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Subaru's new Impreza is one of a rash of newcomers in the small car space to drop in the last twelve months. Interestingly, it's one of a trio to land on all-new platforms - the other two being the Honda Civic and Hyundai i30/Elantra pair.
For once, the Impreza bears more than a passing resemblance to the concept car with which the styling was introduced and the new platform meant that the new Subaru might just attract non rusted-on buyers to have a good hard look.
|Subaru Impreza 2017: 2.0L (awd)|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
In terms of design, the sedan is arguably not as successful as the hatch. All is well up front but once you reach the back, the proportions get a bit odd - the boot seems too high and the chassis appears raked like a Red Bull F1 car (trick of the eye - it isn't), but it's still a reasonably clean design.
The old Impreza had bits everywhere and, to put it politely, was very unappealing to look at. If you've got a few hundred bucks and are worried about the looks, chuck on the 18s or spend some money on STi accessories.
The rear end is better suited to Japanese plates and the lights look a bit squiffy, but after the old one, anything that's better will do. Then again, Subaru's target market isn't led by style, so it's not a deal-breaker.
The cabin's biggest appeal is the jump in quality. There wasn't a lot wrong with the old Impreza's interior, it was just clothed in low-rent plastic panels and was a bit blah. While the trim is cloth, it's distinguished by some vaguely racy texturing to make the seats look more shapely, a bit Audi-like, which is a nice effect.
The materials are a big step up and the construction a bit more thoughtful, although the steering wheel still has way too many buttons and switches.
The Impreza doesn't feel like a small car inside. I can easily fit behind my own driving position, with tons of room to spare (I'm 180cm tall), so lankier rear occupants will be fairly comfortable if a little tight for headroom once passing about 185cm.
Front and rear passengers each get a pair of cupholders and small bottle holders in each door. The centre console has a litre or so worth of storage with two USB ports to go with the two further ports in a storage slot under the climate controls.
The L is the second-tier offering in the Impreza range, starting at $27,980 for the sedan and $28,180 for the hatch. We had the sedan in a fetching silver that won't cost you a single extra dollarydoo, which is an excellent start.
Standard are 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, 'EyeSight' safety package, reversing camera, cloth interior, cruise control (with distance control), keyless start, remote central locking, power mirrors, power windows all around and space saver spare.
The six-speaker stereo is powered by Subaru's 'Starlink' media system, which has come along nicely in this newer version. The 8.0-inch screen is bright and clear (too bright at night, even with auto-brightness on), the system also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, matching the i30 and beating the Mazda3 on that particular score. It's a bit slow to respond, though, which might get a bit tired.
Factory options? None.
Subaru (thankfully) persists with the gravelly four-cylinder 'boxer' engine and all-wheel drive. The 2.0-litre unit serves up 115kW/196Nm, which is about right for the segment, if a little down on its rivals for torque.
All four wheels are turned through Subaru's Lineartronic CVT, which has a torque converter to help curb the worst excesses of CVT-itis.
Subaru's claimed combined cycle figure is 6.6L/100km. A long, startlingly uninterrupted run along Sydney's M2 delivered an indicated 4.8L/100km before traffic pushed it up to 8.4L/100km for the week, not a bad effort really.
The Impreza's range is slightly hampered by a small-ish 50-litre tank.
The new Impreza has a few headline numbers, but the one you really want to know is this - it's 70 percent stiffer than the old one. You probably want to know why that's good.
The stiffer a car, the better it is because the engineers don't have to compromise as much on ride and handling. It also make it vastly easier to isolate noises and gosh darn it, it just feels better.
It's a big improvement all around. The cabin is much, much quieter and the car feels a lot more planted. It will still understeer, seemingly long before the Mazda3 or i30, but again, it's better than the car it replaces.
The transmission is Subaru's best attempt yet at the CVT auto, although quite why you put a torque converter into the mix when you could just put a solid six-speed auto in is anyone's guess, but Subaru employs much smarter people than me, so I'm sure they know what they're doing. There's no whine and the usual flaring seems well-contained, a stark contrast to the Levorg I drove last year.
It's pretty slow, though. Overtaking is something you'll need to plan and even though it's one of the better CVTs, you either need to kick it down with the paddles (there are seven artificial steps in the transmission) or be prepared to wait it out. Single carriageway country roads will mean a lot of time stuck behind caravaners. We're talking titchy automatic hatchback slow.
As far as other complaints go, the halogen headlights are a bit on the weak side, the touchscreen is really slow to respond and there's a space-saver spare.
Also, the remote's 'big' button, the Subaru logo, doesn't lock the car, but unlocks it. This might just be motoring journalist different-car-every-week syndrome, but I reckon the easiest button to press should lock the car.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Impreza comes with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls (as well as all-wheel drive), brake force distribution, brake assist and a reversing camera, all of which adds up to a five star ANCAP safety rating.
There are three top-tether child seat points and two ISOFIX locations.
Here on the L is where EyeSight debuts in the range. While a screaming madman hellbent on annoying the crap out of you in the Forester, it's a much calmer system in the Impreza (and Liberty and Outback).
EyeSight refers to a pair of cameras in the windscreen that scan the road ahead and provide the data for the forward collision warning, active cruise control and AEB. It's quite clever and didn't suffer the failures I had previously encountered in the Levorg and Forester.
Imprezas are covered by Subaru's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a year's roadside assistance in the form of a membership with your local motoring organisation (NRMA, RACV, RACQ etc.)
Also on offer is capped-price servicing for the first three years or 37,500km. Service intervals are 12 months or 12,500km, with the A and C services costing $348.30 and the B Service $601.59, a total of $1298.19.
After that, there is a further two years of "transparent pricing".
I drove the new Impreza in January and came away hugely... um... impressed. It's so much better than the old one inside and out. Even the transmission passes muster and I can't stand CVT autos. The Impreza remains individualistic (although the sedan isn't very pretty) and characterful but without the dodgy interiors and creaking undercarriage.
Is it enough to tempt you out of its rivals? Possibly - what's really changed is that now it is actually a contender rather than 'one for the fans'. Quiet, composed, good value and with a comfortable new interior, it certainly won me over. If only it were a bit quicker...
|2.0i (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$12,900 – 18,700||2017 Subaru Impreza 2017 2.0i (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|2.0i Premium (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$17,900 – 24,970||2017 Subaru Impreza 2017 2.0i Premium (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|2.0i-L (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$16,700 – 23,320||2017 Subaru Impreza 2017 2.0i-L (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|2.0i-S (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$20,200 – 27,500||2017 Subaru Impreza 2017 2.0i-S (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||6|