What is it?
It's the new Subaru Impreza, of course. And this is the first time we've sampled one in the UK.
The less said about the new Impreza's looks the better, you might think. But actually, in the metal, it's really not that offensive. Anyway, Imprezas have always been brutal-looking things.
They've also been known as brutally accelerative things, because people tended to overlook the non-turbo versions. But Subaru intends to change that: the new Impreza is no longer here to fight the Evo (though don't worry, the bulging STi will be along to do that next year), but to take on the Focus and Astra.
What better way to start, then, but with the brutally unaccelerative 1.5R.
What's it like?
The new 1.5 has got a little more power (106bhp v 103) and exactly the same weight to lug around. So it's no surprise that it feels no quicker, though to be fair our test car had less than a thousand miles on the clock, and Subaru engines are notoriously tight until they've got at least a few thousand miles on them.
As before, the engine's limited power is made less of an issue by the handling. The steering is quick, accurate, and the suspension superbly supple. It's easy to maintain momentum through the bends, and nicely placed and weighted controls – the pedals especially – really help. There seems to be better sound insulation, too; it's much quieter at high speeds.
Is the cabin any better? Just about. The dash looks good, and the door linings are reminiscent of those in the Legacy, but sadly the materials are the same old hard, shiny plastic. And the wheel and gearlever are of a sticky rubber that hardly shouts quality.
Should I buy one?
The new Impreza is still very good to drive, and also good value. Try getting alloys, climate control, four electric windows, a CD stereo, front fog lights, four-wheel-drive and a dual-range gearbox in a Ford Focus for £12,495.
Problem is, it's not likely to be cheap to run, despite group 4E insurance, because it'll only average 37.7mpg if you treat it gently, and it emits 176g/km of CO2. Then again, it'll take you places other hatches can only dream of.