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Subaru Impreza 2021 review: 2.0i-S hatch

Subaru's Impreza is increasingly overshadowed by its XV sibling, but is it still worth a look?
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Subaru is a brand that was built on making alternatives to traditionally shaped SUVs, and on the back of the Impreza sedan. It still does make a range of slightly different off-roaders, and its XV is a huge seller, but it also still offers the Impreza, which has just been updated. So does it still have a place in the market, and how good is it?

Subaru is now known best for being an SUV brand that doesn’t really make SUVs.

Its range of lifted wagons and hatchbacks are successful evolutions of its once-popular sedan and hatch ranges, which included the Impreza.

Now the Liberty mid-size sedan has reached the end of its long run in Australia, the Impreza hatch and sedan represent a little slice of Subaru’s past. The range has been updated for the 2021 model year, so what we’re set on finding out is whether the storied Impreza badge should take your eyes away from more popular rivals.

We took a top-spec 2.0i-S for a week to find out.

the Impreza hatch and sedan represent a little slice of Subaru’s past. the Impreza hatch and sedan represent a little slice of Subaru’s past.

Subaru Impreza 2021: 2.0i-S (AWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.2L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$31,490

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Being the top-spec, our 2.0i-S hatch wears a before-on-roads cost (MSRP) of $31,490. You’ll note this tops out quite a bit below many of its rivals, and notably a significant margin below the equivalent XV ($37,290), which is simply a lifted version of this car.

Traditional top-spec rivals include the Toyota Corolla ZR ($32,695), Honda Civic VTi-LX ($36,600), and Mazda 3 G25 Astina ($38,790), and there is also now the ever-popular Hyundai i30 N-Line ($31,420) or Kia Cerato GT ($34,190) to compete with.

You’ll note all those rivals are front-wheel-drive, of course, giving the AWD Subaru a bit of an edge from the get-go, although unlike some of its rivals, even this top-spec misses out on a more powerful engine.

Featuring an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. Featuring an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen.

Equipment levels across the board are good in the Impreza, although it is missing some of the more modern tech items that feature prominently in rivals. 

Standard stuff on our top-spec 2.0i-S includes 18-inch alloy wheels in a new design for this year, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat-nav, DAB radio, a CD player, a 4.2-inch multi-information display, a 6.3-inch multi-function display, dual-zone climate control, push-start ignition with keyless entry, full LED exterior lighting, leather-accented seat trim with heated front seats, and an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

While this Subaru arguably already has too many screens, the top-spec car is missing a fully digital dash or a head-up display, which many of its rivals now feature. There’s also no truly premium audio system, so you’re stuck with Subaru’s tinny one, and a power adjustable passenger seat would be nice, too.

Still, it’s a significant discount from the equivalent XV, and undercuts many rivals, so it's not bad at all on the value front.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Subaru plays it very safe for the Impreza’s latest update, with a gently re-worked grille, new alloy wheel designs and, well, that’s pretty much it.

For a hatch, the XV is already safe and inoffensive, wearing some swoopy lines down the side, but otherwise adhering to the brand’s chunky and squared-off side and rear profiles. It’s set to please people who find the Mazda3 too extreme, or the Honda Civic a bit too sci-fi.

Subaru plays it very safe for the Impreza’s latest update. Subaru plays it very safe for the Impreza’s latest update.

If anything, it’s hard to tell this top spec apart from the rest of the range, with only the larger alloys as the big give away. 

The inside of the Impreza is nice, with the brand’s hallmark steering wheel, an abundance of displays, and comfortable seat trims well and truly present. Much like the XV, Subaru’s design language really takes its own path here, away from rivals. 

The steering wheel is an excellent touch point, and everything is really adjustable, with plenty of room, even for larger adults. Soft trims extend from the centre console, across the dash, and into the doors, making the Impreza’s cabin a relatively attractive and comfortable place to be. All but the lowest spec get a similar interior treatment, a testament to the value within the range.

The only issue here is it feels a little less agile, and maybe a bit too SUV-like from behind the wheel. Everything in the interior layout feels a little exaggerated, and while this works for the SUV pretences of the XV, it does feel a little out of place here in the lower-riding Impreza.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The Impreza does a good job of looking and feeling like a box on wheels, and this makes for a pretty practical interior. Despite big chunky seats and lots of padded trim points, the cabin proved to be a spacious and adjustable environment, with thought given to places for objects.

There’s a large trench in the doors with a bottle holder on either side, two large cupholders in the centre console, a large console storage box with soft trim on top, and a small bay underneath the climate unit. It seems as though a wireless charger could go here, but there isn’t one yet  available in the Impreza range. There’s also no USB-C, with two USB-A outlets, an auxiliary input, and a 12v power outlet featuring in this location.

The Impreza has a pretty practical interior. The Impreza has a pretty practical interior.

The large, bright touchscreen is easy to use for the driver, and practical dials for all the important functions are joined by perhaps one-too-many steering wheel controls to make functions easy to operate while driving.

The Impreza’s cabin is notable for the amount of room on offer in the rear seat, where I have airspace for my knees behind my own driving position (I’m 182cm tall), and there’s plenty of width here, too. The middle seat is perhaps less useful for adults, with a large transmission tunnel taking up much of the space.

The Impreza’s cabin is notable for room in the rear seat. The Impreza’s cabin is notable for room in the rear seat.

Rear-seat passengers can make use of a single bottle holder in each of the doors, a set of cupholders in the drop-down armrest, and a single pocket on the back of the front passenger seat. Despite the amount of room on offer , there are no adjustable air vents or power outlets offered to rear passengers, although the nice seat trim continues.

Boot space comes in at 345-litres (VDA). Boot space comes in at 345-litres (VDA).

Boot space comes in at 345-litres (VDA), which is small in the case of the XV, which purports to be an SUV, but a little more competitive in the case of the Impreza. For the record, it’s larger than the Corolla but comes in smaller than the i30 or Cerato. There is a space-saver spare wheel under the floor.

Boot space for the Impreza is larger than the Corolla. Boot space for the Impreza is larger than the Corolla.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

The Impreza soldiers on with just one engine choice, a 2.0-litre non-turbo horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ producing 115kW/196Nm. These figures wouldn’t be so bad in most hatches, but this engine has to contend with the added burden of the Impreza’s all-wheel-drive system.

The engine is a 2.0-litre non-turbo horizontally opposed ‘boxer’. The engine is a 2.0-litre non-turbo horizontally opposed ‘boxer’.

Speaking of which, Subaru’s all-wheel drive is always on and theoretically “symmetrical” (as in, it can send about equal torque to either axle), which is generally preferable to the “on-demand” systems  used by some rivals.

Only one transmission is available in the Impreza range, a continuously variable automatic (CVT). 

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The downside of having standard all-wheel drive is weight. The Impreza tips the scales at over 1400kg, making this all-wheel-drive hatch one chunky unit.

It has an official claimed/combined consumption of 7.2L/100km, although our testing returned a decidedly disappointing 9.0L/100km over a week of what I’d consider to be “combined” testing conditions. That's not great when many much larger SUVs are getting the same or better consumption. An argument for a hybrid variant, or at least a turbocharger, perhaps?

At least the Impreza will drink entry-level 91RON unleaded fuel for its 50-litre tank.

The Impreza has an official claimed/combined consumption of 7.2L/100km. The Impreza has an official claimed/combined consumption of 7.2L/100km.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

Subarus have been notable in recent years for their unique and impressive ‘EyeSight’ safety system, which uses a stereo camera set-up to to host a suite of active-safety functions.

Included are auto emergency braking (works to 85km/h, detects cyclists, pedestrians, and brake lights), lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, reverse auto braking, lead-vehicle alert, and adaptive cruise control.

The 2.0i-S also has an impressive suite of cameras, including a side and front-view monitor to assist with parking.

Subarus have a unique and impressive ‘EyeSight’ safety system. Subarus have a unique and impressive ‘EyeSight’ safety system.

The Impreza has seven airbags (the standard front, side, and head, as well as a driver’s knee) and features the standard array of stability, brake, and traction controls, with the addition of torque vectoring via the all-wheel-drive system.

It’s one safe mainstream hatchback. Unsurprisingly the Impreza carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, although it is dated all the way back to 2016 when this generation launched.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Subaru covers its cars with an industry-standard five-year and unlimited-kilometre promise, although there are no boons or frills to this, like free loan cars, or the transport options offered by some rivals.

One thing Subaru isn’t known for is low running costs, with the Impreza’s yearly or 12,500km service visits being relatively expensive. Each visit will cost between $341.15 to $797.61 for a yearly average over the first five years of $486.17, which is painfully expensive compared to, say, Toyota’s Corolla.
 

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Like all Subarus, the Impreza has a lot of nice characteristics granted by its all-wheel-drive system, fairly organic steering, and comfortable ride. It’s sturdy and reassuring on the road, and while it misses out on the ride height of its XV sibling, it still possesses a comfortable suspension tune.

In fact, the Impreza is just like the XV, but more engaging and reactive, thanks to it being closer to the ground. If you don’t need the ride height, the Impreza is the better pick.

The Impreza has fairly organic steering. The Impreza has fairly organic steering.

Thanks to that lower  height, there’s also better body control for the Impreza in the corners, and yet it deals with potholes and road imperfections seemingly just as well as its raised companion. Indeed, the Impreza’s ride is preferable in urban scenarios to many of its sporty rivals, if you’re looking for a softer edge. It’s also a breeze around town or when parking, with great visibility and good camera coverage in this top-spec version.

The engine and transmission are less pleasing, however. The 2.0-litre non-turbo gets the job done for urban commuting, but it’s a thrashy,  noisy unit, which needs to fly up the rev range to provide adequate power in a lot of situations. It’s not helped by the rubbery response from the continuously variable transmission, which is particularly average. It just sucks the joy from what could have otherwise been a fun and capable hatch.

The 2.0-litre non-turbo gets the job done for urban commuting. The 2.0-litre non-turbo gets the job done for urban commuting.

It’s a shame to see there’s no hybrid “e-Boxer” version of this car, as the hybrid version of the equivalent XV is a little more refined, and the electric drive helps take some of the edge off the underpowered engine. Perhaps it might arrive for this car’s next iteration?

When venturing out of town, this Impreza offers a contrast of excellent active-safety features for the freeway, with a notable drop in refinement over 80km/h. Still, its ride comfort and chunky seats make it a decent long-distance tourer.

Overall, the Impreza will suit a buyer who is looking for something a little more comfort-oriented than its rivals, plus the security and safety of all-wheel drive.

Verdict

Sturdy, safe, and comfortable, the Subaru Impreza continues to cut its own path as a little, lowered-SUV with all-wheel drive in the hatchback space. 

Unfortunately, in a lot of ways the Impreza is a shadow of its former self. This is a car calling out for some sort of engine and tech upgrade, be it a smaller turbocharged option or the new ‘e-Boxer’ hybrid. Time will tell if it survives another generation to evolve into what it needs to be in tomorrow’s market.

Pricing guides

$27,740
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$23,990
Highest Price
$31,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0i (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $24,190 2021 Subaru Impreza 2021 2.0i (AWD) Pricing and Specs
2.0i Premium (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $28,790 2021 Subaru Impreza 2021 2.0i Premium (AWD) Pricing and Specs
2.0i-L (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $26,060 2021 Subaru Impreza 2021 2.0i-L (AWD) Pricing and Specs
2.0i-S (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $31,490 2021 Subaru Impreza 2021 2.0i-S (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Safety9
Ownership7
Driving7
Tom White
Journalist

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