Forget the rally heritage: today’s Impreza has become a conservative, safety-based hatch with a disappointing engine and gearbox
Two decades ago, the mere mention of the words ‘Subaru Impreza’ would have aroused some form of emotion in just about anybody, from full-on World Rally Championship fanboyism to tutting, curtain-twitching disapproval.
Things have changed. The new fifth-generation Impreza is coming from a completely different, almost diametrically-opposed safety perspective. The sporting WRX cars still exist, but as a separate model line – albeit one that’s about to be axed from the UK lineup – so this inoffensive hatch is the only place where you’ll find the Impreza badge going forward.
Subaru Impreza 2.0i SE Lineartronic
Engine: 2.-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Torque: 143lb ft
Gearbox: CVT automatic;
Kerb weight: 1379kg
Top speed: 127mph;
CO2, tax band: 152g/km, 51%
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. That new safety stance, built on an array of ‘Eyesight’ driver aids like pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, has resulted in the new Impreza scoring a full five-star Euro NCAP rating.
On top of that, the Impreza has Subaru’s symmetrical four-wheel drive, which will certainly be a boon when the next Beast from the East comes over, along with Subaru’s all-new Global Platform that’s designed to enhance the car’s dynamism on the road.
Suspended on MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone arrangement at the rear, the Impreza’s non-turbo four-cylinder 2.0-litre ‘boxer’ petrol engine sends 154bhp and 145lb ft of torque to all four wheels via a ‘Lineartronic’ continuously variable transmission (CVT). A 1.6-litre unit can also be chosen.
Inside the fairly straightforward cabin you’ll find soft and nicely supportive cloth seats surrounded by the expected acreage of plastic. It may not sound much, but the ambience if strangely pleasing, with no shortage of cat-swinging room and a feeling of tough permanence about the materials on display.
So far, so good. Then you turn on the engine, and things start to go downhill a bit. The combination of engine and gearbox is not optimal, with not much torque from the normally-aspirated 2.0-litre flat four, and what torque there is (145lb ft) not making itself felt until 4000rpm. Try for some brisk acceleration and your reward is an uncouth drone from the ‘gearless’ CVT transmission, and it’s a racket that hangs around longer than you’d like it to, noting the less than urgent 9.8-second 0-62mph time.
This isn’t a light car at 1379kg, so the upshot of regular calls for power is less than brilliant fuel economy. The quoted average is 42.8mpg, but the reality in our time with the car was rather nearer to 35mpg.
Not many votes for the engine/transmission mix, then, but the chassis is more than decent, combining the security of all-wheel drive with strong grip, tidy body control, and a firmish but not jarring ride.
Looked at in the round, the Impreza package seems pretty fair. There’s good build quality, reasonable cabin room, secure handling and a noteworthy safety rating – but for every pro on the list there seems to be a con. The engine isn’t refined, powerful or economical enough. Even with the heated seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, the £25,560 price looks high when you realise that for the same sort of money you could get a Volkswagen Golf GT with comparable (or better) equipment, not to mention the VW group’s smoother and much cheaper to run 1.5-litre, 128bhp Evo petrol engine with seven-speed DSG transmission.
Depreciation is a problem for the Subaru, too. three years and 36,000 miles into its life, it will have lost 64 per cent of its value, compared to 60 per cent for the Golf GT.
Who will buy it? As it stands, the market would appear to be limited to those who are convinced by the new-found safety and security proposition, or to those who will always have a Subaru because, well, they’ve always had a Subaru. So at the very least you’ll have a degree of exclusivity on your side if you buy one in the UK.