Subaru Impreza

7 Feb, 2007 (All day) Peter Lyon

We can exclusively expose the fresh look of Subaru's next-generation Impreza

These images reveal the forthcoming Impreza, two months before the car makes its official world debut at the New York Motor Show in April.

As our images reveal, the changes are significant, and the styling sees an unparalleled reinvention of the firm's most important model. Perhaps most striking is the fact that the UK version of the Impreza is no longer a saloon. British drivers will be offered only a five-door hatchback when the new car arrives in showrooms in October.

Gone, too, is the unpopular aeroplane motif that debuted on the front of the new Tribeca. Originally inspired by Subaru's aviation heritage, the look also appeared on the last-generation Impreza, as well as the controversial B5 concept.

Now, Auto Express can tell fans of the brand to expect far more toned-down styling, centred around a wide, narrow grille and upward-slanting headlights which owe their shape to the current model's design.

To broaden the newcomer's appeal, the stylists also chose to keep things simple when it came to penning the rest of the bodywork. As a result, the Impreza's clean lines focus more on performance and packaging.

At the same time, engineers have worked to keep prices down. The aim is for costs to fall in line with models such as the VW Golf, which Subaru identified as a key rival for the newcomer during road tests in the US.

All this means the next Impreza will be a very different size than at present. The five-door will be around 130mm shorter than the current sal­oon, and 50mm wider. To improve headroom in the rear, the car will be a fraction taller, while the kerbweight stays at around 1,400kg.

Yet while it's all change for the styling and dimensions, under the bonnet the maker plans to carry over much of the existing engine line-up. As a result, the base Impreza will be powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre boxer delivering 115bhp.

The top-spec STi is to feature a reworked version of the current 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four. This offers 300bhp and 431Nm of torque. A new 2.5-litre motor is also under development, although it's likely to debut in the US before heading to the UK.

The bad news, however, is that Subaru is not expected to launch a diesel variant until 2009. Its engine, tipped to be a 2.2-litre flat-four, is the culmination of more than 25 years of development, which has involved Toy­ota. The new oil-burner will employ a particulate filter to reduce emissions, and is expected to return CO2 figures of less than 140g/km.

Exact performance details are not yet available, but Subaru is thought to have set a target of 150bhp for the unit, with a further development offer-ing nearly 180bhp in 2010.

Both petrol and diesel variants will come with a choice of five-speed manual or six-ratio automatic transmissions. Meanwhile, the STi will be equipped with an upgraded six-speed manual. Instead of adding to the top-of-the-range car's already explosive power output, company engineers are concentrating more on beefing up the low to mid-range torque.

We can also expect some major tweaks to the already superb 4WD system, in addition to revisions of the Driver's Control Centre Diff (DCCD). Our source revealed to us that a new rear multi-link suspension set-up will also be employed on the Impreza - a strategic upgrade which will improve handling, stability and ride quality.

With both the STi and Mitsu­bishi's fresh Lancer Evo expected to arrive in showrooms in early 2008, the stage is set for a new battle royale, Japanese-style: blindingly quick four-cylinder turbos with 4WD traction for a little over £20,000. More pictures of the Impreza are expected as the New York expo approaches.

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