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New chas­sis, classy cabin ... but the Im­preza still needs an en­gine to do it jus­tice

Herald Sun - Cars Guide - - FIRST DRIVE - CHRIS RI­LEY chris.ri­ley@news.com.au

IT MAY not look very dif­fer­ent but Subaru calls its lat­est Im­preza “95 per cent new”.

The fifth-gen­er­a­tion model is based on a new plat­form that will be used for the en­tire Subaru range.

The brand is look­ing to shed its con­ser­va­tive im­age and tar­get younger buy­ers, par­tic­u­larly women.

But suc­cess could be tem­pered slightly by a higher en­try level price, brought about by dump­ing the cheaper man­ual ver­sion.

Prices start from $24,990 drive-away and you can buy it on­line, as with the sporty BRZ stable­mate.

There is also an in­tro­duc­tory ex­tended five-year warranty for buy­ers sign­ing up be­fore De­cem­ber 31.

The new hatch and sedan ad­here to the tried and tested Subaru for­mula of all-wheeldrive and a 2.0-litre “boxer” en­gine.

But the look is sleeker and more at­trac­tive, with many tech­ni­cal ad­vances, not the least of which is the all-new stiffer chas­sis that en­dows bet­ter ride, han­dling and noise sup­pres­sion.

The up­dated en­gine fea­tures higher com­pres­sion and more ef­fi­cient di­rect in­jec­tion, de­liv­er­ing slightly bet­ter fuel

con­sump­tion and a small in­crease in power. Torque stays the same but the peak out­puts kick in 200rpm ear­lier.

The con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion has been heav­ily re­vised to feel more like a stan­dard auto, with seven steps mim­ick­ing con­ven­tional gear shifts.

The car sits 10mm lower, is 35mm longer and has a 25mm longer wheel­base that pro­vides an ex­tra 26mm of rear legroom.

Subaru’s “Eye­sight” safety tech in­cludes radar cruise con­trol, au­to­mated emer­gency brak­ing with pedes­trian and cy­clist de­tec­tion and lane de­par­ture warn­ing. It isn’t avail­able on the cheap­est model but is stan­dard on other mod­els. Crash test body ANCAP has crit­i­cised the maker for not pro­vid­ing the tech­nol­ogy across the full range.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing these tech­nolo­gies have not been pro­vided as stan­dard across their re­spec­tive model ranges and for the safety of all road users we want to see an in­crease in the fit­ting of this tech­nol­ogy,” says ANCAP chief ex­ec­u­tive James Good­win.

ON THE ROAD

With only a 5kW boost in power and no in­crease in torque, the Im­preza once again fails to de­liver in terms of ex­cite­ment. Re­vi­sions to the CVT, in­clud­ing a lower first gear, shave the 0-100km/h time to 10.1 sec­onds, which is still too slow.

This was con­firmed as we pressed the pedal to the metal for the first time head­ing out of the city. We’re also still not fans of the CVT, de­spite the changes.

But the car is a rev­e­la­tion in terms of ride and han­dling, with the con­fi­dent, planted feel you nor­mally only get with a larger car. It feels tighter, more con­trolled and re­sponds to the wheel bet­ter.

The ride is smoother and the up­mar­ket cabin is qui­eter and is close to the top of the class for qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als and stan­dard equip­ment.

In more ex­pen­sive mod­els, the dash is dom­i­nated by a large eight-inch touch­screen — the en­try model makes do with a 6.5-inch screen. Smart­phone users can ac­cess Google Maps through Ap­ple CarPlay and, for the first time, An­droid Auto.

VER­DICT

A great car with a chas­sis that de­serves an en­gine that can de­liver some real per­for­mance.

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