Subaru’s Impreza has been a staple part of their line up for nearly two decades, with the range giving birth to the WRX, WRX STi, Forester and XV models. A refresh was given to the Impreza in 2015 which was more of a gentle overhaul of the interior than a major rethink, as a major redo is due for 2017. A Wheel Thing’s first car for 2016 was the 2015 spec Subaru Impreza-S with the 2.0L naturally aspirated engine and CVT. Sitting at the top of the three model range, starting at $22990 driveaway, the S is set at just under $32000 and comes loaded with sunroof, cruise control, satnav and touchscreen, Bluetooth, leather seats, dual zone aircon and the 2016 model also gets push button start/stop and heated seats.
Under the gently sloping bonnet is their tried and tested boxer engine, breathing through a single exhaust pipe, with a modest 110 kilowatts (6200 rpm), 196 Nm of twist (4200Nm) and is connected to the now famous all wheel drive system via a constant variable transmission, complete with paddle shifts and six programmed gear points. Fuel is flexible, with a minimum required octane number of 90, filling a 55 litre tank.Subaru’s fuel figures are quoted as (for the CVT) 6.8L/8.9L/5.6L per 100 on the combined/urban/highway cycles with emissions said to be 157g/km of CO2, a EURO5 standard. A Wheel Thing’s test cycle finished on 7.8L/100km in a predominantly urban cycle. Acceleration is quoted as a somewhat leisurely 11.2 seconds to reach 100 kilometres per hour. Bluntly, it’s much easier and more efficient to use the paddle shifts if a quick getaway is needed with a low torque engine. Hit the go pedal, climb to about 3500-4000 and blip the shift…much quicker. A Wheel Thing has not been a supporter of CVT’s with low torque power plants since they first came to wider public attention in the latter half of the noughties.
Why? They caused widespread confusion amongst potential buyers for revving so high, sounding as if the engine was overworked and the gearbox was broken by sitting at around 4000 revs whilst speed climbed (this was before paddle shifts became the preferred option). They never appear to be as efficient in taking the torque and power and transferring them to the ground (think of a manual transmission with a slipping clutch) but they do have the virtue of weighing less. When added to the engine the WRX has, for example, it’s a totally different experience.
The current Impreza weighs in at just 1415 kilograms in hatchback guise (as tested) and that hatch also offers up 771 litres of space when the rear seats are folded. Otherwise, you can count on 340L, 120L less than the sedan’s and, as you open the hatch and lift the cover, you’ll find a space saver spare.The inside gets Subaru’s Starlink navitainment system as standard, a knee airbag has been added to to the 2016 spec model to complement the curtain ‘bags and the 2015 car stays with a insertable key while the ’16 gets a push button for Start/Stop.
The exterior is unremarkable with the test car provided clad in Venetian Red which did little to highlight the hatch’s lines. The sedan and hatch have different headlights to the WRX/STi and currently lack the LED driving lights as found almost everywhere else. There’s globe lit driving lights at the bottom corners and a hazy look inside the headlights, with a slim garnish of chrome just above the lower lights. Wheel arches have a sharpish edge to the bulge,there’s no parking sensors front OR rear but a bonus is the very wide opening angle the doors have, allowing super easy access and departure from the cabin. The rear ‘gate is manually, not power, operated.Shortly after picking up the car, the ride of the Impreza S was noted as being soft, spongy, wallowy. A subsequent check of the tyre pressures found that all four were at just 30 psi. A pump up to 36 certainly tightened up some of the ride but also still left A Wheel Thing with the impression the suspension was still overly soft. Body roll was noticeable and the tyre squeal from the 205/50/17 inch Dunlop tyres told the story about how they were struggling to grip even in mild turns as the car leaned over them.Having said that, the steering itself is responsive enough to not cause undue worry, with predictable handling once you’ve spent sometime with it. It’s easy to set up into gentle turns and on a tightening radius turn, pulls the nose in nicely with a slight lift off the throttle.
Although it appears the engine is a willing performer, the CVT really does anchor the car. There’s that aforementioned get up and go issue, if letting the CVT do it itself. Use the paddleshifts on a flat road and things improve. However, neither work well with the lack of torque when meeting an uphill road such as the Old Bathurst Road zig zag at Emu Heights, just a few minutes west of Penrith at the base of the Blue Mountains.
Even using the paddle shifts, a drop down to first was sometimes required to keep the engine ticking over and the Impreza S under way, with a gear display on the dash flickering an arrow to indicate a need for an upshift. On a downhill run, there was a palpable sense of the engine/transmission braking, with a seat of the pants sensation of a gear cutting in and out, with the associated momentary slowing of the Impreza-S. Brake pedal feedback itself was sufficient to provide plenty of coverage on the Old Bathurst Road downhill run, an ideal brake test road.
The vinyl stitched steering wheel itself has a good heft to it but, oddly, feels too wide for the car. Through the wheel the driver sees two analogue dials bracketing a small LCD screen for the speed and tacho and something not seen by A Wheel Thing since the early 1980’s…an economy gauge. Essentially, it’s a + or – gauge and the needle swings between one to the other depending on throttle position. There’s also the engine auto start/stop system that reengages the engine just 0.35 of a second after lifting the foot off the brake.
Up in top centre is Subaru’s handy double info screen setup, accessed by a small but clearly marked rocker tab near the Hazard flasher button. There’s on the fly fuel consumption, average consumption and an indication of the drive train, plus more.The overall dash design is also one that Toyota should consider, being measureably more cohesive in look than their Corolla and GTS vehicles, plus Subaru appears to be unique in offering dual USB ports, both for the front and rear passengers. There’s also an extra touch of bling, with alloy sports pedals in the driver’s footwell brightening up the dark. Power window wise, only the driver gets an Auto (one touch) up/down switch and the headlight stalk is Off or On, lacking Auto On/Off.
The aircon controls have a metal feel to the knurled dials and, unusually for a Japanese marque, work sensibly when it comes to the light that indicates Dual zone is in operation. Other brands have the light lit when it’s in Mono, not Dual zone but Subaru does the opposite, correctly. Audio wise,the sound system is clear enough, but lacks a DAB tuner. You sit on, rather than in, the someone boring to look at and slabby cushioned seats, with the machine made leather coverings lacking any surface detail. Being non ventilated (2016 model will be heated, ventilation for Australia should be mandatory…) means it doesn’t take long before the sweat factor sets in. There is plenty of body room with the electric seats allowing a decent stretch of the legs although left shoulder room for the driver is a touch cramped, with two adults putting on seatbelts simultaneously consistently banging into each other.That’s, in part, due to the compact dimensions of the Impreza-S hatch. There’s a total of 1740 millimetres to play with side to side, whilst overall length for the hatch is 4420 mm, a tad shorter than the sedan’s 4585 mm. You lower yourself down into the hatch, too, belying the 1465 mm height. Wheelbase is proof of the wheels to the four corner design, at 2645 mm.
Safety wise, it’s well equipped, with the usual assortment of electronic aids like stability and traction control, brake assist and brake distribution plus the airbags, passenger safety cell, reverse camera, seatbelt pre-tensioning and the peace of mind of Subaru’s three year and unlimited kilometre warranty, a three year or 75000 kilometre capped price service program and 12 months of roadside assist. There’s also Subaru’s Datadot (Datadot info) to consider.
The Impreza is a solid and dependable entry from the Subaru stable and is due to get a major overhaul for the 2017 model. Up against competitors such as the Corolla, Mazda 3, Hyundai i30 and Kia’s Cerato, amongst others, it’s one that probably can’t come soon enough.
On its own, it’s fine, but up against the Koreans and the bigger Japanese companies the basic structure’s age is showing. The suspension is just a bit too soft, the engine’s output stuggles to move it around when bolted to the CVT, which itself needs some refinement and the styling lacks the current design leaning towards a smoother, more organic look.
For further info on the Impreza range, go here: 2015 and 2016 Subaru Impreza range