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I know what you're thinking. If I buy the most expensive version of the most popular car on this planet how can I go wrong?
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When Subaru said its new Impreza would lay “the foundation for our future”, it sounded a lot like the usual marketing hype that accompanies the launch of any new car, even the ones destined to sink faster than Jack Dawson once they eventually go on sale.
But the words seemed particularly hollow in this case. After all, how could the Impreza small hatch or sedan be a foundation for a future we already know will be soaked in SUVs of all shapes and sizes?
That was 12 months ago now, and a quick peek at the sales figures since show that it was anything but hype. While most manufacturers are riding the SUV wave to sales success, the Impreza is comprehensively bucking that trend, and is on track to finish 2017 as Subaru’s equal-first best seller, along with the brand’s Forester.
Clearly there’s something going on with this fifth-generation, new-platformed Impreza. So we climbed behind the wheel of the top-spec 2.0i-S sedan for a week to find out what it is.
|Subaru Impreza 2018: 2.0i (AWD)|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
It’s a clean, polished and simple design, the Impreza, and we even think it's a rare case of the sedan looking better than the hatch.
Viewed front on, the combination of a stretched-looking grille and fog lights perched in the furthest lower corners gives the Subaru a low-and-wide look, while the big 18-inch alloys and side skirtings lend the Impreza a premium, Euro-style feel.
And while plenty of Japanese manufacturers take a decidedly busy approach to interior design, the Impreza’s cabin is refreshingly understated, with a handful of design flourishes (a layered effect on the glovebox, the mix of materials used on the dash, the faux-carbonfibre splashes on the door trims) tempered by a simple, clean and functional interior design.
The twin-screen setup looks fantastic, with the main screen dedicated to controlling your phone and key functions, and a second, smaller screen perched above that can handle navigation instructions or the car’s safety systems.
Inside, the front seats are big, wide and comfortable, and two power sources and a total four USB points (two in the central bin, two more in the storage space under the main screen), make for simple phone connections. There’s two cupholders up front, as well as room for bottles in each of the front doors.
There’s plenty of space for backseat riders, too, with at least 20cm of clear air between my knees and the seat in front (behind my own 5ft-8-inch driving position), and there’s ample head room on offer.
A pulldown seat divider that separates the backseat is home to two cupholders, and there's bottle storage in the rear doors. Sadly there are no rear vents, and with no USB or power outlets, you'll be plugging your phones into the central storage bin.
The most expensive version of Subaru’s Impreza - the 2.0i-S - will set you back a not-insignificant $33,050 in sedan guise, with the hatch version costing $200 more.
That’s about on-par with the more premium members of the small-car segment (the top-spec Mazda3, for example, hovers around $35k), and you predictably want for little in the Impreza 2.0i-S.
Outside, expect 18-inch alloy wheels, a powered sunroof, auto-wipers, proximity unlocking and LED self-levelling headlights. Inside, you’ll find leather seats, push-button start, sat-nav and dual-zone climate control.
There’s also an impressively comprehensive safety suite on offer, but we’ll drill down on that under the Safety sub-heading.
A 2.0-litre four-cylinder "boxer" engine (meaning the cylinders are horizontally opposed, like two boxers arms going at it) produces 115kW at 6000rpm and 196Nm at 4000rpm. It pairs with a CVT automatic and sends its power to all four wheels (all-wheel drive is a Subaru trademark).
Subaru claims 7.2 litres per 100km fuel use on the combined cycle. Emissions are pegged at 163g/km of C02. The Impreza sports a 50-litre fuel tank, and will sip cheaper 90RON fuel.
While the fake watchmakers of the world can perfect almost every tiny detail of that $20,000 Rolex you can pick up for $50 in Thailand, there’s one thing they can’t replicate easily; the weight. Buyers know that heaviness equals quality, and so the watchmakers insert useless pieces of steel hidden behind the watch face so it feels heavy in a buyer’s hand.
Your first impression of the Impreza is one of weighty quality, too, and it doesn’t feel faked. The doors make a satisfying clunk when you shut them (which hasn't always been the case with this car), there’s a heft to the steering and a general sense of quality around the cabin.
The Impreza feels so sorted, so mechanically sound, that you expect it to pounce from the lights with the ferocity of a slightly toned-down WRX. And so it's a little surprising when it plods away from the line, not slow, necessarily, but methodical - a sensation not improved by the slurring CVT gearbox.
And I know that all sounds harsh, but it's also the only real letdown behind the wheel of the Impreza, which feels perfectly put together, with nicely weighted and responsive steering, and a ride that makes you feel constantly connected to what's happening beneath the tyres and is rarely uncomfortable, clanging only over the worst of bumps.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The safety story starts with seven airbags (dual front, front-side, curtain and a driver’s knee bag) and a reversing camera, along with Subaru’s AWD system and the usual suite of traction and braking aids.
The Impreza 2.0i-S also gets the best of Subaru’s safety technology, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking.
The Impreza scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2016.
Like all Subarus, the Impreza is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and the 2.0i-S will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 12,500km.
Subaru also offers capped-price servicing for the first three years of ownership, totalling $1298.
If there's a small car that can reverse the SUV trend, it's the Impreza 2.0i-S. If feels solid, polished and well-equipped, and it's easy on the eye to boot. Who needs a tall-riding bus when you can enjoy driving one of these?
|2.0i (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$15,800 – 22,000||2018 Subaru Impreza 2018 2.0i (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|2.0i Premium (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$18,900 – 26,290||2018 Subaru Impreza 2018 2.0i Premium (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|2.0i-L (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$17,700 – 24,640||2018 Subaru Impreza 2018 2.0i-L (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|2.0i-S (AWD)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$21,400 – 29,040||2018 Subaru Impreza 2018 2.0i-S (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|