Subaru WRX STi 2008-2013: Used car reviewUsed Car Reviews Motor Reviews Motor News
2008 Subaru WRX STi.
- G3 MY08
- Badge Description
- WRX STi AWD
- Engine Configuration Description
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- Overall Green Star Rating
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Premium ULP
- Drive Description
- Four Wheel Drive
And while the new car does have some handling and styling tweaks that will see it live on in the hearts and minds of the WRX faithful, it remains that you’re suddenly not trading off as much as usual by going second-hand.
While earlier versions of the WRX were the headline act and the STi was viewed more or less as a much pricier sideshow, by the time the 2008 version of the WRX arrived, the focus had shifted.
By then, the extra weight of the car had made the WRX less of a fire-cracker than it had been, meaning that the only version offering the sort of performance most buyers were looking for was, in fact, the STi.
It was the only version to offer the stylistic impact this market segment was after, too, and the wider wheel arches and body kit gave the STi the visual clout the then-new WRX simply did not.
The 2.5-litre engine which debuted in late 2005 (and, in fact, remains the engine in the new STi) was boosted to 221kW and 407kW (much as it still is today) for 2008 and a six-speed manual transmission was the only gearbox offered.
Unlike the new car unveiled recently which is available only as a sedan, the 2008 version was available exclusively as a hatchback in this market.
The sedan didn’t arrive until late 2010 and, in any case, the hatchback was the better looking version and the most popular one sold here.
Certainly, there seems to be more second-hand hatchbacks around today than sedans.
The same year (2010) also brought the option of a two-pedal STi; a five-speed tiptronic automatic which was, predictably, ignored by the target audience. Finding one now will require some effort.
The handling was about what you’d expect for an all-wheel-drive car with a pacey engine; it could understeer if you headed into corners too quickly, but for the rest of the time it had epic levels of grip, even on lousy surfaces.
The ride could be firm but not unexpectedly so for buyers of this type of vehicle, and the only real let-down was the quality of the interior plastics which is something Subaru seems never to have completely nailed.
Left to its own devices, the STi flat four seems very strong and durable.
The problems start when maintenance is ignored or the unit is either abused or treated to a range of 'improvements’ all aimed at extracting more performance.
There’s a bit of a torque deficit below about 3000rpm which seems typical of this engine, but it can actually be tuned out via the on-board computer (to an extent, anyway). But any fiddles beyond that would make us think twice about a particular example.
It’s not that the engine can’t be tuned for more power – because it certainly can – it’s just that unless you know exactly what’s been done and by whom, you could be looking at a hand-grenade with the pin missing.
A bigger exhaust isn’t much of a problem, provided it doesn’t make the car drone along at highway speeds, but wholesale changes to boost pressure and ignition mapping can have profound effects on the engine’s lifespan.
Obviously, any car with any factory warranty remaining will be a legal minefield should anything go wrong after such modifications have been carried out.
Beyond that, however, the Subaru engine has proved itself very tough in service and many owners have reported huge distances covered before major work has been needed.
Even things like water pumps and pulleys which many manufacturers recommend changing at the 100,000-150,000km mark seem to be stronger than that in a Subaru and experts we talked to say that 200,000km is not unusual for these components in the boxer four-cylinder.
The gearbox and clutch in the Subaru are less long-lived in some cases, though, and are known to be fuses.
That is, they’re the components that will usually let go first in an abused car. It’s not that they’re necessarily weaker than in competing cars, rather that the performance of the STi’s engine and the grip of the all-wheel-drive can really place these components under a lot of stress.
Make sure the manual gearbox shifts smoothly between all gears but particularly first and second and especially when the car is first started from cold.
While you’re making a cold start, listen for ticking noises from the engine.
Essentially, they shouldn’t be there and if they are, there’s a chance you’re looking at a car that is on the downhill run to oblivion thanks to skipped oil changes.
The clutch should engage smoothly and any vibration or jerking as the clutch takes up indicates either a worn clutch or flywheel, the latter probably being caused by the clutch getting hot too many times and leaving hot-spots on the flywheel.
This needs to be removed from the engine and machined to put right, so it’s not a simple matter.
It’s also worth taking a close look at the condition of the brake pads and tyres.
These components can also take a caning when an STi is used as Subaru intended, and they’re not necessarily cheap to replace.
They can often also tell you a lot about how the car has been used or abused; a tyre with a feathered edge or small bits of molten rubber balling up on its tread is a pretty good bet to have been used hard at some stage.
Our rating: 3.5 stars
Nuts and bolts
Engine/s: 2.5-litre 4-cyl
Fuel economy (combined): 10.3 litres per 100km
Safety rating (courtesy of www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au): 5 stars
- Performance is there if you work at it.
- Loads of grip in any circumstance
- Big street cred.
- Hatchback is a good size and shape for actually carrying things.
- Automatic is off the pace.
- Interior plastics and fit and finish can’t match the opposition.
- Could be a time bomb if it’s been raced or used hard all the time.
- Beware heavily modified cars.
Mitsubishi Evo X – The latest (and possibly last) hot-rod Lancer was fast and frenetic. Manual was best but spoiled by only having five gears. DSG not as good as it should have been. 3.5/5
Volkswagen Golf R – With all-wheel-drive the hottest Golf was a match for pretty much anything else at the price. Quality and classy package let down only by reliability cloud over optional DSG gearbox. Buy a manual. 4/5
Ford Focus RS – The hardest-edged hatchback of the lot in many ways. Awesome performance, sharp handling and clever front end even tamed front-drive layout. Collectible. 4/5
What to pay (courtesy of Glass’s Guide):
Model Year New Now
Hatch 2008 $59990 $29500
Hatch 2009 $61990 $32800
Hatch 2010 $61990 $36400
Hatch 2011 $59990 $39900
Sedan 2010 $59990 $37200
Sedan 2011 $59990 $46400