 miles. This brings us to the last challenge of the WRX- finding a clean one. Most have been heavily modified, so nice ones command a premium, but not as much as the WRX STI. A solid WRX like this one should sell for around $9-$15,000 depending on mileage. Bearing this in mind, the Subaru WRX is a fantastic performance bargain and a great, practical daily. Be sure to get one soon, as prices on these may come up in the near future.

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