The success of the Subaru brand in Australia and New Zealand has prompted Japanese parent company Fuji Heavy Industries to produce a special sports version of the Impreza specifically for the two 'Down Under' markets, writes Donn Anderson.

Designed to fill the gap between the two-litre RX model and the turbocharged WRX, the 2.5-litre Impreza RS costs considerably less than the flagship WRX and limited production STi WRX sports versions.

Subaru's market share in Australia is the company's highest worldwide while New Zealand boasts the largest share for both new and used Subarus, a reflection of that country's high sales of used cars imported from Japan.

Five years ago, Subarus were seen by Australasian buyers as good cars though lacking in performance, in contrast to a recent survey where they were now rated as high performance cars.

Offered only in four-door sedan form, the Impreza RS has a 2.5 litre, 112 kW, four-cylinder 'boxer' (horizontally-opposed) engine in place of the two-litre 92 kW power unit in the RX Impreza. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels and wider 205/50R tyres distinguish the RS from the less powerful RX which has 15 inch wheels.

The RS also has sports seats, a Momo steering wheel, bigger brakes and the ABS braking system includes electronic brake force distribution (EBD) for better balance.

To give the RS a WRX look-alike appearance, the car has a boot lid spoiler, side skirts and a front air dam with fog lamps.

The WRX's stiffer suspension tweaks have also been applied to the RS which also has a larger fuel tank than the RX and a power steering oil cooler.

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