At $29,190 before on-road costs, the Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S hatch is the most expensive of the Japanese carmaker’s small car offerings. Does the high price tag meet similarly lofty expectations?
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S sits at the top of Subaru’s four-tier small hatch line-up. There’s a sedan version available that, surprisingly because it uses more metal than the hatch, is $200 cheaper. Go figure.
But befitting its place at the top of the Impreza tree, this flagship features all the Japanese brand’s top-of-the-line safety gear, including a few features that will have some rivals lifting an eyebrow in wonder at how Subaru can do it for the price.
- Subaru’s Impreza rides really well. The car is built on something called the Subaru Global Platform that will underpin a new generation of cars, including the Impreza-based XV SUV due here in a few months’ time. The car’s suspension is tuned really well, and will ride handsomely over even the roughest road surfaces.
- It also drives really well. The Impreza features an impressive ability to hold the road, and it uses more premium (and, we should note, more expensive) 18-inch Yokohama tyres to improve grip. The 2.0i-S also gains electronic torque vectoring – as you turn into a corner, the car will lightly grab the front brake for the wheel inside the corner to help the Impreza rotate, sort of like grabbing a pole to swing yourself around.
- It has all-wheel drive. Subaru has used its all-paw advantage to drive a wedge between it and front-wheel-drive opposition costing about the same as the Impreza. It’s a moot point if it’s a safety thing, but it gives extra confidence on either a dirt road or trip to the snow.
- It has LED headlights and daytime running lights. Lesser Impreza models use halogen globes that struggle a little to light up the road adequately, but the range-topping variant uses one of the latest advances in headlight tech. Included are active LED beams that turn slightly with the steering wheel to give more visibility in corners.
- It’s a small thing, but the Subaru’s high-mounted reversing camera doesn’t collect water droplets, so backing out of the driveway in the rain is refreshingly clear.
- The engine has an idle-stop function. If you’re stuck in traffic or caught at the lights, the Impreza will shut down the engine to save on fuel. But if you’re a bit too quick, you can sometimes catch the engine napping a bit too long before it fires back into life.
- The new body built around the Impreza makes the interior more roomy. 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.
- 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 2.0-litre petrol engine lacks low-down accelerating power and always sounds as though it struggles to get the Impreza moving.
- 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-S 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.
- It’s the only Impreza with leather, and even then it’s only bits of leather. It’s the only Impreza with a powered driver’s seat, and the only one with heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlights. You can get a mix of these at a lower cost in some rivals.
- The leather trim tends to make the seats a bit flat and unsupportive compared with the body-hugging cloth ones used in lower-grade models. It means that when you take advantage of the 2.0i-S’s fun-to-drive character, your shoulders will wash from side to side.
- Apart from helping to save fuel, electric steering lets car makers introduce self-parking functions to their products. Some will steer and brake themselves into a number of differently aligned parking spaces. Not the Impreza, though.
- The Impreza uses Subaru technology called Eyesight that uses a pair of cameras – much like a human’s set of eyes – to measure and keep a safe distance from the car in front when cruise control is activated, and even avoid a crash. But it will beep at the driver every time a car in front moves in or out of the system’s range.
- Just like you, Eyesight has trouble seeing in poor driving conditions, such as if it’s dark and there’s lots of spray from passing traffic. Orange warning lights pop up on the dash, and a tone sounds to warn that the system is disabled.
- It sits on performance tyres that aren’t as forgiving to coarse-chip road surfaces, so the interior of the 2.0i-S is not as hushed as other models in the line-up.
- The cheaper sedan is better at carrying stuff. The hatch’s 345-litre boot can’t compete with the sedan’s 460-litre cavity.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Near the top of your list should be a Holden Astra RS-V with a user-friendly six-speed automatic transmission, or a six-speed manual gearbox. But as for others? Well, a new Hyundai i30 that shows a lot of promise is just around the corner, as are a new Volkswagen Golf and a new Honda Civic hatch. But if your heart is set on the Impreza and its all-wheel-drive edge over rivals, you won’t be disappointed.