2017 Subaru Impreza road test and review
THE new Subaru Impreza...quite significant this one then?
Oh yes. Subaru's calling its all-new fifth generation Impreza one of the most important cars launched in its history.
Hyperbole? Seems not. The car is almost the dawning of a new age for the Japanese brand.
What's new then?
Much. It's the first Subaru built on the brand's new Global Platform which will underpin all of its cars in the next decade.
In a nutshell, said platform is there to improve the cars' agility levels, crash protection, efficiency and driver reward - quite important aspects I'm sure you'll agree.
Indeed. But such unseens won't get buyers flooding through showroom doors; what else is there?
All Imprezas are small sedans and hatches with all-wheel-drive- a real point of difference in their class - and feature 2.0-litre boxer four-cylinder engines mated to a CVT auto gearbox, with prices starting at a pretty sharp $22,400.
Toys? You get desirable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity with a touchscreen and 17-inch wheels from entry level, while for an extra $2000 you move out of the base grade and score, amongst others, an excellent larger 8-inch touchscreen, dual zone climate control and Subaru's advanced EyeSight driver assist.
It's there to stop you crashing. Quite appealing to all drivers of course, but key to attract a more diverse Impreza buyer as Subaru intends - namely younger families and female drivers.
"We need to be seen as relevant by more people" Subaru says, as it does have quite a bias towards older buyers of the less fair sex.
So, "world class safety" is a key selling point for the new Impreza, and Subaru's Japanese research shows its cars fitted with EyeSight had 60% fewer accidents than those without. Appealing stuff.
All new Imprezas bar the entry-level one score this extra set of eyes, which includes enhanced pedestrian avoidance, pre-collision brake and steering assist plus adaptive cruise control.
The car uses a high-res camera to intelligently work out when you've not been paying attention or run out of talent and does its best to help you prevent an accident. Even if the idea of your car taking control scares you a bit, those accident reduction statistics are quite positive sounding.
Fair enough, but if Subaru's going for a younger families/female demographic there's more appeal than safety right?
Good point. Research shows such buyers want a snazzy interior too, something again Subaru isn't renowned for. Such buyers want quality, style and connectivity inside.
And how's it gone?
Actually really well. I found the new cabins to be simple and elegant with solid-feeling switches and buttons and soft touch plastics all around - not too common at this price.
I'd recommend dropping an extra $2000 to get out of the entry-level car and into the 2.0i-L as you get better cloth trim for the seats, the EyeSight driver assist, larger infotainment screen (which is of decent quality and speed) and leather for the pleasingly chunky steering wheel and gear shifter.
Will the family fit in an Impreza?
It's still in the small car segment, so it needs to be a small family. I'm six foot and managed in the back seats fine on the head and leg room front, but boot space is a bit wanting at 345-litres space in the hatch and 460-litres the sedan - the former having easier loading though, and 795-litres with rear seats folded.
Now, how do I say this politely, the exterior style is a bit...uninspiring?
Not drop-dead gorgeous is it? Let's say it's a safe design, but in the metal it is by no means unattractive. Just not sexy in a way that could score those targeted younger shoppers.
The hatch is the more appealing design to my eyes, and at a $200 premium over the more beige sedan I'd be after the five-door.
How's the response been?
700 deposits taken since the new Impreza's late October on-sale date. That's confidence for you. Subaru buyers are a loyal lot, and the new Impreza seems to have struck a chord.
I was teased the new advertising for the Impreza too which is about to bombard online and TV channels. It's bloody good actually, and seems to nail the remit of attracting a more youthful and connected demographic.
After ninety seconds of propaganda advertising I was convinced the new Impreza would work quite well in my life. Well done Subaru.
Alright, let's talk actually driving these things then.
Of the four variants all have the same 115kW/196Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder with Continually Variable Transmission (CVT) auto.
Each hits 100kmh in a rather pedestrian 10.1 seconds, but as buyers of these Imprezas shouldn't be too fussed about performance it is no real negative. The hotter WRX and STI Imprezas service those needs.
What new Impreza buyers will enjoy is the superb ride and balance of these all-wheel-drives: bump absorbsion, town driving and highway cruising was superb. Over the outgoing Impreza the body and chassis rigidity has been vastly improved and the centre of gravity lowered.
This translates to impressive cornering grace and the ability for the body to sit flat with minimal roll in those turns. The upshot? It's comfortable, confidence-inspiring and pretty good fun to punt along.
The steering offers decent feedback and it was easy to place accurately in the corner...it had me wishing for some more oomph - the chassis could certainly handle it - but it's the CVT auto gearbox that really grated.
CVTs are the single-speed transmissions, right?
That's it - there for smooth driving and fuel efficiency, but giving the weird feeling of speed increasing but engine revs staying the same.
Subaru's version is one of the best and a real gem around town, but for enthusiastic driving it's a whiny and unstatisfying thing sucking a lot of fun from the Impreza's otherwise very enjoyable and talented drive.
No conventional auto or manual gearbox offered here then?
Sadly not. And a shame, especially as Subaru was selling 13% of Imprezas with manuals previously...not a bad percentage these days for Australia.
So, should I buy a new Impreza?
Hundreds already have, and they'll be pleased. It's a sharp package with an impressive spec list for a competitive price, not least when you consider the all-wheel-drive appeal, especially to those using unsealed roads. Rivals are your VW Golfs, Honda Civics and Mazda 3s, all front-wheel drives of course.
Which of the range is best?
There are four to choose from: 2.0i, 2.0i-L, 2.0i-Premium and 2.0i-S. The $24,490 2.0i-L is the pick for me ($2000 extra is worth it for the EyeSight security alone), but if you can stretch to $28,990 for the 2.0i-S you get plenty of fruit for under $30k such as leather heated seats (electric for driver), more active safety features and active torque vectoring to improve handling and response further.
That said, all models have pleasing standard kit and that commendable chassis. Throw in a huge improvement in the Impreza's capped price servicing (at $1300 over three years it's over $900 less than the outgoing Impreza) and Subaru is right to pin hopes on the new car boosting the brand's market share in 2017.
If this is Subaru's future, it's a damn good start.
Model: Subaru Impreza 2.0i; 2.0-L; 2.0i Premium and 2.0i-S.
Details: All-wheel-drive five-door small hatchbacks and four-door small sedans.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine generating maximum power of 115kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 196Nm @ 4000rpm.
Transmission: CVT auto with seven-speed manual mode.
Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km combined (2.0i-S is 7.2l/100km).
Bottom line plus on roads: $22,400 (2.0i); $24,490 (2.0-L); $26,290 (2.0i Premium); $28,990 (2.0i-S). Hatchbacks add $200 in each grade.
What matter most
What we liked: Excellent chassis offering a smooth and assured ride with decent assuring all-wheel-drive cornering skills, desirable cabin design a huge improvement, EyeSight safety included in all but entry-level car, value for money.
What we'd like to see: Chassis could handle more power, CVT auto is whiny and unrewarding when pushed, body design is safe rather than inspiring.
Warranty and Servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with 12,500km/12-month capped price service program costing a total of $1298 over the first three years.
Driving experience 15/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 17/20
Style and design 14/20