Imprezzive Impreza

We love:            handsome exterior, extensive equipment, Eyesight, single drivetrain option

Not so much:     stupid menus, difficult to access USB

KISS, aka Keep It Simple Stupid, is exactly what Subaru did with the new Impreza.

They took the new Global Platform, glued a 2.0L boxer engine in, attached all 4 wheels to the road via a CVT transmission and symmetrical AWD system.

Subaru is the only one in class with AWD making it unique. To top it off, the Subaru Corporation, nee Fuji Heavy Industries, wrapped a glamorous exterior around a classy cabin, and hey presto, Impreza is reborn.

We were impressed with the new Subaru when we took a turn in it at the local launch (read about it here).

but what feels great at launch can often feel different when you’re driving it for a week, or three. This is one of the most thorough tests we’ve done and spent a week in each of the three grades.

Not only were our initial impressions confirmed, but Impreza excelled.

The body comes in sedan or hatch form. The hatch implies a coupe form with a sweeping roof meeting the nipped up waistline at a kink on the “D” pillar. As handsome as this profile is, the sedan does it for me.

The pert rump sports a smart set of tail lights with LED running lights up front.

It is hard to get across in words, but the car looks solid and expensive, and premium. It feels like it costs far more than it actually does.

We listed the price and trim level details in our launch article.

On the top models, you can expect lots of goodies like: Adaptive Cruise Control with queue assist, Lane departure warning, Lane sway warning, Lead vehicle start alert, Pre-collision braking system, Pre-collision brake assist, Pre-collision throttle management, Pre-collision steering assist, Brake-light recognition, to name but a few.

Many of these features are provided by Subaru’s stereo cameras Eyesight system. Subaru have every right to be proud of this innovation. Even high-end Euro brands use radar-like sensors, with very few having cameras. Try finding another brand with stereo cameras.

The system sits above the rear-view mirror in the top centre of the windscreen and monitors the road ahead.

This lofty perch affords good views of the way ahead and will see brake lights and pedestrians, and slam on the anchors if needed. The smart cruise also uses the cameras to keep a respectful distance from the car in front and will slow you all the way down to a stop in traffic, all without fuss.

If you don’t move off in a few seconds the system goes to stand-by mode which requires the driver to blip the throttle or the cruise control button in order to move off again. A human is smarter than most systems and Subaru says the driver will want to confirm the way is safe.

The system might not see a B-Double about to run a red light at a 4-way intersection for example. A little foot appears on the driver’s instrument panel display. It tells you that you need to press the accelerator, or press “resume”. If you do neither, it bongs at you to alert you to the moving traffic ahead.

The many other warnings are not meant to take the place of driver awareness, but on a long trip these gadgets become life savers.

It is about now that a few little annoyances became apparent. In order to use CarPlay, I need to plug my iphone into the USB socket, but my size ten hand full of sausage finger won’t fit into the dainty Japanese knick-knack cubby holes.

The USBs are located behind the gear lever at the back of the cubby hole, as if they’re trying to keep it a secret. I had to lean across the seat and coax it in by holding the plug between the ends of my fingers as if I was feeding a rabid dog.

Once plugged in, the CarPlay system bursts into life. You may be asked for a few formalities, but it is far less complex than trying to pair Bluetooth. You than use the system like you would your phone. P platers of course are still not permitted to do so by law, and quite right too. One of the cars had trouble reconnecting to CarPlay.

There were two more small foibles worth mentioning:

  1. You can only change the clock time manually by going to the setup menu and selecting “manual” before proceeding to the clock menu and changing the time. Why not just have the manual/auto time selection where the time alteration is? We spent hours looking for it after the daylight savings clocks went back an hour.
  2. When the Smart Cruise Control sees a car in front, it signals a “vehicle acquisition” with a bing, or is it a bong? The first few times is intriguing, but intrigue rapidly turns to desperation, then rage as, as it bongs every 10 seconds. The setting is in the EyeSight menu, and only appears when in park. It would be helpful for it to appear greyed out with a warning saying “must be in park to access” rather than leave the passenger going potty trying to follow the user guide in a moving vehicle.

The cabin feels well laid out. Except for the USB ports, everything is extremely well designed.

The materials feel high-end and I particularly like the small LCD screen above the main infotainment unit. It allows some driver info to be displayed, while simultaneously showing functions such as SatNav or CarPlay. CarPlay will allow you to use Siri hands free.

You’ll be able to navigate home by simply pressing and holding the voice button until you hear the Siri tone, then saying “navigate home”. It’s devilishly easy but requires cell reception to work. The upper models also have inbuilt Satnav just in case you’re out of luck with the phone.

The CVT is a much-improved version of the hideous “Screamers” of the past.

Under hard acceleration the transmission will use stepped ratios to simulate gears to prevent the engine from revving like a garden mulcher.

The engine has that familiar “chuff” we all expect from a flat four. The power has a nice linear delivery thanks to the absence of a turbo.

Direct Injection aids fuel efficiency but also makes the car feel more responsive. While 115kw and 196Nm won’t break the sound barrier, it strikes a balance between performance and economy.

The ride is unbelievably good. You have to remind yourself you’re not in a limo, and the same goes for the quietness, even at speed. Subaru has gone to great lengths to deaden sound without adding much to the weight.

The steering is good, but is not as sharp as it is in the WRX.

Since Subaru split the WRX range from the Imprezas, the go-quick scoobs are not due for another few years. It’s disappointment but those buying the WRX will hardly be complaining. It’s worth noting the WRX gets a midlife update in a month or two.

We had a good range of driving situations from city chores, to country sprints. I took the top model sedan down the M5, through bucolic Bowral, and down the treacherously twisty Macquarie Pass and on to the sea.

Some of the drops off the side of Mac Pass will see your clothes out of fashion before you hit the bottom so sticky handling is essential. Unusually for me, I had the sunroof open on the highway because there was almost no buffeting.

The highway highlighted the big-car ride, and the twists of Mac Pass showed the sportiness of the Imprezas of old has not been lost.

 You feel connected to the road without being beaten to death by it.

Potholes are ironed out with immaculate dampening, and almost none of the terrible banging disturbs the occupants.

The seats are roomy but the rear passengers would probably only want the middle seat belt done up for very short trips.

This is a big call, but there wasn’t anything Impreza didn’t do well. The ride and handling were exceptional with an almost OCD attention paid to build quality.

I’ve been in many a Subaru with many hundreds of thousands of K’s on the clock and there is no reason to expect the new Impreza to be any different.

Subaru provides unlimited kilometres on the 3-year warranty. Excluding on-roads, the price range of $22,400-$29,190 means excellent value even on the range-topper. It seems unbelievable that you can so many goodies in such a great package for such a good price.

There is a lot of jostle for buyer dollars, and this particular segment is awash with competition. Focus, Astra, Golf, Civic, and 308 are just a few of the badges that come to mind, but the Subaru is one of the few with the top model under 30 grand.

Would I buy one? Yes, I’d buy the 2.0i-S. The active torque vectoring just adds that little bit of extra sparkle to cornering. I can’t think of another AWD car for this price.

Engine: DOHC Boxer/flat four/horizontally opposed 4 cyl, 90 RON petrol, 2.0Litre, 115kw/196Nm

Trans: CVT Lineartronic

The prices (drive-away NSW):

2.0i Sedan $24,990, Hatch $25,190

2.0i-L Sedan $27,980, Hatch $28,180

2.0 Premium Sedan $29,980, Hatch $30,180

2.0i-S Sedan $32.790, Hatch $32,990