If there’s ever been an argument that drove me up the wall it was Subaru versus Altezza. First of all why is it a brand versus a model? Secondly by what metric would a WRX STI be up against IS200? I mean I’d understand the universal and unending argument of EVO vs STI; but the Zimbabwean argument of Subaru versus Altezza never sat right with me. It was simply too broad.
Or perhaps, I was thinking about it too narrowly. It’s no secret that if you were to take a journey between any two points in the country you will most likely come across one if not both of them. They. Are. Everywhere. Stock and modified, driven by old and young alike. Infact much like the brand with the 3 pointed star, the Altezza and Subaru are part of the automotive fabric of Zimbabwe.
With good reason too. Whilst the economy has been in various states of disrepair over the years, the generous import laws have allowed Zimbabweans to import pretty much any vehicle they desire( or can afford). A perk that our Southern neighbours surely envy, but I digress. Car enthusiasts in particular tend to gravitate between Subarus and Altezzas. I think its because both of them offer the “best” solutions for local car enthusiasts. Allow me to explain.
It would be easy to say that choosing a car to buy is an objective endeavour, but that simply not the case. Sure from a purely practical position, of say a fleet manager buying a car basically comes down to spreadsheets, fuel economies, services costs and warranties. For the average enthusiast though, brand loyalty, aspirations and well even street cred come into play. And both of these brands have all of these in spades.
I’ve often bemoaned the fact that outside of Subaru and Altezza, the majority of car enthusiasts or casual bystanders are oblivious to wonderful variety of fun cars available from Japan. Back in 2010-12, I could probably count on one hand the amount of Altezza’s I’d seen. Now they are everywhere. They are good looking, have four doors and are sporty. This means, you’re able to cruise around with your friends in a cool looking car. Subaru’s mostly share these same qualities.
They are two instantly recognisable vehicles and they have excited many a crowd at motorsports events or street corners. This means that any young guy or gal is likely to have them come to mind easily when they are looking for their own set of wheels.
Zimbabweans on the whole aren’t a fan of coupes. Two doors and lowered ride heights just aren’t practical. Unless you’re anti-social you will have to move around with friends or family. Two doors and two tiny excuses for back seats and often less than desirable boot space.
Both the Altezza and many Subaru models offer comfortable seating for at least four and enough luggage capacity for the average daily task. Decent ride heights also make them usable on our cratered roads. The Altezza would lose out with it infamous ball joint issue. The Forester providing the best option for ground clearance.
Both are ripe candidates for ricing (*cough* Xmas lights*cough*). And subtle modifications too, that enhance their underlying qualities. A nice set of wheels, clean paintjob and some tasteful additions can make both of them quite appealing. Altezzas tend to play to their sporty executive saloon and the Subarus towards their rally/track heritage. Overall though, from factory, Altezzas are the prettier of the two. Not that Subaru’s don’t look purposeful or aggressive, but the words blob and bug aren’t usually associated with beauty.
Disclaimer: the non performance models will be more fuel efficient. But because we are car enthusiasts we don’t care about that right? Both the Imprezas (WRX and STI) and the RS200 are blessed with good chassis. The Subarus have a long history in rally and more recently in time attack. Altezzas have also seen use in various circuit racing series.
When it comes to power however, the Subarus are hard to beat. The 3SGE BEAMS engine in the Altezza is decent enough but being naturally aspirated it has it limitations. Aftermarket turbo kits offer a good bump in power but this could end up leading to very involved builds.
Turbo Subarus make good power (insert knock knock jokes here) stock and when upgraded properly; it’s hard to think of better bang for your buck. The GC8 is the pick of the bunch ~1300kg and potential for bags of power to be sent to all four tires for blistering performance. Even the heavier Foresters can be tuned up to provide more power and performance than you need on the streets.
With all these positives, its not difficult to see why Subarus and Altezzas are the most desired attainable vehicles in Zimbabwe. The winner often comes down to each person’s, needs and brand loyalties. It’s a very subjective choice, but at the end of the day I think the real winners are the car enthusiasts. With so many options, how could they lose? What’s your favourite model or given open budget which would you choose to own and modify?