The Subaru Impreza is most famous for its past participation in the World Rally Championship. It was here where saloons bearing the Impreza name found title success and technology was passed down to the road cars to the delight of driving enthusiasts.
But things are different nowadays, as Subaru has stayed away from rallying for years and the Impreza is now a hatchback rather than a saloon. Anyone nowadays who want a fast, Subaru-badged saloon will look to the WRX STi, which unlike in the past is now marketed as its own distinct product.
The latest Impreza, meanwhile, is a more sensible family hatchback which offers little in the way of choice but rivals big hitters like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
Impreza hatchbacks are a rare sight on Britain’s roads, but they stand in a pretty unique position in offering four-wheel drive as standard. So do this car deserve more recognition? Read on to find out.
There are only two specifications to pick for the latest Subaru Impreza and both use a 1.6-litre Boxer four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 112bhp. This can be hooked up to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed Lineartronic CVT automatic ‘box. The latter adds £1,500 to the Impreza’s price.
The Impreza will go from zero to 62mph in 12.4 seconds in manual form, or 12.6 with the Lineartronic. Maximum torque is 150Nm at 4,000rpm.
Those sorts of figures are unremarkable for the hatchback class and the engine itself sounds rather subdued, but if you just want civilised family transport then neither points are really an issue. What is an issue, however, is that on the move, the Impreza feels sluggish until you get past 2,500rpm, and then the car gets pretty noisy beyond 3,000rpm.
This is especially true if you’re using the Lineartronic gearbox, which lacks urgency and grunt for moments like, say, an overtake manoeuvre. The automatic DSG ‘box you can get for the likes of the Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia feels more user-friendly in comparison.
We’d recommend the manual gearbox in the Impreza, but even then the petrol engine doesn’t feel as nimble or flexible as offerings from the likes of the Ford Focus or Mazda3.
Ride and Handling
While there’s a little bit of weighting in the steering, feedback from it is lacking.
The standard four-wheel drive powertrain of the Impreza offers decent levels of grip and traction whether the road is dry or wet. There’s also little in the way of body roll when taking the car through corners. But despite the Impreza’s rally roots, you’re unlikely to drive it in an enthusiastic manner because there’s not much power on offer and the steering feels quite numb. While there’s a little bit of weighting in the steering, feedback from it is lacking. Overall, the Impreza’s drive is solid but it’s not as engaging compared to some hatchbacks like the Focus or as relaxing as a Golf. Other than the extra security the four-wheel system provides on low-grip roads, it’s difficult to pinpoint any memorable characteristics.
Interior and Equipment
Reportedly, before the first-generation Impreza was launched, Subaru originally planned to call the car the Loyale.
The interior of the latest Impreza is a mixed bag. It has a dated look and feel about it, especially compared to more upmarket family hatchbacks, but the controls are easy to use and laid out in a user-friendly manner. The seats are supportive and visibility all-round is better than you get with some rivals. Head and legroom both front and back is good enough that you should feel comfortable about fitting four adults in for a long trip. The middle rear seat is best reserved for children on short journeys only. Standard boot space for the Impreza hatchback is 380 litres, more than numerous rivals like the Focus and the same amount as the VW Golf. Unlike the Golf, however, the Impreza’s boot floor isn’t flat which can make loading luggage an awkward task. With only one trim available, you’d expect a reasonable amount of standard kit from the Impreza, which is something you do get to be fair. All Imprezas come with electric windows, alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic rain-sensing wipers. Bear in mind that sat-nav is on the options list, along with leather trim (although a leather steering wheel is standard).
The price of the Impreza is about on par with main rivals using a similar-sized petrol engine, but this car falls behind in terms of running costs.
The Subaru Impreza starts from about £17,500, while you’ll have to spend roughly £19k if you pick the Lineartronic gearbox. The price of the Impreza is about on par with main rivals using a similar-sized petrol engine, but this car falls behind in terms of running costs. Official combined fuel economy and CO2 emissions for the Subaru is recorded at 44.1mpg and 147g/km when using the manual ‘box or 46.3mpg and 140g/km with Lineartronic. If fuel economy is a major concern, then there are hatchback rivals which can offer small petrol engines or diesel units which are much more frugal and less polluting. Entries like the Focus, Kia Cee’d and SEAT Leon can offer engines with over 30g/km less CO2 and a mpg figure over 10mpg greater than the Impreza.
The Subaru Impreza hatchback does some things well but it struggles to stand out in within what is a very crowded and competitive market segment. Handling and cabin space from the Impreza are both decent, but there are numerous rivals that offer both a more engaging drive and far better running costs simultaneously. The absence of a smaller petrol unit or any sort of diesel in the Impreza range works against it. If you really want your family hatchback to have four-wheel drive, then you could make a reasonable case for getting an Impreza. If it’s not a priority though, then you’re not short of similarly-priced or cheaper alternatives to make your first choice for purchase instead.