This Impreza is a lovely drive, just so long as you don't have to look at it

As with the MI6 building at Vauxhall Bridge in London, or Alan Carr's teeth, it can take a while for some aesthetically challenging landmarks to work their way into your affections.

That's why I have left it a while to write about the new Subaru Impreza. When it was launched late last year, I was in a state of bewildered shock that anyone could build a car so grim. I mean, cars take months to design; the drawings are presumably inspected by dozens of people at all levels of the company throughout the process. Just what did the various Subaru employees say when they saw proposals for the new Impreza? Were they overcome by the same polite instinct that people have when presented with a gruesome newborn who looks like a cross between Buster Bloodvessel and a sea cucumber? Or is there someone high up, perhaps the designer or a Subaru chief, who has such a fearsome reputation for corporate slaughter that no one dares say what they really think? ("Shh," the brand managers whispered as they inspected the scale model. "Don't you remember what happened to Udigawa-san when he complained about the lack of power in the automatic jet-wash toilets?" While making a slicing action across their throats.)

So I was waiting hoping that the Prezza would grow on me as some cars do – the Jaguar XJS, for instance (mind you, that did take 20 years). But it hasn't really.

Driving it helped. It is a lovely, darty, agile thing, just as an Impreza should be. Though the interior is still truly nasty with sub-Honda garden-furniture-type plastics, the new model is a much more supple and insulated drive and not so highly strung as performance Scoobies of the past. And though the fearful aesthetics are not such a worry when you are actually in the thing, you can't help but sympathise with the poor buggers who have to watch as it goes past.

The 300bhp STi is at least a little more dramatic, with its blistered wheel arches and a rear spoiler that juts out like, well, like Alan Carr's teeth. But I tried the WRX version which just looks earnest and dumpy – like a supermarket own-brand version of a BMW 1 Series.

I imagine when they designed the Impreza they were aiming it more at the Focus than at the old sports estate version. They should have aimed more at the bin.

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