What is it?
At last, Subaru has done the obvious thing and fitted its mainstream Impreza five-door hatchback with its quirky but well-received flat-four diesel engine, a four-cam, 16-valve unit already available in the Legacy, Outback and Forester models.
Horizontally opposed engines have always been a Subaru “given”, along with permanent four-wheel-drive. The difficulty of making a diesel in this unusual format - which is more complicated and expensive than a normal in-line four - held Subaru back for years. But since it first version appeared in the Legacy a couple of years ago, it has won a good reputation for economy, refinement and performance.
What's it like?
The Impreza Boxer is a rugged, well-equipped Focus-sized saloon, well capable of 45 mpg journeys, yet with a top speed nearing 130mph and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 9.0 seconds, not far short of a hot hatchback. The car’s performance is especially surprising, given that it weighs a rather lardy 1455 kilograms at the kerb.
The Impreza has never been acclaimed for its shape, and this new version looks as awkward as the rest. This Boxer Diesel comes in two models, both well equipped. The £20,000 RC seems the better bargain since it comes equipped with climate control, Xenon headlights, a 6CD autochanger, front foglamps, heated front seats and a cruise control.
For an extra £2255 you get the RX model, with keyless entry, an electric sunroof, privacy glass, leather trim and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat. Despite the plush equipment, there’s not much that’s luxurious about the cabin, though like the rest of the car it does have a pleasant feeling of strength and durability.
On the road, the Impreza Boxer feels relaxed (especially in its ultra-tall sixth gear) but if you drop a couple of ratios it goes really well. The engine always makes it an enjoyable drive, mostly because of the generous torque available from 1500rpm, peaking at 258lb ft between 1800 and 2500rpm.
You soon learn to drive smooth at low revs, yet to depend on an instant response to the throttle. And though the figures show that maximum power of 148bhp is developed at only 3600 rpm, the engine will rev smoothly onward to the 5000 mark, so it feels distinctly sportier than the more routine in-line 2.0 litre turbodiesels on the market.
Steering and ride are about par for the class. Road-holding, biased towards understeer, is neat and stable but it doesn’t show any particular evidence of the low centre of gravity Subaru crows about.
The four-wheel-drive is unobtrusive apart from a slightly annoying speed-related transmission whine at town speeds. The car would benefit from a better gearchange, though; the combination of a slow, rather crunchy action and a long lever make it slower than it need be.
Should I buy one?
Yes, if you’re a non-conformist. The best argument in favour of the Subaru Impreza Boxer Diesel is that it’s different from the common herd of 2.0 litre saloons, and this will attract some buyers.
But there are an awful lot of extremely competent, more conventional 2.0 litre diesels on the market (Golf, Astra and Focus come to mind) whose all-round excellence make it highly debatable whether different means better.