What is it?
The latest incarnation of this multi-faceted Japanese workhorse was launched as a bona fide hatch instead of the saloon or mini estate that British buyers had known and loved in previous generations. It’s now available in saloon form too, but the practical hatch makes a lot more sense, even if the familiar profile that resonates with fond memories of the WRC is absent. Four-wheel drive is still standard, as are the characterful boxer engines. So too, however, is the utilitarian interior and high running costs. A mixed bag, then, but a very interesting one for the country type.
Past Imprezas, while always fairly crude, were renowned for their handling. This newer, more grown- up product has lost some of that natural agility and sharpness, but is still an involving experience with bags of grip thanks to the full-time, four-wheel drive. The standard car rides well enough too, with enough compliance to make Britain’s back roads tolerable, although the whole car does tend to pitch quite a bit under braking.
Engine choices are limited in the non-performance models. There’s a 106bhp 1.5-litre unit that requires too much man-handling to be fun and feels strained at high speed. Even the 148bhp 2.0-litre lump needs to be worked rigorously through the rev range to get the best from it, something that can make taking a boggo Impreza for a spirited cross-country hack seem like more trouble than its worth.
On the inside
This never was a good bit, and Subaru’s loveless, agricultural attitude towards the Impreza’s interior has overrun into its new, more mature model. It’s markedly posher in here than before, but for anyone who’s not had the pleasure, the old Impreza was Fisher Price for fit and finish. Things are still plasticky and cheap in here, although they seem well enough stuck together, as always.
In the rear some severe compromises have been made for that all-wheel drive, with a significant loss of usable space in the footwell to make way for the transmission tunnel. Meanwhile, the boot space is consumed on either side by the wheelarches. The fact is, you almost always pay a heavy price for driven rear wheels.
Subaru enjoys a deserved reputation for build quality and reliability. Not for nothing are old Impreza wagons the choice of working farmers and straw- chewing horsey folk the length and breadth of the country. But this lot will be the first to tell you that no Impreza is cheap to run. The boxer engines are thirsty and tax will now be high as they’re not very clean.