IT comes as a surprise that the first version of the new Subaru Impreza model to reach Hongkong is not a four-wheel drive. Subaru has made the four-wheel drive system its trademark and has fitted the superior drive-line to its entire range - from rally cars to ordinary family saloons. However, that other Subaru mainstay, the opposed-cylinder or ''boxer'' engine, has not been forgotten and has been further developed for the Impreza. This is just as well for Motorimage, the local Subaru importer, because the Impreza needs a special feature - something intriguing and exciting to help it establish itself in this saturated market place. The Hongkong car driver is spoiled for choice in the mid-range class and will need persuading to look beyond the established dealerships, to the relatively new Subaru operation. The Impreza is nosing into a market which is already packed with worthy motor cars and will need all the character and individuality it can muster to make itself noticed. But the Impreza is a little different and has qualities that make it stand out. To begin with, the looks are a little out of the ordinary, without being outlandish enough to scare conservative buyers away. Subaru has given the car an unusual ''face'' by blanking off the radiator grill - leaving only a small opening to frame the Subaru badge. Cooling air is gulped through a vent below the bumper. The rest of the shape is restrained and very neat. The smooth, soft lines are sharpened by a high belt-line crease, which runs from nose to tail, while all the light lenses are rounded. There is not a scrap of chrome decoration anywhere on the body: all the trim details are coloured black, which accentuates its sober look. However, the sobriety drops away as soon as the driver takes the wheel. The Impreza is blessed with one of the most direct and communicative steering systems available in this type of car. The rack and pinion set up is so sharp and responsive it is a joy to swing the Impreza between lanes. There is none of the usual wooliness to hamper driving and the Subaru seems to anticipate the driver's moves. With such sweet steering it seems only natural to over-ride the economy-orientated gear selected on the automatic transmission, and use the manual mode to squeeze every drop out of the 1,600 cc engine. Holding the lower gears in this way makes the Impreza a fun town-car, and the boxer engine gives its all. The power output is not huge and if performance is a priority, it may be better to wait for the 1,800 cc version, which is promised for next year. The outside dimensions are compact enough for the car to nip around the city, and the interior is spacious. The buttons and switches for the controls on the dashboard are big and simple, and the interior fittings of the test car felt very solid and well-made. The boot is a generous 353 litres for the four-door version and a cavernous 1,275 litres for the estate five-door. Both models will have appeal in the territory and mark the coming of Subaru as a serious, high-volume seller in the Hongkong market.