In-depth reviews

Subaru Impreza review

More spacious and better to drive, the fifth generation Subaru Impreza is a highly likeable four-wheel-drive hatchback

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

  • Strong safety credentials
  • Four-wheel-drive grip
  • Long list of equipment
  • Lacklustre performance
  • No manual option
  • Lethargic 1.6-litre engine

The fifth generation Subaru Impreza represents a huge improvement over the last car, as it offers more space inside, a better cabin and surprisingly good road manners. It also looks a whole lot better, with sharp styling replacing a rather frumpy design.

Your options are refreshingly limited, with just one trim level offered in the UK, a single CVT automatic transmission and a choice of two petrol engines. The 1.6-litre version is too lethargic to recommend, so our choice would be the more powerful and hardly any less efficient 2.0-litre, which also has the benefit of steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

The excellent EyeSight pre-collision driver assist system is fitted as standard, which contributes to a maximum five-star safety rating. It also scored the highest ever rating in Japanese crash testing.

It won’t be a volume seller in the UK, but Subaru loyalists are sure to find much to like about the fifth generation Impreza.

The Subaru Impreza for sale today is a very different car to the one of old. While the rally-bred WRX and STi models were popular for their useable performance, there are no such potent machines now offered as part of the Impreza range. Instead you get a sensible five-door four-wheel-drive hatchback that cater for a more sedate and conventional audience.

Not that this is a hugely conventional car. It’s one of only a few five-door family hatchbacks to offer four-wheel drive – the other two are the more expensive Audi A3 Sportback quattro and BMW 1 Series xDrive – and with just petrol engines and a single CVT transmission on offer, the Impreza is going to appeal to a rather niche group of buyers.

If you were put off by the Impreza’s lethargic and wheezy predecessor, you might want to take another look at this new model, because Subaru has given it a thoroughly convincing overhaul.

The best family hatchbacks on sale

It’s bigger, which translates to a more spacious cabin, while a more rigid body and a lowered ride height ensure that it’s actually pretty decent to drive. There are two petrol engines available – a 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre – with steering wheel-mounted paddles on the larger engine the only specification difference between the two.

There’s only one trim level available in the UK, with the SE model loaded with standard kit. The package includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Curiously, sat-nav isn’t available, but then those two smartphone systems mean that’s no great loss.

It’s hard to make a case for the 1.6-litre Impreza, which starts from around £24,000. It could be a good car, were it not for the fact the CVT Lineatronic transmission robs it of what little power is available. With a price tag of around £25,000, the 2.0-litre version isn’t that much more expensive and is unlikely to be significantly less economical. You also get the bonus of the paddle shifters, which enhance the overall driving experience.

From a family hatchback perspective, the Impreza isn’t a cheap car, but the additional outlay is offset by a comprehensive warranty, excellent safety credentials and Subaru’s good reputation for reliability. The Impreza is an interesting alternative to the glut of compact SUVs on sale and could come into its own during winter months or in hazardous driving conditions.

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