The hatchback market is one that is full of excellent models – including the market-dominant Ford Focus.
The Impreza is Subaru’s effort, which has got a history of being a raucous hot hatch in the form of the WRX and STI models.
Later models, however, haven’t been as evocative or interesting as those fire-breathing versions of old, and they have become rather normal and, in some cases, dull.
So how does the upcoming 2018 version fare against its close rivals, like the Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Toyota Auris? We find out…
In the model we tested, the Impreza came with a 153bhp, 2.0-litre petrol ‘boxer’ engine, with both the 1.6- and 2.0-litre engines on offer with the car coming without any turbocharging. With the ‘boxer’ configuration, the centre of gravity is lower and means an easier pairing with the all-wheel drive system.
However, without the added potency of a turbo, the Impreza feels quite sluggish and a lot of effort needs to be put in before you can build up any speed. Despite the lack of a diesel option, the petrol engines offer good efficiency considering the Impreza comes with a CVT automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Ride & Handling
With Subaru aiming to make all its cars stable on the road, the Impreza feels easy to predict in the corners and the ride is unwavering. With the help of the all-wheel drive system, you can sling it into the corners and it will grip well – helping it keep up with its rivals in that department.
On smaller roads, the suspension soaks up the bumps and ruts, and when on motorways and dual-carriageways it is perfectly comfortable to cruise. The only real issue is the lack of a manual gearbox which would invigorate the drive and make you feel more involved in the process – saying that the CVT does a good job at seamlessly changing gear and helping you deliver the right amount of power when you need it.
Interior & Equipment
Much like the outside design, the inside is quite simplified and the aesthetics aren’t the best – but it is perfectly functional. The quality of the finish is not up to the standards of some of its European rivals, but everything you need is where you expect it to be and the placement of the controls are perfectly reasonable.
The last version of the Impreza wasn’t particularly impressive, so the extra storage and passenger space is a welcome addition to the new model – which overall is a more complete vehicle. Boot space is set at 385 litres – up from the last version – and passenger space is good for the taller occupant.
Equipment is also much better than with the previous generation – although the SE spec is the only trim on offer in the UK, which is quite underwhelming. With that you get a lot of equipment, such as LED headlights, a reversing camera, climate control, heated front seats and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system – which allows you to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Weirdly, Subaru doesn’t offer any additional equipment extras – so the only choice you have is the body colour and engine choice, and that’s it!
The base price of the Impreza is £23,995 – which isn’t too bad considering how much its rivals cost and the fact it has all-wheel drive as standard. The model we tested was set at £24,995, with the price increase coming from the engine and colour choices.
In terms of running costs, the fuel usage of the Impreza isn’t that great compared to its market rivals with the quoted figure set at 42.8mpg. Emissions are also quite high with the CO2 levels stated as 152g/km – and with no diesel options that is the best you will do with the Impreza. That means overall running costs aren’t the best in the sector – in fact, the Impreza’s figures are towards the bottom-end of the market.
When compared to the previous incarnation, this Impreza is a marked improvement as it is more refined, better to drive and has lots of good equipment. But, as the hatchback market is so competitive, the Impreza is likely to be forgotten and be quite a silent competitor as many others in the sector do a better overall job. If Subaru focus more on the European market with its mid-life update the Impreza may make some waves – but until that point it won’t factor hugely on the British roads. If you are after a cheap and practical alternative to the current monopoly on the family car market, the Impreza is worth having a look at.