Subaru Impreza

For some drivers, the idea of buying a Subaru Impreza without a turbo is like owning a dog without a bark. Most people's view of the rally-inspired machine calls to mind images of the storming STi-badged cars - the basic version barely gets a look in.

The Impreza's second facelift doesn't cure the dated interior. However, additional power makes the base model a more attractive proposition.

For some drivers, the idea of buying a Subaru Impreza without a turbo is like owning a dog without a bark. Most people's view of the rally-inspired machine calls to mind images of the storming STi-badged cars - the basic version barely gets a look in.

However, the manufacturer hopes to change that by giving its line-up a facelift, and producing an entry-level model that benefits from a revised 2.0-litre flat-four engine. We drove this new car in five-door form. With 158bhp, the updated powerplant gives the slowest Impreza a useful performance boost.

The benchmark 0-60mph sprint time is slashed from 10.2 seconds to 8.5 seconds. Fuel economy - never a particular virtue of the old model - hasn't been forgotten, and the newcomer's 31.4mpg combined figure represents a marginal improvement over the old 2.0-litre machine. As there's also a bigger fuel tank, you can now travel further between refills, too. On the road, the engine's higher torque output is available lower in the rev range, while throttle response is much sharper.

However, the improvements come at a price, and the all-new exhaust design mutes the characteristic flat-four burble. At least the firm's tried and tested four-wheel-drive system remains. The updated five-speed manual gearbox is also better, with a shorter and more positive action. Sadly, the cabin seems to have escaped any changes, so the functional dashboard and hard plastics remain. When compared to its rivals, the interior is dated.

The five-door Impreza Wagon we drove provides little more practicality than a mainstream hatchback. And as a result, unless you need the Subaru's low-range gears and all-wheel drive, it will continue to have narrow appeal.

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