Subaru Impreza

Is Subaru’s decision to comprehensively redesign its Impreza brave, strange... or just crazy?

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

While it’s good value for money, the new Impreza has little else to offer. The exterior design doesn’t appeal and the build quality of the cabin is below par when compared to equally priced rivals. Its four-wheel-drive capability is a unique aspect, but we doubt this will matter to most buyers. The high emissions and average fuel economy of the lacklustre 1.5-litre engine also detract from the overall package.

The jury is still out. But now that the car has arrived in the UK, judgement day for a model that was only recently the darling of performance car enthusiasts across the country has arrived.

While we were lukewarm about the changes to the Impreza after driving it in Japan, we were hopeful the newcomer might appeal to us more once it hit the UK.

Yet first impressions aren’t good. The shape is far from attractive and lacks a sporty edge, traditionally a trademark of Subaru styling. It’s bloated and ungainly, as well as shorter and wider than the old Sport Wagon. The wheelbase is 95mm longer, though, so at least interior space is generous.

Sadly, the cabin itself is a letdown. Bosses say the new model has a premium feel, but we can’t agree. The design is better looking than the outgoing car’s, yet the cheap and brittle plastics simply aren’t up to scratch.

Build quality is fine and at only £12,495 for the base 1.5R, it’s good value, especially with a standard kit list that includes climate control, electric windows and six airbags. The key question, though, is what’s the Impreza like from behind the wheel?

Sitting on an all-new platform with a wider track and lower placed engine, the latest model still has Subaru’s acclaimed handling abilities. There’s more roll in corners, due in part to the taller body shape, but grip is good and the Impreza feels stable.

The ride quality is excellent, too, soaking up bumps and rough surfaces well. Our biggest gripe is with the light steering. It lacks feedback, which makes the driving experience somewhat detached.

The 1.5-litre engine has been tweaked to give more torque at low speeds, but it’s still sluggish and has to be worked hard to get decent pace. It’s better on the motorway, where it easily keeps up with traffic.

Without the performance of a turbo­­charged engine, there’s little to recommend the Impreza. Its lacklustre design and drab cabin are disappointing, and while it’s a capable driver’s car, there are better rivals available.

RIVAL: Kia Cee’d 1.6 GS It doesn’t have the all-wheel-drive set-up of the Subaru, but the Kia is cheaper, quicker and more economical. This, combined with a neat design and upmarket cabin, makes it one of our class favourites. Add the seven-year warranty, and it’s a near unbeatable package.

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