by Brad Leach - 14/11/12
Two weeks in two all-new third-generation Subaru Imprezas (sedan and hatch) confirmed Subaru’s small car is back to its best – a spacious and contemporary contender for best-in-class.
Family buyers will appreciate the abundant interior space (Impreza’s trump card against all-comers in the small car segment) and drivers will appreciate the much better driving dynamics. Everyone will appreciate the much better looks inside and out – and of course Subaru’s impressive value-for-money.
Priced from $23,990 the Impreza is a vital car for Subaru – a mainstream volume seller alongside the company’s established SUV stars Outback and Forester. We like the looks of the latest third generation range which casts-off the previous model’s dowdiness – it wasn’t Subaru’s most elegant design work.
We’re family guys here at Car Showroom and where the Subaru Impreza scores big points compared to small car rivals is its interior space.
A very competent job from Subaru has delivered an all-new Impreza which is once again a handy all-rounder.
Oh and hats-off to Subaru Australia for a smart pricing strategy which ensures value-for-money is another Impreza standout.
Fuel-saving auto start/stop comes to the all-new Subaru Impreza as part of Subaru’s third-generation FB 2.0-litre, four-cylinder boxer engine. Fuel consumption is down to as low as 6.8/100kms (combined cycle) making this the most fuel-efficient Impreza to date.
The new engine is also cleaner – Euro5-compliant for emissions with the exhaust C02 rated as low as 157g/km.
The FB is a long-stroke (90mm) design and other changes are significant – amongst them a timing chain, dual active valve control, 18 per-cent lighter pistons and 20 per-cent lighter conrods. All up the new engine design accounts for 10 per-cent better fuel consumption.
And it sits on fluid-filled engine mounts – part of a raft of NVH improvements which mean the latest Subaru Impreza is the most refined to date.
Maximum power is 110kW at 6200rpm and peak torque of 196Nm is delivered at 4200rpm.
Drive is via a six-speed manual transmission or Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT with steering wheel paddle shifters. In itself the CVT delivers 10 per-cent better fuel economy than the previous generation’s four-speed auto.
Subaru Impreza’s all-new interior really steps-up over the previous generation’s rather dated package. Spacious, modern, airy (thanks to the low side glass), oozing quality materials and with a modern multi-function display for the driver, the latest Subaru Impreza is a very pleasant place to be.
And of course Subaru’s hallmark safety is never far away – seven airbags and standard reversing camera (2.0i-L and 2.0i-S models) are part of the story.
As usual with Subaru, there’s a ‘driver-focus’ in the cockpit thanks to a nice, sporty steering wheel (adjustable for rake and reach) and height adjustment for the drivers’ seat. The front seats are a new design for enhanced safety – they’re stiffer and feature head-rests with two-way adjustment.
We liked the dashboard/instrument panel design which, while traditional in layout, represents a new styling direction for Subaru (nice metallic-look gauges for starters) and is very practical/user-friendly. Standard audio is a six-speaker single CD system compatible with iPods, MP3 and WMA.
But it’s space where the Subaru Impreza steals and edge over many segment rivals – noticeable in shoulder room up-front and leg-room for the second row,
The luggage areas were surprisingly deep (a payback of smart design) with 340-litres of capacity for the hatchback (or 771-litres with the rear seat folded) and 460-litres for the sedan. Both passed the golf bag test with ease (in fact Subaru says you can fit four golf bags in the sedan).
Wow – what a difference a generation makes! While the outgoing Subaru Impreza range copped plenty of flak for its looks, Subaru’s stylists have managed to maintain some cues while bringing to market an all-new look which we reckon is one the sharpest in the small sedan/hatchback segment.
It starts at the front with a much more cohesive look thanks to the latest ‘corporate’ hexagonal grille, complemented by new ‘hawkeye’ headlights which bring some extra athleticism to the package. Stylish front fog lights in black housings add to the sophistication.
The side view is highlighted by a very slick execution of the glasshouse, clean lines, a forward shift of the A-pillars and new door-mounted rear-view mirrors (the contemporary twist on mirrors and aerodynamic efficiency).
And there is a degree of complexity about the rear-end of both sedan and hatchback variants which adds to the up-market look of the latest Subaru Impreza. Modern tail-lights (both models) and an integrated roof spoiler (hatchback) add to the picture.
Like all car enthusiasts, Car Showroom includes the high-performance Subaru WRX STi Spec R in our “must-have” list. The same company responsible for the raucous WRX road rocket isn’t likely to make a botch of a new model of its volume seller – the Impreza.
So a lot of detail changes improve the on-road showing of the latest Subaru Impreza – things like extras body stiffness (actually 25 per-cent stiffer than the previous generation) and firmer mountings for the McPherson strut front-end, a larger front anti-roll bar (up from 20mm to 22mm) plus tuning and firming of the double-wishbone rear end.
The result was a much more inspiring performance by both Imprezas over our high-speed mountain roads test loop. We particularly noticed the stiffer rear end which, while more compliant, was actually much more stable when challenged by mid-turn bumps and uneven road surfaces.
Subaru’s 2.0-litre boxer engine was refined and reasonably responsive - but despite Subaru claiming enhanced mid-range torque from the long stroke design, still does its best work with at least 4000rpm on board. So calculated gear selection were needed in the twisty stuff (and in that environment, the six-speed manual will be preferred by enthusiast drivers).
Back in the city, the Subaru Impreza showed the extra refinement which is the hallmark of the latest models with nice isolation of exterior noises and adequate acceleration in the freeway rush. Good weighting of the power steering and excellent all-round visibility made for easy maneuvering and parking.
Our only complaint after two weeks in the latest Subaru Imprezas was mechanical noise first thing in the morning when cold (worse with the CVT automatic). But as soon as things warmed-up, normal Subaru Impreza refinement quickly returned.
Let’s forget the outgoing models, however you cut it, this time around Subaru has delivered a much better Impreza. You can tick: exterior style, interior style, refinement and dynamics…all much better than the superseded lineup.
And a few things never change – Subaru’s production quality and commitment to safety. Against some credentialed rivals in the small hatchback and sedan segment, Subaru Impreza stands alone with its well-honed, high-tech all-wheel-drive traction.
Sedan or hatchback? It’s a toss of the coin but we marginally prefer the looks of the Subaru Impreza sedan.
Good as the all-new Subaru Impreza is, it squares-off against some impressive rivals.
No better example than Ford’s German-sourced Focus sedan and hatchback. You’ll need $24,490 to get into a 125kW/202Nm 2.0-litre Focus (Impreza starts at $23,990) but the Ford impresses with its slick interior and refinement.
To better Subaru Impreza’s 110kW/196Nm 2.0-litre engine, you’re looking at the Volkswagen Golf 118TSI Comfortline which starts at $29,490. Of course Golf is the global benchmark small car and even the $22,990 77kW/175Nm 77TSI boasts German quality throughout.
But the Golf is exclusively a hatchback, so Subaru Impreza sedan buyers need to look at the Volkswagen Jetta (starting price $26,490).
Mazda3 (starting price $20,330) drives great and exudes Mazda quality. Both 2.0-litre engines (108kW/182Nm and 113kW/194Nm) are pearlers and the chassis dynamics are amongst the best.
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