What is it?
This is the totally new Impreza. It's claimed to have a roomier body, new multi-link rear suspension, better fuel economy and torquier, more flexible engines. Subaru wants to break the Impreza brand out of its comfort zone as a high-performance road car.
The project started out with non-turbo customers in mind. That's why the sports estate look was ditched for a conventional hatchback layout. Styling and 'functionality' were put to the top of the Subaru engineers' wish list.
Compared to the outgoing model, the front and rear overhangs were shortened, the wheelbase lengthened by nearly 90mm and whole car widened by around 45mm. Subaru's trademark frameless doors have also been dropped.
Full-time all-wheel drive is standard, as is a low-ratio gearset, climate control, the full compliment of airbags and useful touches such as front fog lamps and a trip computer.
What's it like?
It's hard to be totally definitive. The road test cars had just 1200 miles under their valve springs and Subaru's flat four engines are notoriously tight when new.
But with 148bhp on tap, the 2.0-litre Impreza had no immediate performance worries even in its out-of-the-container state. With another 5000 miles on the clock it could become much brisker still.
It does, though, suffer from having a five-speed 'box with a lowish top ratio turning at just 20.9mph per thousand. A six-speed box would be a big improvement. Either way, thanks to a chassis that could handle 250bhp and more at a lick, down-the-road performance is predictably mild.
Once rolling, however, the Impreza could be made to travel along with some fluidity. This is a car, which demands some thought and rewards a driver who is prepared to watch the road ahead and set the car up accordingly.
The new Impreza - when cruising at least - is refined and easy-going. It's also noticeably more fluid and languid than the outgoing car. The brakes are strong and the climate control is excellent.