REVIEW DATE: 20 Sep 2010
Models Covered: 5-door hatchback: 1.5, 2.0, 2.5 turbo petrol, 2.0D diesel [R, RX, WRX, WRX-S, WRX STi, WRX STi 330S])
Subaru wanted a more mainstream Impreza that would appeal to a wider audience than the clientele of wide-boys and rally fans who craved the earlier models. The hatchbacked Impreza of 2007 was that car. It's more practical and better built, if still some way behind the family hatchback pace setters. The diesel engine is worth seeking out on the used market but despite Subaru's efforts, it's still the WRX and STi models that make the most sense. There are better family runabouts than the Subaru Impreza but in its more aggressive guises, it remains one of the most capable performance cars you can get for the money.
Certain things still spring to mind when people mention the Subaru Impreza. Its success in the nineties and early noughties hinged around rally stage wins and high performance road cars which felt as though they'd proceeded directly from rally stage wins. That Impreza did a fine job of democratising high performance with its turbocharged, all-wheel-drive brand of automotive hooliganism. In 2007, however, the Impreza took a new direction. An all-new version aimed to convert its notoriety into bigger sales with a hatchback bodystyle and slightly less focus on going exceedingly fast. With both family-friendly and family-frightening versions widely available, it makes an interesting used buy.
The Subaru Impreza had gained quite a name for itself as a budget performance car by the early years of this century. With a range comprised of a four-door saloon and a curious Sport Wagon estate version, it stood out from the various hot hatchbacks that buyers who were that way inclined could get for similar money. In range-topping STi form, it played out numerous roadtest battles against its arch-rival, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, power-sliding across the pages of the nation's car magazines. Subaru, however, wasn't satisfied. The Impreza name was very well-known but it was always the high performance models that were getting all the attention. Buyers of small to medium-sized family cars in the UK don't tend to like saloon bodystyles or estates: they like hatchbacks and Subaru surmised that a hatchbacked Impreza could get a slice of the enormous pie that the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf were constantly gorging themselves on. In 2007, the car to deliver on this plan arrived. The all-new Impreza had a spacious five-door hatch body and unlike the previous models, the range was evenly divided between the barnstorming rally replicas and more mundane family car fare designed to muscle in on the family hatchback segment. The trim level line-up was split in two. On one hand were the R and RX models offered with 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol engines and designed to appeal to a mainstream audience. On the other were the WRX versions with the 2.5-litre turbo engine. These trod more familiar Impreza ground. The range-topping WRX STi Type-UK model arrived in Spring 2008 to supplement the Impreza's hardcore side, first in 296bhp guise and later with 326bhp in the 330 version. The most noteworthy addition however, came in 2009. The arrival of the 2.0-litre boxer diesel engine gave the car more of a fighting chance with increasingly diesel-centric family hatch buyers.
In the UK, the Impreza was traditionally always either a saloon or a five-door Sport Wagon that trod the line between hatchback and estate but with this generation, it became a conventional five-door hatch. This car is 45mm wider than the old Sport Wagon and has 95mm extra in the wheelbase. This brings a useful increase in interior space that will go down well with the family, as will the more compact rear suspension design which facilitated an increase in boot space to 301 litres. Despite these advantages, many will still mourn the passing of the distinctive saloon bodystyle. The booted shape always served to mark the high-performance Imprezas out as something over and above a mere hot-hatchback. The sleeker shape contrasts strongly with old Imprezas that always look like they're trying to devour the air ahead rather than slice efficiently through it. The side skirts and spoilers on the WRX models do sharpen-up that sporty edge but ultimately, you could be looking at almost any warmed-over shopping hatch. There's nothing about the car's appearance that overtly pokes you in the eye and shouts Impreza! The interior in this model was a big step forward. The tough plastics and staid design of the old car were finally axed in favour of the better materials and modern layout in this design. Compared to leading hatchbacks, the styling of the cabin is a little staid and a top quality feel is still lacking but there should be few problems with the robust build and for Subaru, this was a major step forward. There's plenty of space in the rear seats for a couple of adults to travel comfortably and the headroom is particularly generous.
Prior to the arrival of this car, the Impreza had been conspicuous by its absence as a challenger to the Ford Focus et al near the top of the family hatchback sales charts. Even since, it has remained a comparatively leftfield choice but there are now used models of this hatch version around in reasonable numbers. If prices look high compared to the more conventionally-branded hatchback you were considering, just remember that the Impreza is one of the larger models around and comes with all-wheel-drive as standard. The entry-level 1.5-litre cars started at under £13,000 new with the most power-packed STi models getting up towards the £30,000 barrier, so there's a wide range to get your teeth into. A 1.5-litre R model on 58-plates will be around £8,900 these days, with a middle-ranking WRX coming in at £13,400. Insurance ranges between group 4 and group 19.
Despite their apparent complexity with all-wheel-drive and turbo charged engines, Subaru products tend to be highly reliable. With older cars, some extraneous bits of trim may have been lost along the way and the lustre may have gone from the shiny surfaces but you'd bet your bottom dollar on the important mechanical bits. It means you can buy with reasonable confidence but remember that Subaru's performance and durability tends to make the Impreza attractive to people who fully intent to push the car to its limits. Many WRX and STi models will have been driven hard, so check the tyres, brakes and clutch. There's also the possibility that the vehicle's 4x4 system may have been put to the test by owners living at the wrong end of a rough track. Have a squint at the underbody, wheels and sills for damage.
Previous Impreza engine line-ups tended to be rather top heavy with searing performance prioritised over affordability and running costs. This model changed all that, although the standard all-wheel-drive transmission and multi-link rear suspension mean this isn't your average family hatchback. The engines are all Subaru Boxer units giving smooth power delivery and a distinctive soundtrack. This even applies to the diesel, a 148bhp 2.0-litre unit capable of returning close to 50mpg on the combined cycle. It's easily the Impreza's best mainstream engine. Otherwise, it's petrol power all the way. The 106bhp 1.5-litre engine opens proceedings and above it sits a 2.0-litre unit with 148bhp. Both engines do with out the Subaru trademark turbocharger but employ twin overhead camshafts and the Active Valve Control System that adjusts the combustion process according to the driver's throttle inputs. These are modern engines but with 0-60mph sprint times of 13.7s and 9.2s respectively, they don't yield the kind of performance we've come to associate with the Impreza. For that kind of shove, you'll need the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine in the WRX. Here, there's 227bhp which is enough for a 0-60mph showing of 6.1s. All the engines have been tuned to give improved low-end torque for a smoother driving experience. In the WRX, the vast majority of the 320Nm maximum torque is available at 2,000rpm. If you need more, there's the 296 or 326bhp WRX STi models at the top of the range. From the 2.0-litre models upwards, all Imprezas feature an anti-roll bar and the SVDC dynamics control package as an extra safety net should the full-time all-wheel-drive transmission system relinquish its hold on the road. Under normal conditions, drive is split 50/50 between the front and rear axles in the manual cars (60/40 in the automatic) but a centre differential with viscous coupling diverts torque to the axle with most grip to reduce wheelspin. The WRX and STi models also feature a mechanical limited-slip differential between the rear wheels. The Impreza handles with real verve but it might prove a little rough around the edges for some tastes. The steering is very quick and takes some getting used to while the gearbox has a purposeful mechanical action. In the performance models, the ride is firm and the grip is tenacious, ensuring those famously high Impreza cornering speeds are possible. Refinement is less of a strong suit on all the models with the engine clearly audible in the cabin and lots of tyre noise on the motorway.
BY STEVE WALKER
(2.5 WRX approx.) Subaru parts have a deserved reputation for being expensive. A clutch assembly is around £200. Front brake pads are around £80, and a new alternator is over £400 new. A headlamp is £240 while a cam belt is just over £100. Even a humble fuel filter is £33.
The results below show the top IMPREZA deals on buyacar
|Subaru Impreza 1.5 RC 5dr hatchback|
|Price £15,898||Save £1,532|
|Subaru Impreza 2.0 RC 5dr hatchback|
|Price £17,737||Save £1,753|
|Subaru Impreza 2.0 RC 5dr Auto hatchback|
|Price £18,622||Save £1,868|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT IMPREZA DEALS|
|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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