Subaru is a brand with a seemingly endless amount of goodwill in this country.
You don’t really need me to remind you that the chief reason for that is clearly the exploits of Colin McRae and Richard Burns at the hands of Imprezas in the World Rally Championship two decades ago.
But, early performance editions of the Impreza aside, the road cars have never really broken through into the mainstream. That despite the people who buy them loving the honesty, reliability and capability of the products, the way they get under your skin the more you use them.
Indeed, Subarus have always fared much better in the long-term review pages of titles like Autocar rather than in a shorter period of appraisal, as their likability and usability are much slower burners.
Today in New York, Subaru has revealed the all-new Impreza. Its significance cannot be understated as it’s real hitting of the reset button for the company, bringing with it a whole new look, a new interior with new technology, a new family of boxer engines, and a new modular chassis to underpin them all.
You could argue that Subaru didn’t really need to hit the reset button, such is the brand’s success in the US where they are adored and sell by the hundreds of thousand, but global success and sustainability with a greater spread of your business operations to counteract any changing of the wind in a place where all your eggs are in one basket is something craved by all car companies, not just Subaru.
On first impressions, the new Impreza looks nice enough. It’s certainly not ugly, but it lacks the prettiness and desirability of, say, a Mazda, another Japanese company who hit the reset button a few years ago in a similar way to Subaru, and crucially got the design part right to make its cars in all classes desirable.
What the new generation of Subarus really needs is another icon, a halo product. This is where the new WRX comes in, insiders speaking of a ballsy hi-tech hybrid with a powerful boxer engine powering the front wheels and an electric motor and battery to power the rears. Appetite whetted.
This will certainly answer the chief critcism of the old Impreza WRX, with its comical CO2 emissions and fuel economy in an altogether dated package making it well and truly feel like it was from another era in the end. It will certainly go straight to the top of the hot hatch class on the economy and hi-tech fronts.
On that performance front, albeit one unrelated to the Impreza, Subaru has already started to do something about it with an entry into the British Touring Car Championship with its Levorg, driven by the BTCC’s standout personality Jason Plato. It’s a good start.
Let’s just hope that with a new generation of products starting with the Impreza, we can like Subaru again for what it is rather than what it used to be.