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