The Subaru Impreza is back with an all-new body that fixes a lot of what was lacking with the old one.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
An all-new Subaru Impreza hatch arrived in Australia earlier this year after moving to the platform that will fit under every new model the Japanese carmaker launches over the next decade.
It’s a noticeable change for Subaru, with big differences inside and out that make it more appealing than the model it replaces.
It also comes as a sedan [https://www.whichcar.com.au/car-reviews/2017-subaru-impreza-2l-sedan-quick-review] for those who aren’t a fan of the slightly smaller boot space the liftback form offers.
We’re driving the $26,490 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Luxury here that, quite rarely for a test car, has no optional extras tacked on.
- The Impreza hatch’s exterior design is much better than the car it replaces. Okay, so from the rear you could possibly confuse it with a Toyota Corolla – the small car segment’s biggest seller ahead of the Mazda 3 – but otherwise the rest of it forms a sharp, fresh looking hatch that straddles the gender gap rather than leaning too much to one side of masculine or feminine.
- Inside is a whole new game. Imprezas of old were known for feeling a bit cheap and being too hard plastic-heavy, and this makeover goes a long way to changing that. Clever use of soft-touch surfaces, particularly across the dash and along some of the edges, gives a more premium feel, and matte finishes soften what once would have been hard, shiny (read cheap-looking) panels.
- The back seat is no longer punishing to sit in. The new Impreza has more distance between the front and rear wheels, and that has converted to even more interior space. Fitting in was never a problem for the front seats, so more rear legroom is welcome.
- It hangs on well when pushed. Subaru’s entire Impreza line-up is all-wheel drive, and the car hangs on tenaciously in corners, helped by the grip of its 17-inch Bridgestone Turanza tyres.
- It’s very quiet inside. There’s very good suppression of the small hatchback’s traditional nemesis – roar over the coarse-chip surfaces that make up most of Australia’s road networks – which in turn reduces fatigue.
- The Subaru Impreza made it through to the second round of the 2017 Wheels Car of the Year awards. Just to get consideration for the award is special.
- The engine lacks low-down accelerating power and always sounds as though it struggles to get the Impreza moving. Happily, this wasn’t reflected in the quite reasonable fuel use figure on test that was close to its 6.6L/100km average.
- The continuously variable transmission is nowhere near as nice to use as a more traditional automatic. The CVT has variable gear ratios, so either sits the engine in its revvy, noisy power band, or its gutless fuel-sipping zone. The 2.0i Premium gets a pair of paddle shifters behind the wheel, but they may as well be connected to the gearbox via a pair of wet strings for all the good they do – a shame given that the Impreza is such a fun car to throw at a twisty road.
- The multimedia interface. It speaks in broken English, the touchscreen is difficult to use and distracting, and it integrates poorly with the multifunction steering wheel.
- The headlights. Subarus of yore have been known for their ability to light up an errant ’roo like it’s caught in a shooter’s spotlight, so it’s a bit disappointing to see the new Impreza’s halogen projectors struggling to pick out the way ahead.
- It beeps a lot. Eyesight’s active cruise control system will sound an audible alert every time a car moves in, our out, of range in the lane in front. If you’re changing lanes frequently, it beeps constantly. It will also beep three times whenever you stray near the edge of your lane. A rush-hour freeway commute can sound a bit like an ’80s arcade game.
- The interior is still not great. Ergonomics are poor with the high-mounted touchscreen, a USB slot is hidden at the back of a letterbox-slot storage cubby that’s unkind to man-hands, and faux chrome highlights glare angrily in bright sunlight. The front seats lack a bit of shoulder support, too. Slip behind the wheel of a Holden Astra and you’ll notice a big difference between the Astra’s slick Euro-chic and Impreza’s manga-mashup.
- The hatch’s 345-litre boot can’t compete with the sedan’s 460-litre cavity.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Another 2017 Wheels Car of the Year contender was the Holden Astra, which like the Impreza made the second cut. Likewise, Renault’s Megane made it as far as the first round of the competition – it lacks a bit of polish compared with the other two cars named here, but it still a respectable consideration. We also still like the Mazda 3, narrowly ranking as Australia’s third-best selling passenger car in 2016, which received a significant update in August last year to keep it alluring in the eyes of fussy buyers.