By EWAN KENNEDY in Tokyo
Subaru flew selected Australian motoring journalists to Japan for an advanced look at the all-new fifth generation Impreza; due in Australia in December.
Subaru Australia’s chief, Nick Senior Senior says he is proud of the fact that Impreza is about 95 per cent new. Shaking his head and saying the words ‘all-new’ tend to be seriously misused in car marketing, often relating to cars that contain less than 50 per cent new parts.
New Impreza is built on an all-new modular platform that Subaru will to use, with variations as necessary, in every new model it designs for at least the next 10 years.
Australians were the first to see the new Impreza other than the local Japanese journalists. That’s because Subaru Australia is very highly regarded by Subaru’s head office as we have played a big part in the company’s global success for decades.
Project manager for the new Impreza, Masahiro Inoue told the Aussie journos his team began work on the new Subaru modular platform four years ago. Explaining that there’s a big emphasis on safety and driving pleasure in all the new models that the modular platform will underpin.
Styling of new Subaru Impreza is neat and up to date, though not what you would call adventurous. This is not a criticism – the shape seems sure to remain timeless which is exactly what Australian Subaru owners have liked about their cars since the Japanese marque’s introduction in the mid-1970s.
Like its predecessors, new Subaru Impreza comes as a five-door hatchback that’s almost station wagon in its shape and, more importantly, in its carrying ability.
There’s also a four-door sedan, this time with a semi-sporty look to its tail, achieved by having a neat visual kick-up in the rear quarters, and a vestigial spoiler at the back of the boot lid.
Inside, the new Impreza has an instrument panel with large dials that are easy to read at a glance to improve driving safety. A large infotainment screen sits neatly between the central air vents. There’s also a slightly smaller screen on the lower grades, we have yet to see this smaller unit.
Quality soft-feel materials are used throughout the interior. That, and the emphasis on stylish details usually only seen in upmarket European cars, gives the Impreza a luxurious feel.
Though the new Impreza is the same length as the current model it’s slightly wider and sits on a longer wheelbase. It has extra space in the rear seats and can hold four adults in comfort thanks to extra legroom, headroom and width. Four and a child in the centre will work nicely even for larger-framed Australian families.
Power comes from a significantly modified version of the familiar 2.0-litre flat-four Boxer unit. In the Impreza it’s naturally aspirated, and this time around produces 115 kW of power and 196 Nm of torque at 4000 revs.
While the peak torque figure is reached at relatively high engine speeds there’s strong grunt from about 2000 rpm upwards. In any case, Subaru’s CVT was one of the earliest in the current automatic transmission era and it’s now in its latest phase. The CVT makes sure the engine is at the best revs for the road conditions and the driver’s desires. The CVT has some fixed ratios when used manually to give a sporting driver the feeling of being in added control.
Though a six-speed manual will be sold in some markets there are no plans to bring it to Australia.
It goes without saying that Impreza has all-wheel-drive, a feature of all Subarus (except for the BRZ coupe) sold in Australia for the last 30 years.
The company’s Eyesight safety system, which monitors what’s happening in front of the car by way of stereo cameras has been further refined. Other companies use radar instead of visual images to work with the safety electronics but Subaru is convinced its system is better.
Subaru Australia is confident that new Impreza will gain a five-star rating when it’s presented to ANCAP.
Our initial test driving of the Impreza couldn’t be carried out on the public roads of Japan, instead we were invited to the Japan Cycle Sport Center at Izu, two hours drive out of Tokyo. That complex facility will be used during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
There are many kilometres of winding road that go up hill and down dale as well as having numerous bends, some of them tightening part way around. This is an excellent place to test the car in controlled conditions away from other traffic.
The added rigidity the all-new platform gives to the Impreza’s body was evident in the way the cars handled. That rigidity, combined with sound deadening features throughout the car, gave it a serene feel almost to the standard of much more expensive upmarket cars.
Handling is very good on the standard version of the Impreza; even better on the upmarket variant due to the installation of torque vectoring. This electronically monitors the Impreza’s body attitude in bends, changes engine settings and dabs the brakes on the appropriate wheel to further improve corning ability and steering feel.
Obviously we will comment further when we put new Imprezas through their paces back home in Australia. But, given the many years of cooperation between Subaru’s Japanese and Australian engineers during development stages we feel confident the new car will perform well no matter how rough and ready the Aussie backroads are thrown at it.
New Subaru Impreza, will come to Australia in the last half of December. Final specifications and features are yet to be formalised and may differ from the Japanese spec cars we drove at Izu.
Given the current day-to-day fluctuations of the Australia dollar the announcement of prices will be held off till the last moment. However Subaru Australia is keen on keeping its many current owners happy so it’s likely to either hold prices, or increase them only marginally. Stay tuned.