It’ll launch locally in the third week of December, but we travelled to Subaru’s Japanese homeland to get a sneak peek. Our first experience of the new Subaru Impreza suggests that Subaru has a bona-fide winner on its hands.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
This is Subaru’s all-new small car offering, and the first of a new breed of Subarus. The 2017 Impreza is the first car in the Japanese automaker’s line-up to be built on its Subaru Global Platform architecture, which will eventually underpin all Subaru models in the near future.
Prices and specifications for Australian-delivered models have yet to be announced, but the range is expected to encompass three spec grades. Just one engine will be offered – a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol flat four – and all models will be equipped with a CVT automatic as well as Subaru’s trademark all-wheel drive system.
- Bigger inside: the new Impreza is slightly wider than its predecessor and enjoys a 29mm increase in front shoulder room as a result. The gap between front seat occupants also grows by 20mm – reducing the likelihood of awkward elbow contact between frontseaters.
Those in the back seat will also appreciate the 29mm of extra leg room on offer, which gives the new Impreza one of the most spacious back seats in its segment.
- Practicality: Subaru has made the hatch opening 100mm wider to make it easier to load wide cargo, and boot space rises by five litres to 345 litres with the rear seats up.
- Refinement: noise and vibration suppression have all been addressed, with Subaru going to great lengths to give the 2017 Impreza a high-end ambience inside. The gearbox is redesigned to reduce chain noise (a hallmark of Subaru CVTs), build quality is rock-solid and the engine is surprisingly quiet for a flat four.
- Handling: one of the benefits of Subaru’s new platform is its rigidity, which allows the suspension to work better at containing body movements. A revised rear sway bar mount also helps dial out body roll, and the new Impreza corners flatter with better body control than before. It still preferences understeer, but it’s a far more composed car now.
- Dramatically improved design: say what you will about the old Impreza, but its replacement is a genuinely handsome thing – both inside and out. The interior gets a more appealing design and premium materials, and the presentation isn’t too far from that of a Mazda3.
- Safety equipment: Subaru will make its EyeSight active safety suite standard on mid- and high-grade Imprezas for the first time, bringing active cruise control, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.
- Great view through the front glass: with less intrusive wing mirrors and an expansive view through the windshield and front door glass, Impreza drivers will have an excellent view of the road ahead.
- Torque shortfall: having a CVT automatic helps compensate for this somewhat, but with just 115kW of power and 196Nm of torque there are still occasions where the Impreza’s lack of oomph is very much apparent. When faced with a steep hill, the Impreza takes its time to accelerate, and if you need to overtake at highway speeds you may want to ensure you have a long stretch of clear road ahead of you before you do.
- No rear air vents: unlike competitors like the Volkswagen Golf, you can’t get rear-seat air vents in the new Impreza. Not such a great concern if you live in cooler climates, but in the heat of an Australian summer your backseaters may wish they had a vent or two to direct cold air toward their faces.
- Transmission noise under hard acceleration: Subaru may have tweaked the Impreza’s CVT for smoother, quieter running, but ask the engine to work in the upper reaches of its rev range and it starts to whine. It doesn’t affect how it drives, but it can be annoying after a while.
- No great fuel consumption advantage: Subaru isn’t stating official fuel economy numbers just yet, but admits the new Impreza burns roughly the same amount of fuel as the model it replaces during standardised testing.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Small hatches and sedans are plentiful in the Australian market, and while the new Impreza is a dramatic improvement over the old one there are more than a few rivals that are up to the same standard – or better.