Subaru expects big things of the new Impreza. The Japanese manufacturer has spent more than a billion dollars in the development of the new platform and it is an investment it hopes to collect on – with this small car line-up and the other Subaru products that will use it as their foundations.
This new Impreza, available in both sedan and hatch, is almost entirely new from the ground up with only the odd bolt and window lever borrowed from the outgoing edition. The range offers three choices starting with the entry-level 2.0-i sedan starting from $22,400 and ending with the range-topping 2.0i-S hatch which we put to the family test.
Lower and wider than its predecessor, this Impreza also shows off a more angular design that better integrates the trademark grille and daytime running headlights. Subtle refinements to the rear bumper and spoiler and changes to the side mirrors also do their bit to present an overall exterior feel that may not exactly push the envelope but certainly allows for some expression in the address line.
The realisation that it will take more than the tried and tested to attract buyers, is echoed in the design of the interior too, with curves, brushed metals and stitching detail doing their bit to jazz up interest. Instrumentation is clear, dials and buttons sturdy and the use of hard plastics limited to areas of limited contact.
There are two cup holders in the centre console as well as 12V points and USB ports, which of course is a big tick for practicality, as are the larger door openings which make entry and exit (especially is a straight-cut skirt) a smoother operation.
Subaru has spent time with the design and positioning of the seats which is apparent in the comfort afforded to the driver and passengers alike. There is support both under thigh and in the small of the back, and for the driver the electrical adjustment combined with the ability to set the height and reach of the steering wheel makes it fairly easy to set an optimum driving position.
Head and legroom is pretty decent, given this is a hatch, with adults in the back seat also getting a fair bit of room to stretch out. Occupants back there also get two cup holders, decent door bin storage and air vents cleverly placed under the seats in front. There is only one map pocket though – try explaining to child No 2 why she has no place to put her Pokémon cards, half-eaten lollipop and a three favourite shells.
The boot (345 litres) will easily take two largish suitcases as well as a couple of backpacks and of course lowering the 60:40 back seat will give you more space should you need it. The wider boot opening and lower lip also making it easier to load while the extra space in the spare wheel (in this case a space-server spare) cavity can also be used to stow valuables.
An 8.0-inch colour touchscreen serves as the interface for Subaru’s infotainment and reverse camera systems and now boasts improved graphics quality and more intuitive use. Bluetooth connectivity is on point and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring also complements ease of use.
A second, smaller screen on top of the dash provides information on things like how the Eyesight system is performing, the current temperature and fuel consumption to name just three.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
A new 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder boxer engine produces the 115kW of power and 196Nm of torque needed to move the Impreza along. It is partnered with a seven-step Continually Variable Transmission, a combination common for all variants now that the manual option is no longer available.
The Impreza is the only small car around with all-wheel-drive, a trait we found more than useful during a rainy week of testing. Our top-of-the-range 2.0i-S also had active torque vectoring which sees power transferred to the wheels that can use it for maximum traction.
The Impreza has an impressive array of active and passive features including seven airbags, stability and traction control and reverse camera.
But it is their Eyesight driver assist system, available in the mid and top-range variant, that is the real star of the show using cameras mounted on the top of the windscreen to enable features like blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, auto emergency braking and forward collision warning.
This third-generation Eyesight technology has the added bonus of being able to see colour which means it can recognise the brake lights of the car in front and adjust your speed accordingly.
Subaru makes no secret that lots of time and money was invested to ensure the revised architecture of this Impreza would deliver a balance of comfort and dynamics. A tall order indeed considering the success of the line-up of stablemates that follow are dependent on these underpinnings as well.
The result is a solid and well-balanced chassis that ensures the ride is assured and predictable no matter the circumstance, the drive so effortless that it is hardly noticeable at all.
It is a noticeable improvement on the car it replaces, absorbing bumps with ease and it is super quiet too – aside from a little bit of tyre noise the rattling of the number plate on our test car.
The steering feels nicely weighted and direct, understeer has been reduced, brakes are quick to respond and there is minimal body sway.
The only thing surprisingly not up to scratch is the performance, with the Impreza losing punch around mid-range where urging is met more with CVT whining than quick acceleration.
It means the car has to work quite hard if you decide to overtake quickly, for example, or if you have a steepish climb. You get used to it but Subaru has done such a good job with the dynamics, it is a shame the performance misses the mark.
We also found the Impreza a tad bit thirsty. While official combined figures for the 2.0i-S are 7.2L/100km, we languished around 8.7L/100km with more than a handful of longer drives in that mix. Good news for buyers is that the cost of servicing has fallen with a capped price servicing plan for three years/37,500km coming it at $1300, which is almost $1000 cheaper. Service intervals are 12 months or 12,500km
With more than 20 worthy competitors on this small car segment, there is little doubt the Subaru Impreza has its work cut out. But it is also true that this iteration offers great dynamics, excellent safety, good features, affordable ownership and a real value for money proposition.
AT A GLANCE
SUBARU IMPREZA 2.0I-S
Price: from $29,190 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power: 115kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 196Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: CVT automatic, AWD
Fuel use: 7.2L/100km
Safety: Five Star ANCAP
What we liked:
– Balance between comfort and dynamics
– Exterior style
– Safety suite
What we didn’t like:
– Lack of mid-range power
– Average CVT