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Subaru Impreza 2012 review: snapshot

EXPERT RATING
8

Greener, leaner and not a turbo air intake in sight - Subaru has launched its Impreza small car range in Australia. The fourth incarnation of the all-wheel drive small car is aimed at the higher end of the small car market but has held it's pricetag to the same level as the previous incarnation.

The unchanged asking price has been retained despite upgraded drivetrain, improved features list and better fuel economy (which the brand says debunks the claim of all-wheel drive being thirsty), which will no doubt help Subaru resurrect its sales volumes after a challenging 2011. Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior says the new Impreza will attract new customers but should retain existing Impreza owners.

"These new customers will come along with our loyal Impreza owners, we've sold more than 144,000 Imprezas and the customers are a loyal bunch who will openly embrace the multitude of changes," he says.

VALUE

Despite not dwelling in the bargain basement, the value equation is strong, with the all-wheel drive entry-level car priced from $23,990 for the 2.0i manual sedan and hatch, heading up to $26,490 for the CVT model. Standard fare includes the stop-start fuel saving system, 16in steel wheels, climate control (dual-zone on the mid-spec L and flagship S), Bluetooth phone and audio link to the USB-compatible six-speaker sound system and trip computer.

The L middle child is priced from $26,990 for the six-speed manual or the CVT slides in at $29,490 - the extra cash buys a reversing camera, 16in alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and fog lights. The flagship S is a CVT-only proposition, priced from $31,490, but comes with upgraded instruments and extra chrome trim bits, alloy pedals, side skirts and 17in alloy wheels. Option packs for the L and S comprise satnav and a sunroof for $3000, or the S alone can be upped to include satnav, sunroof, leather trim and power-adjustable driver's seat for $4000.

TECHNOLOGY

The new Suby small car has the upgraded flat-four boxer engine with a longer stroke, which when combined with the variable valve system and the stop-start fuel saver system (which is on manual and CVT models and can re-start the engine between 0.2 and -35 of a second) has kept outputs unchanged at 110kW and 196Nm, but with 25 per cent better fuel economy.

The CVT is hooked up to all four wheels via an electronically-controlled system that can run up to 95 per cent front-wheel drive, or the six-speed manual models use the long-serving all-wheel drive system with a mechanical centre Limited Slip Differential (LSD), split 50/50. The CVT claims 6.8 litres per 100km (a 22 per cent improvement) and the manual drinks a claimed 7.1 l/100km, 20 per cent better than the superseded model.

DESIGN

The new Impreza is 4580mm long (4415mm for the hatch), 1740mm wide, sitting on a 2645mm wheelbase (up 25mm) and 1465mm tall, a 10mm drop. The nose is dominated by the new "hawkeye" headlights and has a less surprised look on its face than the Outback and Liberty models. The A-pillar's base has been brought forward 200mm and the C-pillar has also been slanted on more of an angle.

Subaru says there is more interior space without much increase on overall vehicle size, with a 340 litre boot in the rump of the hatch (up from 301 litres); the sedan's 460 litre boot has also grown, up from 420 litres. The aerodynamic package has also contributed to the reduced fuel use, including underbody aero panels to reduce drag.

The cabin redesign has also taken the childseat anchor points from the roof - where they intruded on loadspace and restricted rear vision - and put them down behind the rear seats.

SAFETY

Subaru says the five-star safety rating from NCAP remains thanks to seven airbags - dual front, side, curtain and one for the driver's knee - as well as body strength derived from construction topped by high-strength steel in the sills and B-pillar. There's also the inherent active safety and grip from all-wheel drive, as well as stability and traction control, anti-lock brakles, and the added safety of a reversing camera on the L and S models.

DRIVING

Many will say about time, and plenty of those will earn their money within Subaru dealers. The new car is not an unattractive machine, certainly less polarising than its larger siblings.

The first few minutes behind the wheel immediately suggests three things - it's quiet, the CVT (which the brand believes will be 80 per cent of the sales) suffers a little less "flaring" and the engine is tuned for economy. It's flexible but leisurely, and needs revs if you need to do something in a hurry - but the payoff is sub-9 fuel economy during the launch drive, which was through suburban traffic and into the Adelaide Hills, not terrain renowned for producing the best fuel economy figures. The hills roads also showed the work on the chassis has payed off for Subaru - the ride quality barely touches firm but the body control is good and handling is composed, it all bodes well for the next WRX.

The CVT feels a little more direct than some 'boxes of the same type, while the six-speed manual is notchy but not a bad gearbox with which to swap cogs. The seats were comfortable and not completely without support, but the rear seating area was pleasantly surprising for its head and legroom. Bootspace is better than average, as is the features list.

VERDICT

It's been a long hard slog for Subaru recently and the Impreza is a car for which the dealers have been crying out. The supply-constrained 700 per month sales target should not be hard for the company to achieve - it's a capable machine that is sharply-priced.

Pricing guides

$12,990
Based on 93 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$7,991
Highest Price
$15,995

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0i (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $7,100 – 11,000 2012 Subaru Impreza 2012 2.0i (AWD) Pricing and Specs
2.0i-L (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $8,000 – 12,320 2012 Subaru Impreza 2012 2.0i-L (AWD) Pricing and Specs
2.0i-S (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $7,400 – 11,440 2012 Subaru Impreza 2012 2.0i-S (AWD) Pricing and Specs
R (awd) 2.0L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,000 – 10,890 2012 Subaru Impreza 2012 R (awd) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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