Catch the next hatch wave
Thrifty and flexible, small cars still appeal to many buyers. We compare new arrivals at the $25K mark
We’ve chosen the most popular variants, so this is going to be a tight contest.
A sign of the competition, starting prices are just $200 apart, from $24,990 drive-away for the Hyundai and the Honda, to $25,190 drive-away for the Subaru.
Disappointingly, however, automatic emergency braking is not available — even as an option — on these base models.
It may look like a redesign of the previous model but this Impreza is new from the ground up, even though the ingredients are the familiar formula of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder “boxer” engine matched to a constantly variable transmission and allwheel drive.
Inside, Subaru has invested in a more modern cabin design with better quality materials.
The rubber-covered dashboard and elbow pads in the doors are a pleasant change from hard plastics.
The faux carbon-fibre trim, sensor key with push-button start, electric park brake, tinted rear windows and auto-up front windows help push the Impreza up-market.
The central touchscreen has Apple Car Play and Android Auto; car information is in a small screen on top of the dashboard.
But the tiny screen between the analog dials detracts from the rest of the upscale cabin and lacks a digital speed readout.
The rear camera has guiding lines that turn with the steering but front and rear sensors are a dealer-fit accessory.
Subaru hasn’t scrimped on power ports: two of the three USB points are the fastcharging variety, plus there are two 12V sockets and a 3.5mm audio input.
Despite all-wheel-drive hardware under the floor, the Impreza has more boot space than the i30. On the move the Impreza glides over bumps, despite riding on 17-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tyres. You can feel the strength of the new body over patchy roads.
The engine has a hi-tech whirr but works well with the seven-step constantly variable transmission (with paddleshifters on the steering wheel) and is the only one to shut down the engine at lights to save fuel.
Smooth most of the time, the CVT can be indecisive on tight uphill turns. Surprisingly, despite its all-wheel drive, the Impreza had only the secondbest cornering grip on our wet test drive, proving good tyres are key to contact with the road.
A year after the new Honda Civic sedan arrived with a dramatic design, the hatch has joined the fold. The styling polarises opinion but, for what it’s worth, we reckon it looks better as a hatch.
The starting point is the same as the sedan: a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine matched to a CVT auto driving the front wheels.
The Civic cabin is one of the