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Impreza goes soft

Subaru is about to turn its Impreza world upside down with the arrival of the all-new model, but what are they giving up in the march of progress? We took a current model WRX hatch into the garage to refresh our memory. Debate is raging over the merits of Impreza's new softer, more middle-of-the-road style that flies in the face of the original WRX's appeal.

We are yet to drive the new model, or even have the opportunity to look closely at it away from a motor show, but it is going to have to be at the top of its game to win over those who love a WRX because of its mongrel factor.

The WRX hatch is not a big car but it is ample for a family of four, with reasonable luggage space in the wagon-style rear.

The true joy of the car, however, is its ability to turn a drive to the shops into something more. The 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder punches well above its weight with 320Nm of torque well suited to finding gaps in city traffic.

A little thirsty, certainly, but driving for economy is not something the boxer engine nor the WRX's character is well-known for.

At $40,440 plus on-road costs, the WRX is not overly expensive. There is enough comfort and convenience, climate-control airconditioning, great sport seats, cruise control, airbags, good sound system, strong security to qualify it as a family car before the fun factor is even measured. Today we also farewell the first big cat in our long-term fleet. The front-wheel-drive X-Type Jaguar that has pounded the tarmac around Sydney for the past few months has grown on us.

After an initial first drive found it light in the steering and seemingly skittish on the worst and busiest of Sydney's roads, we grew to like it.

A sometimes uncomfortable driver's seat that wraps around your hips, an annoying noise when it reverses and the chunky key are minor concerns in a luxury car priced under $60,000. Our Sport model is priced at $56,990.

The 2.1-litre V6, particularly in the sport driving mode, has surprising power. It peaks at 117kW and 200Nm. We found it simpler to let the auto transmission shift itself through its five gears rather than play around with the manual mode. Overall, at the price, we'd give it a thumbs up.

The third member of our garage, the Suzuki SX4, has made itself at home for a couple of months, exploring more than 3000km around Sydney. It has proved an enjoyable small car that is easy to live with.

It even likes to think big, with “mini-me” SUV looks and four-wheel-drive functioning at your fingertips. The SX4 has a slightly higher driving position and better visibility than some small cars.

There's plenty of storage and boot room, it's great for shopping and you can put a couple of adults in the back seats without complaints.

The wide mirrors took some getting used to and it can be noisy on Sydney's potholes. Overall, the SX4 is a good little car for around town.