Subaru Impreza review - Engines, performance and drive

Far better to drive than the old Impreza, but it’s almost impossible to recommend the 1.6-litre version

The previous Impreza wasn’t exactly a firecracker to drive, and while this fifth generation version doesn’t live up to the sporting WRX and STi models of old, it represents a marked improvement over the last version.

There are just two four-cylinder boxer petrol engines to choose from – a 112bhp 1.6-litre and a 154bhp 2.0-litre – both of which feature come with a CVT automatic transmission, which Subaru calls Lineartronic. There’s no manual gearbox option, although the 2.0-litre version is fitted with steering wheel-mounted paddles to boost driver engagement a little.

It’s partly because of the paddles that we’d recommend the 2.0-litre over the 1.6-litre. Neither of the engines are particularly powerful – and the CVT does its best to blunt the performance – but the paddles give you a greater feeling of control and come into their own when the transmission holds on to high revs for too long.

Subaru has listened to the criticisms of the old Impreza in terms of dynamics, and has built a car that is 100 per cent more rigid than before, while dropping the ride height by 5mm. As a result, the Impreza corners with very little roll, while the well weighted steering inspires you to press on through the corners.

Factor in a positive feel through the brake pedal and bags of grip from the four-wheel-drive system, and you have the makings of a confidence-inspiring hatchback. Only a harsh ride over the worst surfaces and the weight of the AWD system stop the Impreza from rivalling the likes of the Ford Focus and Peugeot 308 for driving dynamics.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The key to getting the best out of the Subaru Impreza is to approach the CVT transmission with a light foot. Anything resembling a hard press on the accelerator pedal will result in lots of noise and very little action.

It’s far better to let the CVT do the work, although this is easier said than done in the 1.6-litre version, which feels very lethargic, especially when climbing hills. The 12.4 seconds it takes to sprint from 0-62mph only tells half the story – this car can feel painfully slow. The top speed is 112mph.

Things are slightly better in the 2.0-litre version, with the 0-62mph time dropping to 9.8 seconds and the top speed increasing to 127mph. The paddles make a huge difference, helping to deliver the impression that the Impreza has a dual-clutch transmission.

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