Dsemaj' new manual funbox


Well-Known Member
May 3, 2006
Adelaide, Australia.
2003 Urabus Impreza WRX, 1997 Fraud Falcs EL Wagon
I finally got sick of having a big automatic car and went on my search for a fun, manual car.

After never owning a manual car before, and getting sick of niggly maintenance on a larger car, I decided it had to be smaller than my old E39. I originally had my heart set on a R53 Cooper S - the R56 was out of my price range, and I preferred the sound of the supercharged engine. Plus the possibility of cheap mods like reduced sized pulleys was also a bonus too. But sadly after a lot of looking around I couldn't find the right car at the right price, and I felt pretty burnt out after looking at a supposedly 60,000km R53 JCW, with the inspection finding very dodgy accident repairs.

I also considered a Renault Sport Clio, but after the most horrifying test drive in a "modified" Phase III Clio Sport 182 I decided against it. It seemed like it was already falling apart after 80,000km and this particular car had rough, creaking coilovers, extremely loud exhaust. It seemed like fun, but I'd probably have a gun to my head after a week.

Joking around with my brother, he suggested I look at WRX - I'd never considered one because of the lack of clean, unmodified examples and thought they would be too overpriced. Just to prove him wrong, I went on the internet to laugh at the hideous examples for sale. But annoyingly, I found what appeared to be the perfect car...

One owner, unmodifed apart from the wrong brakes being replaced with ventilated disks. It was owned by mature lady who used it on the school run but it had only done 67,000km in 10 years. Driving the car was great - I didn't want a car with too much grip, and the power was addictive. The WRX legend holds true, you don't have much power before 3k RPM, but if you work the gears and keep it working, it felt like the car wouldn't stop. With no stupid exhaust, silly suspension or mods it drove like a new car, and had every receipt from new. I was also blown away by the presentation of the car and against my original instincts, I had to have it.

I've had the car for two months now and it's been great - I'm finally getting to grips with AWD driving style, and getting used to some of the bizarre handling characteristics. With cars that I've had, usually when tyres start squealing and complaining, you're pretty close to the limit and need to back off. In the 'rex, it means put your foot down harder and the car just grips and blasts through the corner. It takes a leap of faith to ensure you don't stuff it up!

The power is great and completely addictive, but you've got to ensure you're doing it in the right spot or it can be embarrassing. It's interesting, everyone says WRXs are easy to drive fast, but it is easy to bog off at launch, and easy to over-compensate with revs and burn the clutch out. Once you get used to it though, the car absolutely rockets off the line! The engine requires you to keep rowing the gears to keep it in the usable power band, but I like this. If you're lower than 3.5k, you don't quite get the shove out of the corner. I'm sure a dyno tune would make the torque a bit more usable down low where you need it.

However, I do regret not waiting longer to find a STi with the 6 speed and DCCD adjustable diff - the MY03 has a very short 4.11 diff and 5th will leave you at just under 3k at 100km/h. To me, it seems like the car is wasting fuel at highway speeds, but part of that is probably being used to longer geared cars designed for the autobahn.

But on the subject of fuel economy, it's not nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I believe that what most people believe is bad fuel economy is to do with the fuel gauge. The first half will disappear really quickly, and when the gauge indicates just under half a tank, it will only require 25L to brim the tank again. As it has a 60L tank, it's pretty inaccurate. The fuel warning light tends to come on at 10-15L left, which makes people believe they've burnt through almost 60L in less than 400km. I wish the car had a more advanced trip computer like all my BMWs had, but after a few calcuations the car is only doing around 12L/100km around town, which is pretty good if you ask me, considering the power and performance. But make no mistake, if you drive like a complete dickhead (read - a typical WRX driver) if you like making fuel disappear, this car will do it better than some V8s!

After getting the car back, annoying I noticed some acid marks from bird poo on the roof - they are barely noticeable unless you look for them, but if they don't go away with detailing I would probably consider some repainting on the roof panel. I bought the car knowing that the timing belt needed to be done - Subaru recommends 4 years or 100,000km, despite not doing 100k yet I didn't fancy driving around with a brittle timing belt. It only cost $550 with the car's last service (service only cost $195 from a local WRX specialist!), so the reduced servicing costs are welcome.

Since I've got the car, I've upgraded the head unit to a double DIN DAB+ unit with Bluetooth - the stock system was so terrible, crackly, flat and distorted as soon as you got some decent volume. I've never come across such a bad stock sound system before! I also got some Morel Maximo 6 speakers for the front which brings in some nice bass, and the new tweeters fit in the stock position in the door card, so a plus for retaining the stock look.

After a few drives in the country, I was disappointed with the engine note at higher speeds at WOT. So I replaced the rear muffler section (axle back as the 'rex guys call it) for a stock STI section, which I managed to pick up near new for $100. The difference isn't massive, but it gives a bit more of a note in all situations, and I can hear the engine without being drowned out by road noise.

In terms of mods, I'm planning on a dyno tune later in the year, and maybe a turbo back exhaust to go with that for more performance. I'm tempted to do some dynamat in the doors to reduce road noise and help the stereo as well.

Watch this space!



Now needs wood
May 29, 2008
MWF HQ, Ukadia
MX-5 1.8i Indiana SE, update pending
Nice ride. Don't forget the proof pic.


Well-Known Member
Jul 13, 2011
Pacific Rim
HMCS Velvet Glove; The Last Samurai
That looks so much nicer/cleaner than my decidedly roughed up (by yours truly) example.

Great choice for an all-round car. Fun (particularly when the road textures get wonky), safe, reliable little donkey.