Subaru’s All New Impreza is a Cracker
Subaru has been quietly going about its business for ages. The latest generation of Scoobs (yes they’re all Scoobs, not JUST the Rex’s) make a good fist of entry level motoring.
Colin Christie, Subaru’s OZ boss, says the company wants to expand is appeal to a new audience, including women. He went on to say their interiors have been criticized in the past and that they have listened. He said the company cares about what customers want, and he wants them to come back. He understands brand loyalty.
First, the boring bits:
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
That leaves a tight $8,000 spread for the range. There is a massive choice of engine/transmission combos, as long as it’s a 2.0 flat four coupled to a CVT tranny.
95% of the car is brand new. I asked Subaru what the 5% was that was not new, since the engine, transmission, body, interior, infotainment system, switch gear, and wheels are new. Perhaps it is the bolts and wires they refer to?
The look continues the design feeling of the past while adding a touch of mid-teens pizzazz. It builds on the reputation of Scoobs of days gone by. By association, all Impreza drivers are WRX drivers. Subaru cut the WRX/STi away from Impreza in a bizarre frankly ill-considered marketing decision. They had spent years, and millions of dollars on WRX rally cars. I don’t get it, not one little bit. Nor do I understand the “Subaru Do” marketing scheme. The Gen Y ad bloke who came up with that has an awful lot of explaining to do. But, I digress…
Impreza is the first Subaru on the new “Global Platform”. No one really knows what “platform” means, so let’s define it as the basic building blocks of a car, including:- floor pan, fire wall, suspension points and so forth. It can be made bigger, and can take any engine including an electric one. A platform can be scaled to any size means production costs are cut, and profits are increased. Not too shabby!
The global platform doubles the body rigidity, essential to good handling, and works with the improved suspension to give a plush ride. You have to keep reminding yourself you’re in a base model hatch/sedan.
The has been a huge improvement in interior quality too. Even the base model 2.0i feels comfortable in a premium way. It’s worth stretching to the 2.0i-L if you can manage a few extra shekels. That 2 grand investment will get the 8” touch screen, auto dual-zone A/C, electric folding mirrors, Fog lights, tyre pressure monitoring, an upgraded multi-function display for the driver, and most importantly, Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist system. EyeSight adds a suite of electronic nannies to look after you to help minimize damage.
From the 2.0i-L up the range, EyeSight uses a camera to provide:
Adaptive Cruise Control with queue assist (slows down right to 0kph keeping your preset distance f rom the car in front as it slows down)
Lane departure warning
Lane sway warning
Lead vehicle start alert (so you can press resume on the cruise control and move off from stop at lights)
Pre-collision braking system
Pre-collision brake assist
Pre-collision throttle management
Pre-collision steering assist
In other words, if EyeSight sees the car in front brake, and you don’t, it will step in to try to avoid a crash. In no way does this negate the need to watch the road, However, with the rise of silly plonkers taking more notice of their phones than their driving, it might minimize damage. It’s even smart enough to take away your power if it thinks you’re going to accelerate into the side of an 18-wheeler. How smart is that?
Subaru has a reputation for excellent build quality, but whose styling is on the conservative side, and the new Impreza continues that theme.
Now the fun bits:
It’s all very well to have a bunch of stuff to make you safe. That may well appeal to your mum and dad, but we all know it’s the bits you touch and feel that really matter, right?
The big touch screen system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When connecting the cable, make sure you use the USB in nearest to the screen and not the one between the front seats. The system runs well and is quickly responsive to touch. You use the system as you would your smart phone by swiping and selecting apps by icon. The screen has decent resolution and the top models also include Tom Tom Satnav.
The switches have a quality feel. The push buttons have resistance, and the knobs have a notchiness once only found in luxury vehicles. Gone is the busy centre console filled to the gunnels with controls. Instead, you can set preferences in the touch screen’s menu. I like the physical Air Conditioning and audio buttons though. However, since Touch screens have no feedback and require a driver to take his eyes off the road, a few of the commonly used controls are duplicated on the steering wheel.
The Active Cruise Control is also controlled from the steering wheel. You can set the distance to the car in front, and can hit the “resume” button when car in front moves off after stopping at lights. Once you learn to trust it, this feature takes a lot of the traffic hassle away.
Overall, the cabin is classy, and even the pov-model oozes quality and has an extensive list of inclusions. Gone are the days when entry level meant sacrificing your ego on the altar of practicality.
The audio sound is impressive for the price too.
On the road:
The steering is direct with just the right amount of “feel” thanks to well calibrated electric assistance.
The top model has torque vectoring in addition to standard stability control.
Symmetrical All Wheel Drive means power to each side of the vehicle is even, while being distributed 60/40 favouring the front wheels. During normal driving, the power shifts proportionally as needed between front and back wheels. Whilst all AWD vehicles do this, none do it in this price range. Impreza is unique, and as good as stability control is, nothing is as good as AWD, particularly in atrocious conditions.
The double wishbone rear suspension and Macpherson front feel as sophisticated as they sound.
Our launch processed through some of the beautiful countryside in and around Canberra. The fine weather allowed us to keep up some spirited motoring. Tight bends highlighted the ferocious grip afforded by AWD. The tarmac was deeply rutted with potholes big enough to hide a budget deficit. No matter how awful it got, Impreza remained unfazed. On several occasions, the steering wheel was jerked unexpectedly to avoid missing bitumen, but the Subaru followed the instruction without complaint.
Most of the drivers agreed the CVT, while very good, robbed the 115kw engine of power. It was particularly noticeable on hills when the CVT was slow to respond to requests for a boost. Perhaps a change in driving style was needed. There must be something good in it though, because many car makers are using a big rubber band as a gearbox.
Subaru will be bringing a new WRX and STi to market in 18 months or so for those wanting their eyeballs ripped out in every corner so the Impreza is for those wanting a more demure experience. Happily, I can report the ride feels comfortable bordering on luxurious. The range topping 2.0i-S has larger 18” wheels so although the ride doesn’t feel quite as plush, it is excellent none the less. The larger wheels result in slightly less frugal fuel figures too. The top model achieves a reasonable 7.2 L/100k, while all other models return an excellent 6.6L/100k combined. This might sound significant, but on your 1,000 km road trip, you’d use a mere 5 extra litres, hardly worth working yourself into a froth about.
Subaru says the Impreza is mainly a town car, and so it is. It will be used to ferry you and your mates between indoor climbing, gym, and the boozer, but I think they’ve underestimated their new baby.
If 115kw sounds modest, remember this: The new Impreza is about the size of the ’74 Subaru 1400 DL I learnt to drive in. That car had about 40kw and we never really questioned it.
Almost all hatches in this segment have about the same power, give or take. You’ll need many more florins to get into something gutsier. Take Fiesta ST for example: it is considered a hot(ish) hatch with 134 kw. It’s all relative isn’t it?
Subaru is proud of the fact that servicing costs are vastly reduced. The big 58month/50,000km service costs $757.81, but the 12, 36, and 60 month services are a mere $150.
There is simply too much new stuff to put in a review. The things to keep in mind is low cost of ownership, the All Wheel Drive system, and the EyeSight safety system. The segment is hotly contested with Ford Focus/Fiesta, VW Golf/Polo, Holden Astra, Toyota Corolla, Kia Rio, and Hyundai’s i30 all having a tilt at the top spot.
I like the styling very much. It is plain and simple. It is organic meat and 3 veg so is easy to fancy.
I love the AWD, and the engine has that familiar “chuff”. The 5 star safety is second to none, but every time a new model is released, the opposition comes along and brings out something better. It is a constant battle for the buyer’s attention, and thus their dollars.
The excellent handling might even appeal to a boy racer despite the CVT-only offering. It is a bunch of fun in corners and more than ample on the straights.
Subaru want Impreza to appeal to as wide a market as possible, so I applied my usual yardstick: can I imagine a couple of lads in the front, and a gingham tablecloth, blanket, and wicker picnic basket in the back? Yes I can. They may will have a convertible in the garage for a “sometime” car, but the Scoob will be the shopping cart. It will take the mates to the airport, and bring the spoils home from a Bunnings trip. It will be the work horse that never lets you down.
Would I buy one? Show me another AWD hatch with Car Play for this price and I might have second thoughts. The Impreza is a trusted old friend so yes I’d have one in a flash.