A slicker shifter
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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