Subaru vs Subaru…who wins?

You know you’re in for something special when just the look of a car catches your eye. Rolling up at the AutoNexus group in Parramatta, I’m greeted by Subaru’s new, highest of three in the range, Impreza S with the metallic grey paint coating a lithe yet muscular body. The following week, the XV (the crossover vehicle version of the hatch), in silver.
Now more along the lines of its big brother (sister?) Liberty, the Impreza is a mix of smooth curves, aggressive creases and good looking lines on the outside, with an interior of (in the S) smooth leather, electric seating and a touchscreen multimedia unit (including text to voice playback via the Bluetooth connectivity), featuring a pretty punchy audio system and plenty of easily accessible information. USB and cable access is in the centre console with both copping privacy glass. The XV is cloth, comfortable cloth, with manual adjustment and a single CD player.
Our test car comes with the traditional yet upgraded from the previous model 2.0L boxer engine, punching out 110kW at a fairly high 6200rpm while maximum torque is 196Nm at 4200rpm, running through a CVT transmission, to Subaru’s symmetrical all wheel drive, with six presets for a manual change. The box itself is programmed to move more like a traditional self shifter, as the “older” style CVT feel was found to be confusing people. The manual is notchy, not given to comfortable quick movements.
Sliding behind the wheel, underneath the S’s sunroof, I’m struck by Subaru’s attention to quality. The wheel feels just right, with angular switches continuing the theme from the exterior. The faux gun metal grey metallic trim looks good in amongst the soft touch plastics as it surrounds the 4.3 inch screen, which displays GPS, audio and voice controls. The driver’s seat is electric, as one would expect, which, although comfortable enough, never quite seemed to get me in the right position. The rear seats are 60/40 split fold, allowing access to the cavernous boot, or storage area in the case of the hatch, whilst the smooth leather does nothing to stop objects sliding around. The XV, with manual seat adjustment and sharing most of the interior, surprisingly seemed to have better back support.
On the road the Impreza is smooth, compliant, willing, with the combination of CVT and engine never in the wrong place. It’s different with the manual, with torque so high up the range you need to keep the kettle boiling in the lower gears, needing second and sometimes first to climb Sydney’s Old Bathurst Road at Emu Plains. It’s responsive to steering wheel input, perhaps a little twitchy at times in the S on its 205/50 tyres rimmed with 17 inch alloys, but turns in nicely to corners and is well insulated sound wise, to the point that highway speeds seem slow. It’s tight over humps and bumps, with no float or pogoing and vision all round is good. The XV, sitting higher up that its hatchback donor, is equally adept on its 225/55/17s, perhaps a little less twitchy and somewhat more compliant over the big rubber speed bumps that plague some residential roads. Off road, it’s pretty good, the all wheel drive system simply pulling and pushing through some deep puddles and corrugations while the extra ride height (220mm clearance) and suspension absorbs it with barely a sniffle.
On the 450km run to Wagga in the S, the cruise control was engaged for the highway, with economy sitting at around 6.8L per 100 kilometres. The gearing is such that 2000rpm is 110 kmh. The centre dash monitor allows you to flick through options like instant fuel economy, estimated distance to empty and more. Stopstart technology comes into play at traffic lights, restarting the engine once the foot is off the brake in under half a second, whilst the dual zone climate control warmed up the car nicely with the icy temperatures displayed also. On the way back economy crept up to around 7L, however that was mainly with the cruise pushing the revs when climbing the rises from Gundagai through to Campbelltown. The XV also has stop/start, with neutral and foot off the clutch. Economy around town, unsurprisingly, is well over the 9.0L mark. The clutch itself is slightly heavier than expected for the size of the engine, with a progressive, smooth takeup.
Although the car has a reverse camera, surprisingly, parking sensors don’t seem to be an option; however, with the media screen giving a decent rear view, (the XV putting this up in the multifunction display) one would presume bump parking shouldn’t be a problem. It may be, as the clutch mechanism in the CVT takes a half second or so to engage forward. What was also noticeable was the lack of the boxer engine throaty throb in the S whilst muted but noticeable in the XV.
Naturally, safety is a big factor, with plenty of airbags including what appears to be a increasing factor, with a knee airbag fitted. The rear passenger doors have what looks like a solid bolt protruding from the bottom, it’s to do with the side impact system, while the wider opening doors and 25mm extra wheelbase give rear seat passengers greater access and room.
Subaru have been on a winner with the Impreza since the very first model; the latest continues the theme: small to mid sized, all wheel drive, well appointed and finished and a good drive to boot. With the S spec priced from around $35k driveaway (entry level model at $27651 DA) it competes nicely with the small car offerings from elsewhere and, bar the lack of rear parking sensors, should be a worthy consideration.

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