Subaru Impreza has been on sale in Australia for nearly a quarter of century and has earned a well-deserved reputation for long life and reliability. Brand loyalty has also been one of Subaru’s strengths but not one on which the company can rest on its laurels given that loyal buyers, inevitably, get older every year.
With this in mind the latest (fifth generation) Impreza, launched here at the end of 2016, breaks away from the wagon-like lines of previous hatchback models to a more eye-catching style no doubt to try and attract younger customers. While it’s too early to measure the success of this move, overall combined sedan / hatchback sales have already reached nearly two-thirds of the 2016 total and we’d be surprised if hatch numbers aren’t dominating.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the looks of the sedan. It’s conservative yet stylish without going over the top – which is exactly the way more mature owners like their Subarus.
The 2017 Impreza is the first model to be built on the all-new Subaru Global Platform a modular platform that the company will use, with variations as necessary, in every new model it designs for at least the next decade. While cost-saving is clearly an important factor in the use of the new platform it will, according to Subaru Australia, also offer new levels of crash protection, fuel efficiency and driving enjoyment.
As is the norm with updated models the Gen 5 Impreza is larger in all exterior dimensions with the exception of the height of the hatch which is marginally lower. Extra length, wheelbase and width combine to provide extra rear seat space for four adults in relative comfort although it’s best suited for two adults and three children.
Boot capacity and accessibility has been improved with extra width both at the boot opening and between the wheel housings.
Four model variants are available each with the choice of sedan or hatch and all with the same engine and transmission. In ascending order of equipment and price they are 2.0i, 2.0i-L, 2.0i-Premium and 2.0i-S with prices ranging from $22,400 (2.0i sedan) to $29,190 (2.0i-S hatch).
Wheel size is 17-inch up to the 2.0i-Premium with the 2.0i-S riding on 18-inch, all are alloys.
All MY17 Impreza models come with all-wheel drive; seven airbags; ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist; Vehicle Dynamics Control; reversing camera; and tyre pressure monitoring system.
The 2.0i-L and 2.0i-Premiun also get Subaru’s impressive EyeSight Driver Assist system that uses stereo cameras to monitor what’s happening in front of the car. The 2.0i-S adds Active Torque Vectoring; automatic headlights and windscreen wipers; steering responsive LED headlights; Blind Spot Monitoring; Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Standard across the range are six-speaker audio, Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Impreza 2.0i-L adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen, with the 2.0i-Premium and 2.0i-S getting TomTom-based satellite navigation.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
All models are powered by an upgraded version of Subaru’s 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat-four ‘boxer’ engine that produces 115 kW of power, and 196 Nm of torque at a relatively high 4000 rpm although there’s good pulling power from around 2000 revs.
All models have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with seven pre-set ratios used through steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual is available in other markets but Subaru Australia has no plans to bring it here.
We were able to drive an Impreza sedan and hatch back-to-back with the striking red five-door grabbing the more admiring looks from our neighbourhood assessors who eagerly look forward to seeing what we’re driving each week.
What they couldn’t see, and what was the most significant change, were the improvement brought on by the new platform. The extra body rigidity certainly improved handling most noticeably in the 2.0i-S with its torque vectoring which electronically monitors the car’s body attitude in corners and changes engine and individual brake settings to further improve road holding.
The new platform also has extra sound deadening features throughout the car and made for comfortable cruising.
CVTs continue to evolve and there is virtually none of the high revving that was a feature of early models in the new Impreza but still with the engine at its optimum revolutions.
We averaged 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres in our test of the Impreza hatch only 0.9 L/100 km over the factory test.
Subaru Impreza competes in the most competitive segment of the Australian car market and is showing some interesting initiatives to try and attract sales from the top sellers from Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai.
These include moving into a number of major shopping centres with what are called the ‘Pop Up’ stores. These are an alternative to traditional dealership where cars can be displayed and future test drives can be booked.
There is also the opportunity to test drive one of 101 Imprezas for an extended period in a partnership between Subaru and car rental company DriveMyCar.
With its combination of styling enhancements and improved driving qualities the new model looks like drawing sales away from its rivals.
AT A GLANCE
2.0i 2.0-litre petrol four-door sedan: $22,400 (CVT)
2.0i 2.0-litre five-door hatch: $22,600 (CVT)
2.0i-L 2.0-litre petrol four-door sedan: $24,490 (CVT)
2.0i-L 2.0-litre five-door hatch: $24,690 (CVT)
2.0i-Premium 2.0-litre petrol four-door sedan: $26,290 (CVT)
2.0i-Premium 2.0-litre five-door hatch: $26,490 (CVT)
2.0i-S 2.0-litre petrol four-door sedan: $28,990 (CVT)
2.0i-S 2.0-litre five-door hatch: $29,190 (CVT)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for driveaway prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S 2.0-litre five-door hatch)
Capacity: 1.995 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders horizontally opposed
Maximum Power: 115 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 196 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91ROM
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 163 g/km
Continuously variable transmission
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4625 mm
Wheelbase: 2670 mm
Width: 1775 mm
Height: 1455 mm
Turning Circle: 10.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1433 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: Not supplied
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Three years / unlimited km