From £16,450
Don't think of the 1.5R as a cut-price Impreza WRX - it's nothing of the sort. Instead, it is practical, well-equipped and unpretentious. And just a little bit slow.

Our Verdict

Subaru Impreza
This Subaru Impreza RC costs £18,995 when specified with a CVT

It may not be an obvious choice for most buyers, but this four-wheel-drive, sub-£20k hatch does have merit

  • First Drive

    Subaru Impreza 2.0D RX

    Unconventional diesel will make you stand out from the crowd
  • First Drive

    Subaru Impreza 1.5 R

    Good to drive and well equipped, but interior still feels a bit cheap, and it likes a drink

What is it? A new entry-level Impreza, now fitted with a 1.5-litre engine. What's more, that engine, like those in all Subarus, is a boxer. It's only available as a five-door, and while the new Impreza 1.5R might look a lot like the rip-snorting WRX (minus the bonnet scoop), with just 103bhp and 105lb ft, it is a very different machine. What's it like? Cheap. At £12,495 on the road, the 1.5R matches the price of the entry-level 1.6-litre Fiat Sedici 4x4, but offers more kit. Before we even begin to wonder about the performance, look at what you get: four electric windows, electric mirrors, fully automatic climate control, a CD radio , front and side airbags, a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, four-wheel drive (all the same stuff you get in the £22,495 WRX), and 15-inch alloys. Oh yes, and a low-ratio transfer 'box, which means that (with the correct tyres), the junior Impreza should waltz across muddy fields. It doesn't look half bad, either – the only way you'll distinguish the 1.5R from the 2.0R is the former's tiny exhaust. And next to the sewer main that serves for an exhaust on our long-term WRX PPP, the 1.5R's pipette-like outlet looks comically miniature. Climb into the driver's seat (surprisingly scalloped, supportive and comfortable), and the first thing that strikes you is the plastic finish on the gearknob, steering wheel and handbrake. It's one of few visual or tactile clues to where the money has been saved. Start the engine and you are met with the distinctive thrum that can only be a flat four. It's not as loud as in a WRX, sure, but it's still there. Slot the gearlever into first, give it a bit of throttle and we're off. Eventually. Having jumped in pretty much straight from a Prodrive-tweaked WRX, the 1.5R feels very, very slow. A 0-60mph time of 13.5 seconds confirms this, but give the junior Impreza a chance and it's actually quite engaging. Despite peak power being generated at 6400rpm, there's not a great deal of pleasure or benefit in revving beyond 4000rpm. Peak torque comes in at 3200rpm, and this counts for more of the 1.5R's get-up-and-go. The trick, you soon realise, is to conserve momentum – don't accelerate or brake too sharply, but use the Impreza's great chassis to maintain speed through corners. Yes, it understeers, but there is a surprising amount of grip to be found, and the small wheels and soft suspension make for a supple ride. Should I buy one? This is a 4x4 for people who need four-wheel drive but don't want the dynamic shortcomings and image of an SUV. Subaru reckons it will appeal to people who might once have bought the now-defunct Justy, and we reckon they're right. If you live in the sort of place that gets cut off by snow, or have a long and muddy drive, this could be just the job. It is a bit underpowered, and 35.8mpg combined isn't outstanding, but the 1.5R is only £500 more than the cheapest (front-wheel-drive) Ford Focus, which has just 78bhp, no alloys, no air-con, no CD player and manual rear windows. Rory Lumsdon

Join the debate


24 October 2011

[quote Autocar]£12,495 [/quote]

Crikey! For a brand new Impreza! Okay, I know that this was years ago, but that's good value. Subaru should bring back an estate version of the Impreza again though. That's one of the many things missing from the current Subaru range that makes the brand seem nowhere near as 'individual' as they were back in the 90's and 00's.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run