THE FOURTH GENERATION 2016 SUBARU IMPREZA IS APPROACHING ITS FOURTH BIRTHDAY – A RELATIVE ETERNITY IN THE FAST-PACED, CONSTANTLY UPDATING, SMALL CAR CLASS.
But rather than sending this all-wheel-drive hatch and sedan off to grab the zimmer frame, Subaru has energised things with a price drop for the MY16 range (model year 2016) and given all models an equipment boost.
The price cut, and the changes, make a competent small car better buying value – it’s good buying right across the range – and much more appealing.
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $27,400 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 110kW/196Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol | automatic CVT
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.8 l/100km | tested: 8.8 l/100km
Subaru is clearly responding to the Impreza’s sales drop. The small hatch is down 22.7 percent (to October 2015) compared with last year, its share of the total small car segment halving to 2.3 percent.
The Impreza 2.0i manual is now a $22,990 driveaway special (add $2K for the auto CVT) and now with alloy wheels, climate control air-conditioning and 6.2-inch colour touchscreen.
For just a little more, you can step up to the Impreza 2.0i Premium at $25,179 (manual) and $27,239 (auto) driveaway, adding foglights, leather trim and a reverse-view camera.
We’re testing the Impreza 2.0i-S that is an auto-only proposition and now priced at $27,300 plus on-road costs (or $31,359 driveaway). This flagship model benefits most from the update, its price falling by $3090 while adding a 7.0-inch touchscreen with nav and app connectivity.
- Standard equipment: Cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, multi-function trip computer, leather seat trim, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, sunroof, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, auto-off headlights
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Pandora internet app connectivity and satellite navigation
- Cargo volume: 340 litres (771L rear-backrest folded)
For interior quality and features, the Impreza 2.0i-S is now more-than competitive with other similarly priced $27k competitors.
This luxury grade includes an electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and electric sunroof for only $510 more than the equivalent Mazda3 Touring 2.0-litre automatic (which lacks both features and gets 16-inch alloy wheels instead of the Subaru’s 17s).
The new infotainment system is a near-match for the benchmark Mazda unit, too.
Like the Mazda, it offers Pandora internet music capability (but not Aha internet radio) and a high resolution screen. The reverse camera isn’t supported by front or rear parking sensors, though (both standard on Mazda3 Touring).
The Impreza continues to impress inside. What may be considered a cheaper-feeling cabin in the $39k WRX, is more than acceptable for a model with a pricetag that reads almost $12k less.
Soft-touch dashboard plastics are consistently matched and twin colour trip-computer screens – one beside the speedometer; the other high on the dash – join the large touchscreen.
The leather-trimmed front seats are a fraction flat, however, and lack heating for those colder months. Conversely, the omission of air-vents for rear passengers will grate in warmer months, though twin USB charging-ports are included back there.
Not so good is that the rear bench is mounted quite low, resulting in a knees-up seating position, and both legroom and headroom are only average for the segment.
In many ways, you really can call the Impreza the “in-betweener” – it’s neither class worst, nor best, for interior quality and comfort.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 110kW/196Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: CVT automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering, turning circle: 10.6m
- Towing capacity: 650kg (unbraked), 1200kg (braked)
If the Impreza is the “in-betweener” inside – neither brilliant nor disappointing – then it dips just below average for performance.
The all-wheel-drive system is a virtue if you live around dirt roads that turn snowy or slushy, however it also adds weight. With a kerb mass of 1415kg, the Impreza 2.0i-S is 148kg and 150kg heavier than the Mazda3 Touring and Golf 110TSI automatics respectively.
Considering its 2.0-litre engine capacity, the Subaru makes a competitive 110kW of power at 6200rpm and 196Nm of torque at 4200rpm.
However, it doesn’t have much to give low down in its rev range. The automatic continuously-variable transmission – with a single sliding gear (a metal belt sandwiched between variable ‘cones’) – is slow to wind-up and consequently feels sluggish off the line.
In fact we’re unsure which element to blame for the leisurely performance – engine, transmission or sheer weight – but the figures confirm the Impreza is among the slowest cars in the class with an 11.1-second 0-100km/h claim.
The CVT is quicker to respond on the move, for example when changing lanes and attempting to fill a traffic gap, though refinement and economy suffers if you drive it hard.
Where the Impreza does impress is with its ride quality, which, despite 17-inch wheels on this model (a size larger than the base and middle-tier grades), remains nicely controlled and absorbent in urban and bumpy backroad conditions.
And it can be driven quickly and safely. There is a sense of controlled assurance to the Impreza’s all-wheel-drive system, and it feels solid and effortless grip, if not ‘sharp’, through corners.
Steering that is a fraction vague on the centre position is less favourable, however.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Impreza scored 35.33 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Seven airbags including dual-front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Golf 110TSI has the most premium feel, the Focus Sport is the most dynamic and the Mazda3 Touring the better all-rounder. The i30 SR and Corolla Levin ZR are competent alternatives, but each hit fewer high notes than the aforementioned rivals.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Subaru offers a 125kW 1.6-litre turbo with a CVT in the global Levorg, an Impreza-based wagon arriving in Australia next year (but we’ll get it locally only with the 2.0-litre turbo from the WRX).
We mention this because this engine would be a superb fit for this Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S, which rides well, feels solid and is now – finally – both well-equipped and keenly priced.
It all may be too late for this generation Impreza, however, which falls short with sluggish performance, followed by ordinary steering that needs a sprinkling of WRX magic.
The next generation Impreza, due in 2017, will likely address those shortcomings – and the 1.6-litre turbo is likely.
Subaru builds tough, reliable cars which provide years of service. And, those positive considerations aside, this small Subaru remains a solid, if not stellar, small car choice.
Impreza 2.0i: $22,990 driveaway (manual); $24,990 driveaway (CVT auto).
Impreza 2.0i Premium: $25,179 driveaway (manual); $27,239 driveaway (CVT auto),
Impreza 2.0i-S: $31,359 driveaway (auto only)