New Subaru Im­preza im­presses

The price for the lat­est Im­preza is as sharp as the car, re­ports David Lin­klater.

Matamata Chronicle - - Motoring -

The num­bers are in for the all­new Subaru Im­preza Sport and they look pretty good.

The Im­preza is due in Kiwi show­rooms mid-Fe­bru­ary. Subaru New Zealand gave me­dia a pre­view drive in late 2016 and we’ve since spent a full week in the car.

But there’s been some­thing miss­ing: the price, which has been un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion all this time. This just in: the new­gen­er­a­tion model will be launched at the old model’s price of $29,990.

"The sta­ble NZ econ­omy and for­eign ex­change have ob­vi­ously helped," says Subaru NZ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Wal­lis Dumper. "We have been in ro­bust dis­cus­sion with FHI Ja­pan about the RRP... it could eas­ily have been a lot more.

"The re­al­ity is that we are on lim­ited pro­duc­tion and this mar­ket seg­ment is volatile. Com­peti­tors con­stantly move to dis­count po­si­tions with two-wheel drive or small-en­gine mod­els as they strive for vol­ume. Get­ting an ap­ples-with-ap­ples com­par­i­son is re­ally tricky in this seg­ment so we re­tained our fo­cus on a best-value price po­si­tion..."

So Im­preza is the same price as a billy-ba­sic Corolla and more than $2k cheaper than the en­trylevel Mazda3. On pa­per that’s out­stand­ing value for a car that comes as stan­dard with Subaru’s third-gen­er­a­tion stereo-cam­era EyeSight sys­tem (which en­ables ev­ery­thing from adap­tive cruise to au­ton­o­mous brak­ing), tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing , key­less en­try and start, dual-zone cli­mate air, an eight-inch touch screen with Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto phone pro­jec­tion, and re­vers­ing cam­era with guide­lines.

Luck­ily we don’t have to stare at the pa­per too long, be­cause the Im­preza is a deeply im­pres­sive ma­chine to live with as well. It’s the first model based on the new Subaru Global Plat­form, which will serve the brand un­til at least 2025.

The ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture of the 2.0-litre boxer en­gine has been car­ried over, but there’s now di­rect-in­jec­tion, a higher com­pres­sion ra­tio and changes to 80 per cent of com­po­nents, sav­ing 12kg. Con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy has been re­tained.

I’m still a lit­tle sus­pi­cious of Subaru’s in­sis­tence that there’s no sub­sti­tute for cu­bic ca­pac­ity, which seems re­ac­tionary in this age of down­siz­ing. And let’s not for­get that the Im­preza is still over 100kg heav­ier than the pre­vi­ous model.

Fuel con­sump­tion has cer­tainly im­proved with the new pow­er­plant, to 6.6 litres per 100km. You can for­give a tad more thirst than a CVT-Corolla (6.1 litres) be­cause the Im­preza has more power , but the Mazda3 achieves 5.8 litres with sim­i­lar out­puts and a con­ven­tional sixstage au­to­matic.

Per­for­mance from the box­er­four is un­de­ni­ably strong, although I can’t un­der­stand why Subaru makes so much of the ad­van­tages of its sig­na­ture en­gine lay­out and then goes to so much trou­ble to iron out that dis­tinc­tive thrummy sound. I’m not talk­ing a boy-racer boom, but a lit­tle more war­ble in the cabin would be bril­liant, I reckon. That’s true of all mod­ern Subarus, of course. Or is it just me?

The Im­preza’s con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion - or Subaru Lin­eartronic as the com­pany has dubbed it - has a broader range of gear­ing than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. It’s an ef­fec­tive ar­biter of power and it does of­fer some­thing close to man­ual control: if you put it into pad­dleshift mode it of­fers seven steps and it will hold the se­lected ra­tio with de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Re­ally the Im­preza’s ace-card is the same as it has ever been: a rel­a­tively low cen­tre of grav­ity and all-wheel drive, which makes it a driver’s de­light. Only more so in this gen­er­a­tion, which has a much more rigid chas­sis (that ex­tra weight does bring some ben­e­fits) and is truly pol­ished in a dy­namic sense.

It’s not nec­es­sar­ily a nim­ble car, but it is in­cred­i­bly com­posed and im­pres­sively com­mu­nica­tive. The ac­tive torque-split AWD sys­tem works well on the road, but it re­ally gives the Im­preza an ex­tra di­men­sion when it comes to wet weather and loose surfaces. We have plenty of both in NZ. Base price: $29,990. Pow­er­train and per­for­mance: 2.0-litre petrol four, 115kW/196Nm, con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion with pad­dle shifters and 7-step man­ual mode, AWD, Com­bined econ­omy 6.6 litres per 100km.

Vi­tal statis­tics: 4460mm long, 1480mm high, 2670mm wheel­base, lug­gage ca­pac­ity 364 litres, 17-inch al­loy wheels.

We like: Sharp styling, gen­er­ous and wor­thy equip­ment lev­els, EyeSight’s adap­tive-cruise abil­ity, price.

We don’t like: More boxer-en­gine au­ral-char­ac­ter please, num­bers are lim­ited.

Subaru fi­nally seems to have found its mojo with cabin de­sign as well. You could never call the Im­preza’s in­te­rior stylish, but there’s a real sense of de­sign that’s been sorely lack­ing in Im­prezas past. Pleas­ing shapes and tex­tures are ev­ery­where.

Thoughts of Im­preza Sport tak­ing the small-car seg­ment by storm have to be tem­pered with the fact that Subaru NZ has lim­ited sup­ply of the car (the ini­tial ship­ment is 300 cars) and, more im­por­tantly, this is just a warm-up. Crossovers and SUVs are the brand’s core busi­ness and the re­ally big news will be the launch of the next-gen­er­a­tion Im­preza-based XV later this year. That’s very promis­ing from where we’re sit­ting.

Im­preza rides on new global plat­form.

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