Subaru Impreza 2020 review: 2.0i-S hatch
Published 25 May 2020
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
The changes to the front-end of the Subaru Impreza 2020 model may take a discerning eye to pick up on at first.
Since launching in this fifth-generation design in 2017, this is the first visual adjustment Impreza has seen.
And while we admit you'd be hard pressed to spot the differences if you drove past you in traffic, if you manage to see a new one parked alongside a pre-facelift version, you'll likely notice what's happened pretty easily.
The changes are subtle, and the shape is largely unchanged. It's the details that have seen adjustments, the extremities and some of the "graphics", as designers say about things like headlights.
Subaru Australia reckons the changes have added some "sporty spice" to the range. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
There are new headlights and a new front bumper that broadens the front of the car and makes it look more planted.
The range-topping 2.0i-S gets a new wheel design and all have new smoked tail-lights.
It's squarer than a Corolla or Mazda 3, highlighting Subaru's priorities as a brand.
The boxy shape pays dividends when it comes to luggage capacity and rear seat space.
We will get to the back seat and boot space in the next section.
In terms of size, the Impreza hatch is about the same as its main rivals (the aforementioned Mazda3 and Corolla hatches), with its dimensions pegged at 4475mm long (2670mm wheelbase), 1775mm wide and 1480mm tall.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
Up front has the storage you'd expect, including big door pockets with bottle holsters, plus there are two central cup holders and a covered storage bin/armrest between the front seats.
There's also a storage cubby in front of the gear selector, which is big enough for a wallet and phone, though it doesn't have wireless phone charging (Qi), like many top-spec competitors. But there are two USB ports and an auxiliary jack, plus there are another two USB chargers in the centre bin.
The back seat has just one map pocket, but there's also a centre armrest with cup holders and decent door pockets with bottle holders. There are no directional rear air vents, but the cabin isn't too large and air flow is decent from front to rear.
Back seat space is actually really good, with easily enough space for someone my size (182cm) to sit behind a driver of the same size. I had enough knee room and good toe room, too, but headroom for anyone taller might be limited, and even someone my size will need to watch their head getting in and out. The seat comfort isn't excellent, either - it's a bit flat and feels too reclined - you can't adjust the backrest, either.
You could fit three adults across the back, but they'd need to be pretty friendly with one another - the width isn't that accommodating, and there's a large transmission tunnel intruding into the foot space. Astute rear-seat occupants will also note that there are different material finishes on the doors in the back than the front, too.
If you've got kids, there are three top tether child seat anchor points, as well as dual outboard ISOFIX baby seat hooks.
The design of the dashboard is both impressive and intimidating. There are so many buttons and screens, you might feel overwhelmed when you slide into the driver's seat.
The most important screen of all is the middle one, it's an 8.0-inch touch-screen unit in all but the base model version (which gets a 6.5-inch screen).
It's a bright and colourful unit, responsive and quick.
And it has the connectivity you'd expect, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus sat nav, digital radio (DAB) and even a CD player.
Then there's the general space, which - yes - it does have a lot of buttons and there's quite a bit going on.
But it's well presented for the most part, and the materials and trims used are interesting and of a high perceived quality.
It feels plush. Not quite luxury, but upper-tier for a mainstream brand.
I mentioned in the section above that the boxy backside of the Impreza hatch helps it offer better practicality than some rivals, and the numbers don't lie. The boot capacity is claimed at 345 litres (VDA), which is considerably more practical than the Corolla hatch (217L) or Mazda3 hatch (295L).
The boot opening is wide and there's not too big of a step over the rear bumper, meaning loading larger items in is easy enough. Plus the rear seats fold down if you need to liberate more room (up to 795L), and there's a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor too.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
Subaru has increased standard equipment across the entire range as it aims to remain competitive in the ever-shrinking small car segment.
You can read the full pricing and specs story for the 2020 Impreza range here, but in this review we're focusing on the top-spec 2.0i-S model, which has a list price of $31,360 plus on-road costs. That's $200 more than you'll pay if you choose the sedan instead of the hatch.
As the flagship Impreza hatchback it comes pretty well stacked with equipment, and also well and truly undercuts the top of the range model from Mazda (Mazda3 G25 Astina: $38,590) while also bettering the top-spec Hyundai i30 petrol (Premium - $33,040), Kia Cerato (GT-Line - $33,490), non-hybrid Toyota Corolla (ZR - $32,135) and VW Golf (110TSI Highline - $34,490).
Unlike all of those models, the Impreza is all-wheel drive (more on that below), and the standard equipment list is strong.
As part of the 2020 update the 2.0i-S features new LED headlights (steering responsive), power-folding and -dipping side mirrors, front- and side-view camera, an electric driver's seat with memory settings, a revised multi-function display for the driver, and piano-black interior trim finishes.
That's in addition to 18-inch alloy wheels, heated wing-mirrors, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, and heated front seats. There's also an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system in this spec (and all specs bar the entry-level version) with sat nav, and all Imprezas have the expected smartphone mirroring tech (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). It runs a six-speaker sound system.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
Now you're not buying a WRX, so don't expect WRX engine specs.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder 'boxer' horizontally-opposed engine in the Impreza has 115kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 196Nm of torque (at 4000rpm).
That's the same outputs that this generation Impreza launched with back in late 2016.
The Impreza range is only offered with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto, which isn't going to stoke many fires. But unlike every other hatchback in the segment, the Impreza maintains its all-wheel drive (AWD) running gear, where most other small cars come in front-wheel drive (FWD/2WD).
Interested in towing specs? The un-braked towing capacity is 650kg, while the braked towing capability is 1200kg. Interestingly enough, only the hatch is rated for towing.
Oh, and if you're wondering about a hybrid, electric or plug in hybrid version of the Impreza? There's nothing to see here. Subaru has not stated any intention to bring an 'e-Boxer' version of the Impreza here, despite having just launched the XV Hybrid and Forester Hybrid models locally.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
The official combined fuel consumption figure for the Impreza 2.0i-S is 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
You might find this interesting - that number is 0.6L/100km more than the lower grade models (2.0i, 2.0-L and 2.0i Premium) because it has bigger wheels and more aggressive tyres. The three lower-spec models all run 17-inch wheels and a claimed consumption of 6.6L/100km.
In practice I saw a displayed return of 8.1L/100km over my drive time, which included urban, city and highway driving.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
You know what I said about not expecting WRXness from the Impreza hatch when it comes to the engine? The same can be said for the overall drive experience.
But this is, after all, a mainstream small car, one that is supposed to appease those who want comfort, control, enjoyment, safety, assuredness and probably some level of performance as well. It ticks some of those boxes, that's for sure.
For instance, the CVT auto is pretty eager to take away from a standing start, but it does run out of puff and can chug a little as soon as you get above about 20km/h. That's if you are accelerating lightly. If you step harder on the throttle when you're already rolling you'll find it is mildly more rewarding, though if you stomp the accelerator from a standstill you shouldn't expect amazing response. In that situation, the CVT feels like it robs the engine of the oomph it possesses. There's always the now-across-the-range SI-Drive mode selection, which ups the throttle response if you feel you need it.
The engine itself is okay for the class but doesn't suit any new benchmarks in terms of power or refinement, although because it is a boxer engine it is inherently quiet when you aren't wringing its neck.
I can see why some people find this powertrain combination to be a bit frustrating. A non-turbo engine with a CVT auto and all-wheel drive isn't what I aspire to have in my dream car. But it will suit most people for most of the day-to-day drudgery a car like this will encounter.
Because it has the AWD underpinnings that we know so well from Subaru, there is a level of assuredness to the way it accelerates and how it handles. This will be most noticeable in twisty road situations, but also if the road is wet - you won't notice any wheel-slip here, as is oh so common in FWD rivals when the surface below the tyres gets greasy.
Subaru claims for this update "the suspension is also revised, delivering even better ride comfort, steering response and handling agility", and I can tell you that the facelifted Impreza certainly felt more sure-footed than the last version I drove a few years back.
The ride doesn't feel clunky or uncomfortable and it doesn't judder or shudder too much over bumps. It feels a little firmer and more control-focused than the last Impreza I drove, which was rather spongey at the rear axle. However, at higher speeds, this one still felt a little wobbly, lacking some body control because it has a softer suspension setup to deal better with sub-standard surfaces.
The steering is quite light on centre and can take a bit of correction to be kept in a straight line, particularly the faster you go. At lower speeds it's a little bit fidgety and not as rewarding as, say, a Corolla hatch.
There's some tyre roar and wind noise around the windscreen and mirror at highway pace, but generally it's pretty quiet. The Yokohama 225/40/18 rubber transmits a hefty amount of noise into the cabin over particularly coarse chip surfaces, but if the surface is smooth it's a very quiet car.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
Subaru achieved the maximum five star ANCAP crash test safety rating when the Impreza was launched here late in 2016.
The 2.0i-S, being the flagship model, gets the gamut of EyeSight safety tech that no other variant in the range can match. That means auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as rear AEB, lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance, lead vehicle start alert, adaptive cruise control, brake light recognition, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a front-view camera and kerb-view camera (with a handy button on the steering wheel to activate them).
This facelifted Impreza has democratised the safety offering across the range, but only to a degree. Not all models get the full EyeSight advanced safety suite technology, with the base model 2.0i still disappointingly left off the list entirely. However, the 2.0i Premium now scores blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, reverse auto emergency braking and a front-view monitor.
The Impreza has seven airbags (dual front, front side, full length curtain and driver's knee), plus there are dual ISOFIX and three top-tether anchor points.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
Most rivals run out to 15,000km, so you're being short-strawed there to a degree.
The service costs are on the high side, too. Here is the price list at the time of writing: 12 months/12,500km - $350.25; 24 months/25,000km - $588.31; 36 months/37,500km - $354.83; 48 months/50,000km - $784.77; 60 months/62,500km - $354.86.
In a bit of good news, you can either pay as you go for maintenance, or you have the choice to buy a service plan. There are three-year ($1293.39) or five-year ($2433.02) plans to choose from.
Unlike a lot of manufacturers, Subaru doesn't offer a discounted rate if you choose to pay in advance, but there is an advantage if you do it this way, anyway: you can roll that cost into your finance package and then, when service time rolls around, you don't need to fret about finding the extra cash. Oh, and the brand throws in three years roadside assist (normally you get just one year cover at purchase), and the option of a free loan car when your vehicle is in for maintenance.
Worried about Subaru Impreza problems, recalls, reliability, complaints, issues, common faults or anything else that might affect the car's resale value? Check out our Subaru Impreza problems page.
Range and Specs
|2.0i (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$23,940|
|2.0i Premium (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$28,590|
|2.0i-S (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$30,710|
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
I think that it probably doesn't matter what the verdict of this review states, because usually you're either a "Subaru person", or you're not.
That said, this top-end variant in the Impreza hatch range is an interesting offering, even for those who mightn't have considered the small Subie before. It's not as fun to drive as a Corolla, or as eye-catching as Mazda3, or as pragmatic a choice as a Kia Cerato hatch. That's not to say it's a bad car, but aside from its AWD system, it's hard to see how it stands out in any major way in this highly competitive class.
What we like
- Good safety equipment
- Well priced and specified
- AWD for 2WD money
What we don't
- A bit dull to drive
- Not as compelling as rivals
- Bit expensive to own