Subaru Impreza 2006 review

Versatile and entertaining but there are plenty of alternatives offering stronger packages

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

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It’s hard to justify the expensive list price of Subaru’s new entry-level Impreza variant, which suffers from a distinct lack of acceleration. However, the four-wheel-drive transmission adds versatility, while the handling still provides a lot of entertainment. Yet it’s dated and cramped inside, and there are plenty of alternatives offering a stronger package for the money.

Who said all Subaru Imprezas are full of speed, aggression and bulging bodykits? Thanks to the introduction of this base 1.5-litre car, you can now have an Impreza no quicker than an entry-level supermini.

But the new five-door-only 1.5R has the same all-wheel-drive chassis as faster variants, making it one of the cheapest 4x4s available. It also uses one of the firm’s famous flat-four boxer engines – yet, with no turbocharger, the alloy unit produces only 103bhp.

On the road, the burbly powerplant proves gutless at low revs. All-wheel traction can’t be used at junctions, because the engine bogs down, even under full throttle. Keeping up with traffic requires the driver to use all of the performance available.

Although the suspension is soft to help ride quality, handling is still excellent, thanks to the superbly balanced chassis. The light steering is direct, and as you might expect from a car with a four-wheel-drive set-up, the 1.5R has plenty of grip. Once on the move, the Impreza feels faster than it appears on paper, and it is fun to drive.

The fuel economy is disappointing, though, with a 35.8mpg average on the combined cycle. Meanwhile, inside, the model is really showing its age, with hard, shiny plastics and a dated design. The shortage of rear legroom makes life uncomfortable for any­body travelling in the back seats, although the five-door bodystyle does provide decent luggage space. And the 1.5R is pretty well equipped, featuring climate control, six airbags and electric windows all-round as standard.

There’s also a low-ratio transfer box which, as well as being ideal for muddy fields, effectively provides the new car with a 10-ratio transmission!

Add the supple suspension and excellent traction, and the Subaru is a capable ‘mild’ off-roader. The trouble is, Mitsubishi also offers an entry version of its high-performance Lancer Evo. The 2.0-litre Sport variant is not only faster than the 1.5R, but has an asking price of nearly £500 less.

And another potential competitor, the Dodge Caliber 1.8 S, is on offer for £11,495 – which represents a saving of £1,000 over the Subaru. So although the 1.5R is the cheapest Impreza in the range, it still seems pricey, despite its thoroughbred running gear.

Nevertheless, it will be a rare sight in the UK. Subaru initially plans to bring very limited numbers to these shores to gauge reactions – making it more exclusive than the turbocharged STi!

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