Hatchback with a twist: What makes the new Subaru Impreza stand out from the rest
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2020 Subaru Impreza
Enthusiasts or not, most of the population will be familiar with Subaru’s iconic Impreza. But as you can see, the Japanese hatch is now a far cry from the burbling, boost-happy racers that used to roam main centres into the wee hours.
From the outside, it looks like Subaru is attempting to refine the line-up, with only the WRX/STI built for the adrenaline junkies among us.
But after a week with the standard Impreza, it isn’t hard to see what Subaru is doing. Like every other Subaru, the Impreza is all-wheel drive. Although this might not be enough to write home about in the SUV and crossover segments, it sets the Impreza apart from the rest of the hatch market.
Those in the majority who remain on the tarmac may not ever need this feature, but venturing off the beaten track on to loose and wet surfaces shows the benefits.
Unlike other hatches in the segment, Subaru hasn’t tried to warm up the Impreza at all, but has focused attention in other areas. In true Subaru fashion, the absence of hood scoop confirms the naturally-aspirated nature of the boxer engine and the modest performance.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine pumps out 115kW and 196Nm, which propels the hatch to 100km/h in a little over 10 seconds. Like most CVT-equipped cars, the transmission is the Impreza’s Achilles heel. It does a decent job of mimicking a traditional auto, but it can feel sluggish under load; stay below 5000rpm and you won’t notice any issue.
The flipside of this humble powerplant is that Subaru’s claimed fuel economy of 6.6L/100km was easily achievable throughout DRIVEN's time with the Impreza; and on a long drive we were able to get closer to the 6L/100km mark.
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In terms of driving dynamics, the Impreza feels incredibly light on its feet at all times. From zigzagging busy city streets, to carving corners on the open road, there’s no denying the nimble nature. A quick trip down a gravel road demonstrated the sure-footedness of the all-wheel drive system, with the hatch remaining planted over the loose surface.
Subaru has made it extremely easy to choose which Impreza to get, by offering only one mid-spec model in New Zealand. First and foremost, for $32,490 you get Subaru’s EyeSight safety suite that works via a pair of cameras mounted on the inside of the windscreen.
Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, pre-collision braking, and pre-collision throttle management are all included and contribute to the car’s five-star ANCAP safety rating. You’ll also get a set of 17-inch alloy wheels and a cloth interior.
The exterior of the Impreza may be one of the most reserved in its segment but the interior is a different story. Besides the air-conditioning controls, every high-use button is seamlessly integrated into the steering wheel, and everything is where you need it.
Moving over to the infotainment system, a 6.3-inch touchscreen houses the “Subaru Starlink” system where Apple CarPlay/Android Auto come standard.
At the back, the rear seats have a generous amount of legroom, and 345 litres of luggage space in the boot. Although this may not be as much as other competitors in the segment, such as the Honda Civic, once the rear seats are folded down, this figure becomes 795 litres.
There’s no denying that Subaru has tried to cover as many bases as it possibly could with this new Impreza, and it is quite an impressive package. The understated exterior aesthetic will appeal to a lot of people, and the flashy interior makes an impression.
Performance is a little lacking but at this price point it doesn’t need to compete with the warm hatches on the market. The all-wheel drive system and cloth interior hint at a rugged lifestyle vehicle such as the Outback X, yet the dimensions and economy almost meet those of a city car.
It may not quite be a jack of all trades, but the Impreza offers incredible value and that all-wheel drive system is great for driver peace of mind.