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f there is one thing I’ve always liked about that particular class of performance car of which the Subaru WRX STI forms part, it’s that they’re practical.

Think about it, here you have a four-door sedan with enough space for the core family and it goes like the proverbial “bat outta hell”. And now Subaru has done right by its fans by putting the boot back into this iconic brute.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that’s for sure. I do think the car is attractive, but there are other hot sedans (BMW’s 335i, for example) that I find prettier.

But going by the number of turned heads, thumbs-up signs and other positive responses I got while driving this beast, a whole province of people would disagree with me.

I dare say, and I know I will be raising Cain among the true faithful saying it, I quite liked the hatch version’s looks.

But then, I can’t say I was absolutely enamoured with the styling of the earlier sedan versions. So I suppose I should be ducking the stones and brickbats now, because the hatchback version was rather less than well received by the Scooby faithful, who wanted a boot with a huge wing on the back.

Well, they got the boot, and the big wing, back - and they’ve got the Scooby with the biggest pair of boots yet included in the bargain.

The car churns out 221kW at 6 000 rpm and 407Nm of torque at 4 000rpm - but that’s not all, folks. If you can handle a bit less torque and yearn for easier gearshifts, you can now also get a five-speed automatic with paddleshift kicking out 350Nm, but over a broader band of engine speed.

Having had the car for a mere two days, I can’t really call this road test, more a driving impression. And it left a good impression.

Look, Subaru is Subaru. They make nice, medium-quality family cars. With a growl and some real teeth, in the case of the WRX STI.

Essentially, the recipe is the same with the latest STI. The 2.5-litre boxer engine (a flat four, like the old Beetle engine, only infinitely better) is turbo-charged and wears a number 12 combat boot in the kicking department.

But it now also sports variable valve timing on inlet and outlet valves and, if I’m not mistaken, it will certainly put a blueish tint to the shins of most of its opposition, when driven in anger.

The Ford Focus RS comes to mind.

While the Ford’s take-off might be marginally quicker, I have no doubt everything else will belong to the Scooby. The STI is easier to drive, handles much better and is not cursed with the Ford’s elephantine torque steer under power.

The STI’s chassis is even better than its predecessors’. The suspension is far stiffer than before, resulting in “flatter” cornering, while driver involvement remains high as you want it. To enhance handling, Subaru has made the suspension system’s lower control arms from aluminium, reducing unsprung weight and helping the suspension to work more effectively.

The six-speed manual STI retains the Driver Controlled Centre Differential, while both STI models also enjoy the benefits of Si-Drive, effectively enabling the driver to choose from three throttle maps to suit conditions and mood.

Inside, everything is as one would expect it to be - neat, but not ostentatious, comfortable without being extraordinarily plush. In fact, sitting in a Scooby, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in an upmarket Toyota, for instance. Except for the Recaro sport seats in the front, of course. Recaro - need I say more? As far as I am concerned they are sport seats. You simply don’t need more.

Just maybe, the car is a bit quiet. You cannot listen to Janis Joplin AND enjoy the engine sound with the windows closed and the aircon on. So, I didn’t listen to Janis; I switched off the aircon and opened the window as often as I could, because that special flat-four engine sound is music to my ears.

Build quality? Well, things tend to be a bit softer than the German cars of our world, of course. That big scoop on the bonnet that allows the fresh stuff to cool the intercooler sometimes quivers like a bowl of jelly on a rougher road.

The odd rattle did appear here and there.

Overall though, nothing even suggested it wanted to fall off on a gravel road so it’s good enough.

At R519 000-odd, depending on options, this is one very exciting car to drive - hotter than a Porsche Boxster and cheaper too - and you can take the family on holiday, drag a trailer around and tackle gravel with ease.

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