A slicker shifter

The Advertiser - Motoring - - SHORT CUT -

VALUE

The range-top­per S starts at $28,990 for the sedan and $29,120 for the hatch. The sedan’s 460L boot makes it the prac­ti­cal choice over the bet­ter look­ing hatch (345L). Fea­tures in­clude easy-to-use eight-inch touch­screen, LED head­lamps with cor­ner­ing func­tion, 18inch al­loy wheels and ac­tive torque vec­tor­ing. Ser­vic­ing costs are down at $1298 for three years/37,500km.

COM­FORT

The Impreza rides on a new chas­sis that will form the plat­form for all fu­ture ve­hi­cles in the Subaru sta­ble, ex­clud­ing the next-gen BRZ. In Impreza con­fig­u­ra­tion it adds 26mm to rear legroom, mak­ing the seats us­able for ex­tended trips by tall adults. The cabin ditches the formerly bland lay­out for sharper styling and bet­ter ma­te­ri­als, which Subaru hopes will lure the younger buy­ers it has been miss­ing. The sun­vi­sors need to be a touch longer: the gap to the wind­screen pil­lar lets morn­ing and af­ter­noon sun shine through.

SAFETY

The Impreza has some of the best ac­tive driv­ing aids in the class. Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing is com­ple­mented by blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing, lanechange and rear-cross-traf­fic alerts. Just as im­por­tantly, the dual cam­eras now take up a far smaller area atop the wind­screen, im­prov­ing vi­sion. Should it all go awry, seven airbags buf­fer oc­cu­pants.

DRIV­ING

The con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion is one of the best we’ve driven. Use the pad­dleshifters and there are seven pre­set ra­tios. Even in au­toshift­ing mode it takes a ped­alto-the-floor ef­fort to in­duce the pro­longed dron­ing noise that typ­i­cally blights this trans­mis­sion type. The stiffer chas­sis en­ables Subaru to soften the sus­pen­sion, im­prov­ing the ride while en­hanc­ing the steer­ing and han­dling. The en­gine’s av­er­age out­puts make it too be­nign to take ad­van­tage of other im­prove­ments.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES

Mazda3 SP25, from $27,690 Looms large as the Impreza’s big­gest threat. The big­ger en­gine in top-spec vari­ants eas­ily ac­counts for the Subaru. City-speed auto emer­gency brak­ing is stan­dard but it misses out on the higher-speed in­ter­ven­tion found in the Subaru. Trans­mis­sion is a sixspeed au­to­matic. Toy­ota Corolla ZR hatch, from $30,020 Seven-speed CVT and 1.8-litre en­gine that de­liv­ers less power than the Impreza. As with the Mazda, it doesn’t have the range of ac­tive driv­ing aids. The rep­u­ta­tion for qual­ity res­onates with buy­ers, mak­ing the Corolla a safe choice rather than an ex­cit­ing one.

VER­DICT

The Impreza S is an im­pres­sive car with the lat­est gad­gets; it just needs more mumbo. It’s not an is­sue in iso­la­tion but when Maz­da3s and Honda Civics earn a higher-out­put en­gine in their more ex­pen­sive ver­sions, Subaru starts to trail the fron­trun­ners.

CRAIG DUFF CUTS TO

THE CHASE

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