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Subaru Impreza still gripping stuff but now more slow grower than performance car

PUBLISHED: 12:24 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:24 31 August 2018

Subaru Impreza is no performance car but it drives well and makes for relaxing, sure-footed motoring. Picture: Subaru

Subaru Impreza is no performance car but it drives well and makes for relaxing, sure-footed motoring. Picture: Subaru

Subaru

Forget rallying and hot road cars, the latest Impreza is a safe, sensible, all-wheel drive family hatchback. It may look pricey but motoring editor Andy Russell grows to appreciate its all-round talents.

Distinctive looks is an evolution of Subaru's family styling. Picture: SubaruDistinctive looks is an evolution of Subaru's family styling. Picture: Subaru

Impreza is probably Subaru’s most iconic name, harking back to world rally domination and high-performance road cars with big bonnet scoops and exhaust pipes you could almost get your arm up.

The latest Impreza is a very different beast – more tame tabby cat than tenacious tiger – a sensible family hatchback but still with symmetrical all-wheel drive. It’s now one you buy with your head rather than your heart.

Looks and image

In a world of smooth curves and slippery panels, the Subaru’s angles and creases are refreshingly different – it’s well-proportioned and distinctive but a little dated from certain angles.

Roomy cabin can accommodate five adults. Picture: SubaruRoomy cabin can accommodate five adults. Picture: Subaru

That’s not likely to worry Subaru fans who like a sense of tradition and evolution, as much as the safety and reliability, which is why they keep coming back for more.

Under the bonnet

Modern Subarus are petrol only and the Impreza shares its 114PS 1.6-litre and 156PS 2.0-litre, flat-four cylinder Boxer engines with the XV crossover and they’re offered only with a CVT automatic gearbox which Subaru calls Lineartronic.

With no turbo to boost low-down performance, the best bet will be the 2.0-litre engine but even that only produces 196Nm of torque at a heady 4,000rpm. It makes decent progress, in a relaxed way, is refined and sounds pleasant when wound up and you need to for swift overtaking.

The 385-litres boot is deep and well shaped. Picture: SubaruThe 385-litres boot is deep and well shaped. Picture: Subaru

The CVT gearbox has ‘virtual ratios’, matching engine noise to acceleration, which overcomes some of the drone associated with such transmissions when you boot it. The 2.0-litre model also has paddles on the steering wheel for ‘manual’ shifts.

This is no performance car so settle for a more relaxing drive which resulted in around 40mpg.

How it drives

The Impreza is the first UK Subaru on the new global platform. The suspension is firm, but supple, so ride comfort over rough road surfaces is impressive but you can’t miss the tyre roar which can get wearing.

Unfussy fascia is user-friendly with big, clear instruments. Picture: SubaruUnfussy fascia is user-friendly with big, clear instruments. Picture: Subaru

It corners competently – the symmetrical all-wheel drive gives plenty of grip but is unlikely to be troubled by the power output. It’s more about added traction, safety and confidence in bad weather and not getting stuck if you stray far from the beaten track – ideal for remote rural locations.

Space and comfort

Four adults will be quite comfortable in the cabin – you could squeeze three across the back seat but the middle passenger straddles a tall transmission tunnel. Soft seats add to the comfort factor but aren’t the most supportive over long distances.

The boot isn’t the biggest in the class at 385 litres but is deep and well shaped, with a shallow underfloor storage tray. Rear seat backs go down 60/40 but lay slightly proud of the boot floor with a flap bridging the two levels.

Eight-inch, multi-function colour touchscreen controls most functions. Picture: SubaruEight-inch, multi-function colour touchscreen controls most functions. Picture: Subaru

Fit and finish are good and soft-touch materials at contact points on the dash and doors add a sense of quality to what is a bland interior but the hard materials lower down are durable and easy to clean.

At the wheel

The unfussy fascia is user-friendly with big, clear instruments, an eight-inch, multi-function colour touchscreen, with a smaller infotainment display above, sensible rotary controls for heating and ventilation and the inevitable gloss black and brightwork highlights.

Equipment

Just one well equipped SE trim level is offered, which goes some way to justifying the price, including LED headlights 17in alloy wheels, dual-zone auto air-con, keyless entry and ignition, reversing camera and a host of safety aids – Eyesight, which includes pre-collision braking and collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning and lane keep assist, and a separate package to detect vehicles crossing behind and in the blindspot. But no sat-nav, even as an option.

Final say

This Impreza is a grower – it doesn’t shine in any one area but has a lot of talents you appreciate the more you drive it.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Subaru Impreza 2.0i SE Lineartronic £25,010 (1.6i SE £24,310)

Engine: 1,995cc, 156PS, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder petrol with CVT automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive

Performance: 0-62mph 9.8 seconds; top speed 127mph

MPG: Urban 33.6; extra urban 50.4; combined 42.8

CO2 emissions: 152g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 31pc

Insurance group: 18 (out of 50)

Warranty: Five years or 100,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,460mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,775mm; H 1,455mm

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