I’VE discovered a new game in the Subaru Impreza: if I’m driving a twisty section of road, I left-foot trail-brake deep into a corner.
This loads up the Impreza’s front end on corner entry, with weight shifting forward to lean on the outside 18-inch Yokohama. The squat centre of gravity – the low-mounted boxer engine endows the Impreza with a surprising ground-hugging ability – shifts subtly, endowing the front end with imperious grip.
Applying the throttle at this point, even before you reach the apex, helps to offset the dull-witted CVT transmission, as the clever electronic front diff kicks in to stop the inside front wheel from spinning. The Impreza then launches itself out of the corner as though it’s being pulled by an invisible elastic band.
I’m not sure that this is the fastest way to get the Impreza 2.0i-S through a corner, but it sure is the most enjoyable.
Where I live backs onto what must surely rank among Victoria’s best sections of road, and regular trips to far-flung soccer fields and waterways provide the perfect opportunity to turn off the main roads and take the more interesting route home.
However, using these backroads means I’ve also found the Impreza’s limits, and it’s not the grip of those Yokohamas, which have been impressive in both wet and dry conditions.
Nope. It’s that bloody CVT.
Here’s something akin to one of the best-handling small sedans on the market. But tap into the Impreza’s deep well of dynamic ability and the snoozy auto takes forever to recover from a hard braking manoeuvre, dithering for what seems like a lifetime if you’re just jumping straight off the brake pedal and onto the accelerator.
The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, meanwhile, take what seems like an eternity to flag their intentions to the transmission, despite my spicy vocal encouragement. And seven artificial steps? Five would do nicely, thanks. Also, drive too enthusiastically while stringing close corners together and the brake pedal starts to get a bit long. Buttoning off a bit brings it back.
But I'm looking beyond these flaws at Subaru's whole package. The Impreza is still a deeply engaging thing to punt along – more often than not I still find I'm avoiding the major byways and taking the significantly less-straight way home.
I’m starting to have doubts that the sedan is the best-looking version of the Impreza. Yes, it’s impressively proportioned, particularly alongside rivals such as the Chevrolet Cruze-based Holden Astra sedan, but every time the rear end of a hatchback Impreza hoves into view, the thought arises that it, and not the booted version, is the more attractive design.
And after several trips to Bunnings I’ve found myself in situations where a more versatile hatch bodystyle would be welcome to stow bulkier purchases.