Subaru Impreza the shape of things to come

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The new chassis seems to tick the critical boxes; as well as being 70% to 100% more rigid than the structure that underpinned the previous model. Photo: Subaru NZ

Automotive progress is, for the most part, a step-by-step affair. However, every so often, a step is replaced by a leap.

Enter the latest Subaru Impreza, featuring a new modular platform that is set to underpin key future Subaru models for most of the next decade.

What we call a car platform these days would have been referred to, in old parlance, as the chassis. It's easily the most expensive part of a modern car todevelop and design: this one, called the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), accounted for the lion's share of the new Impreza's $US1 billion development cost. 

The platform is crucial because its structure, rigidity and weight play a major part in determining a car's ride and handling characteristics, as well as influencing safety performance. The ideal platform is strong, efficient to produce (to keep costs down) and adaptable to the needs of slightly different models. These days it must also be engineered to accommodate hybrid and pure-electric (EV) powertrains as well as conventional petrol or diesel motors.

The new chassis seems to tick the critical boxes; as well as being 70% to 100% more rigid than the structure that underpinned the previous model, the SGP is more efficient to manufacture. It is hybrid and EV-capable too, although Subaru has yet to confirm its plans for a new Impreza weaned either partly or fully off fossil fuels.

In the meantime, the combination of a 2.0-litre boxer four-cylinder petrol engine and seven-stage continuously variable transmission (CVT) driving all four wheels is the sole drivetrain on offer in New Zealand.

With similar peak outputs (115kW and 196Nm) to the previous Impreza's petrol engine, one could be forgiven for thinking not much has changed under the bonnet. But while the latest engine is based on the old motor, it has been extensively upgraded. Both peak power (5kW greater than before) and peak torque (unchanged) are achieved lower in the rev range. The now standard seven-stage CVT has also been modified, primarily to improve responsiveness.

With these changes and a new fuel-saving stop-start system, economy improves from 6.8 litres per 100km to 6.6 on the standard test cycle. That doesn't seem like a massive gain until one takes account of the fact that this new Impreza is longer and wider than the car it replaces, and very similar in weight.
Given that so much is new or significantly modified under the skin, it is interesting that the Japanese company has opted for caution in producing a look that is smooth and cohesive, albeit with some subtle touches, such as the crease lines that grace the vehicle's flanks.

Considerable attention has been devoted to improving the cabin. Most obviously, expanses of hard-touch surfaces are largely banished (what few remain are carefully textured). There is plenty of (artificial) stitched leather, and the combination of dark charcoal tones and carefully applied glossy black and metallic highlights give the interior a more upmarket feel.

The sweep and layout of the dash are pleasing and functional. Storage cubbies include a small glovebox, large centre bin (with two powered USB ports), twin cupholders behind the gearshift, a decent space forward of the dash and small door bins with decent-sized bottle holders.

A centre colour touchscreen is home for multimedia (radio, Bluetooth phone, settings, media and online music apps), with summary buttons below and on the steering wheel. Above this screen is a much smaller display that shows when the car's radar cruise control is engaged, and also provides dual-zone climate control air-conditioning information, along with the outside temperature and time. Located between the tachometer and speedometer, a third screen shows fuel, trip and radar cruise information.

The radar cruise is part of the EyeSight safety system that has become standard in the Impreza as well as the Outback, Legacy and Levorg models. EyeSight also incorporates lane departure warning and a range of pre-collision safety systems, and the radar cruise has been the icing for the cake to secure the new Impreza a very strong five-star Ancap safety rating

Subaru Impreza the shape of things to come
At a Glance

At a glance

 

SUBARU IMPREZA Overall: ★★★★+
Design and styling: ★★★★
Interior: ★★★★
Performance: ★★★+
Ride/handling: ★★★★+
Safety: ★★★★★
Environmental: ★★★★
For: Sharp pricing, strong safety credentials, improved all-wheel-drive dynamics
Against: CVT the sole transmission option, coarse-chip road noise
Verdict: No wonder Subaru is struggling to keep up with demand
Price: $29,990
Engine: 1995cc horizontally opposed direct injection four-cylinder, maximum power 115kW@6000rpm, maximum torque 196Nm@4000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed constantly variable transmission
Brakes andstability systems: Disc brakes, ABW, AWD, VDC, PCB, EyeSight, ACC
Safety rating:Five-star Ancap
Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels, 205/50 R17 tyres
Fuel andeconomy: 6.6 litres per 100km on ADR combined cycle, capacity 50 litres
Emissions: CO2 152g/km on combined cycle
Dimensions: Length 4460mm, width 1775mm, height 1480mm

RATING (4/5)