Subaru Impreza 2009 review

New boxer diesel engine makes hatch a more tempting choice.

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

It’s a real shame that the rest of the new Subaru Impreza diesel’s dynamic package cannot live up to the impressive boxer unit under the bonnet. However, the car does have an enticing price tag, which starts at £20,000 for the RC model. This, along with the all-weather usability, five-door accessibility and space for the entire family, should enable buyers to see past the sub-standard interior and numb driving experience.

All good things must come to an end... After its predecessors’ years in the limelight, the latest Subaru Impreza has struggled to uphold the rally-bred model’s reputation as one of Britain’s favourite driver’s cars.

While the scorching STI and WRX versions are compelling, the new hatch has left us cold. But now, a diesel variant has arrived. Can the addition of strong fuel economy help the practical four-wheel-drive five-door confound the critics?

As with all Subarus, this model’s 2.0-litre powerplant is a ‘boxer’ – meaning its pistons are arranged horizontally in the engine bay, rather than vertically.

This helps bring the centre of gravity as close to the tarmac as possible – something that should pay dividends in the handling stakes.

Add to this strong performance figures and impressive fuel economy, and the signs are good... so far.

On the move, things get even better.

A hefty 350Nm of torque makes for exciting acceleration, but it is the smooth power delivery which steals the show. Plus, superb flexibility means the Impreza is just as happy being pushed hard on a B-road as it is cruising around town.

However, while the permanent all-wheel drive is predictably foolproof, the chassis isn’t as adjustable as the STI’s more complicated and sporty set-up. And it shows when you take a corner – the car understeers rather than tucking in its nose.

Overly light steering and a sloppy gearchange from the six-speed manual transmission don’t improve matters. What’s more, as with all the latest-generation Imprezas, the interior feels cheap and dated.

There’s a choice of two trim levels: the RC we drove here and a higher-spec RX model, weighing in at £22,255.

For the money, the latter includes luxuries such as leather trim, a sunroof and electric seats over and above the £20,000 RC’s generous spec.

Factor in plenty of practicality, plus the cachet the Impreza badge still carries, and the diesel isn’t disgraced by the competition.

But there’s no escaping that lacklustre cabin and the poor finish. All in all, it’s a missed opportunity for Subaru.

Rival: Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi

While the diesel Focus can’t match the straight-line pace or the allure of the Impreza, it has the Subaru licked for economy and CO2 emissions.

Its sublime chassis ultimately proves more fun as well.

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