THE fifth-generation Subaru Impreza is 95 percent new, and it shows.
WHAT IS IT?
The fifth generation of the Subaru Impreza, and the debut of Subaru’s Global Platform architecture that will also underpin the high-riding XV due in mid-2017. It signals a serious assault on the small-car segment, with four different levels of specification across both hatch and sedan body types.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
After briefly sampling the new Impreza at Subaru’s proving ground in Japan, this is our first chance to drive the sedan on Aussie roads. The Wheels team has already spent a considerable number of hours in the hatch during COTY testing, so we focussed on the sedan at the local launch.
The Impreza competes with big-selling rivals such as the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30, along with the all-new Holden Astra. The Mazda 3, Kia Cerato, and Honda Civic are also vying for buyers’ attention. However, no other car in this segment – bar the Impreza – is available with standard all-wheel drive.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The differences between the hatch and sedan mean picking between them mostly comes down to personal preference for rear styling. However, the addition of towing ability and the possibility of extra seats-down luggage capacity make the hatch a more practical choice.
PLUS: Soaks up bumps with ease; stable and poised chassis; interior space; segment-exclusive AWD
MINUS: Engine lacks urgency; no manual option or towing capacity
THE WHEELS REVIEW
SUBARU says the Impreza hatch will make up the bulk of the model’s future sales, and you can read our dissection of how that car performs on local roads in our new issue from January 5. However, this is our first opportunity to play with the sedan, and to judge if its greater length and bigger boot make it the smarter buy.
Compared with the hatch, the sedan is 165mm longer, 25mm lower and fractionally lighter (between 5-13kg) across the range, though spec and drivetrain options remain identical.
That means four trim levels (i, i-L, i Premium, and i-S) and an aspirated 2.0-litre four producing 115kW/196Nm paired exclusively with a new CVT automatic. The sedan is $200 more expensive across the entire range.
Inside, the sedan’s cabin is identical to the hatch and conveys the same impressive sense of space, with ample shoulder room and rear seats with class-leading legroom. The sedan offers 460 litres of boot space, which is well up on the hatch’s 345L. This is increased to 795 litres in the hatch when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded down – something you can’t do in the sedan. The sedan also loses the ability to tow, with its longer rear rump unable to accommodate a tow bar.
Similar to the hatch, the sedan’s biggest selling point is its deftly tuned chassis. Moving to Subaru’s new “Global Platform” architecture has improved body rigidity by 70-100 percent without an increase in weight. The Impreza corners with a flatness that is more sportscar than everyday commuter.
On misshapen country roads, it remains poised and controlled, and was rarely upset by mid-corner bumps or changes in camber and road surface, yet still felt supple when dealing with potholes. The top-spec Impreza 2.0 S comes with brake torque vectoring as standard, which gives it a noticeable improvement on turn-in and makes it feel more planted.
While the chassis is the leading positive, the engine and gearbox are the Impreza’s weakest points. The 2.0-litre horizontally opposed boxer four-cylinder and CVT combo lacks urgency off the line and under heavy acceleration. Attempting to make gaps in traffic, or perform swift overtakes requires forward planning to compensate for the lack of responsiveness.
Subaru says there was only a 13 percent uptake for manual transmissions in the previous generation Impreza, and because of this it will only offer the CVT with the new generation. The omission is disappointing, with the chassis and engine screaming for a three-pedal option in order to extract the most satisfying experience.
The infotainment system now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, along with a reversing camera. However, the base model Impreza 2.0i does miss out on the EyeSight driver assist system and its active safety features.
Overall, the 2017 Impreza is an impressing step in the right direction, with a refined and capable chassis, minimal road noise, class-leading interior space, and smooth but underwhelming powertrain.
Model: Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S sedan
Engine: 1995cc 4-cyl boxer, dohc, 16v
Max power: 115kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 196Nm @ 4000rpm
Kerb weight: 1433kg
0-100km/h: 10.1sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 7.2L/100km (claimed)
On sale: Now