From £25,010
Unconventional diesel will make you stand out from the crowd
Steve Cropley Autocar
6 September 2009

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.


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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.

Join the debate


11 September 2009

There is something oddly compelling about this car ! I would choose this over a Golf

11 September 2009

How come in reviews of other similar sized cars, anything woth a 0-60 of 9 to 9.5 secs is at best described as 'sluggish', 'slow', 'mediocre', etc whereas because - woooo - this is an IMPREZA therefore it must be sporty, it's 0-60 of 9 secs is descibed as '...close to a hot hatch'!!!

11 September 2009

These Subaru's always look so basic inside...

12 September 2009

[quote madaxeman]There is something oddly compelling about this car ! I would choose this over a Golf[/quote]

I know what you mean, but I suspect it will be worth 20% less than the equivalent Golf in 3 years time.

It isn't that cheap to begin with either.

14 September 2009

Who in Subaru UK thinks that the correct pricing for a 148bhp diesel-powered Focus class car is more than £22k? A £15k tag and you might start to consider it, but £22k?? Can anyone think of another marque which has fallen from grace so spectacularly, especially in this country, where it once had a devoted following?

14 September 2009

I agree with TonyM911 here, £22k is allot of money for this class of car. Even the Golf TDI GTi or whatever it's called now adays at over £21k is expensive considering the lack of power on offer. 150 for the Scooby and 170 for the Golf. Really for this money, should be on the right side of 200hp!!! However, I like the look of the car, quite aggessive & purposeful. Reliability wouldn't be an issue, but maintenance & economy of 45mpg would be a downside. But saying all this, I'd have it over a Golf anyday. Q-Car status in my eyes. But it would have to rival in the performance stakes of my 1 Series 123d to win over my heart!

15 September 2009

When a 'motoring journalist' can't tell between a saloon and a hatchback, you know it's time to start looking at other sites for news and reviews...

16 September 2009

A Scooby that does 45mpg, lousy gearchange, top heavy looks, low rent interior and few local agencies or a fully loaded Skoda Superb. Even the new Wagon, fully loaded and with a retractable panoramic sunroof comes out at only £400 more than the RX.

Hmmmm ....... tough choice .....

21 December 2009

Such a shame about this car, indeed all the Impeza range plus, unfortunately, the new Legacy and Outback. I think there are people who would want this car, in fact i'd be one of them as I do a lot of rural driving and don't need the performance or fuel consumption of a WRX. But it's too expensive and, from the front, looks both gawky and fat (quite an achievement that combination). The rear and rear three quarters are actually not that bad at all; as BrettIOM says, the car looks pretty 'aggressive and purposeful' from those angles at least. While nothing can be done about the rake of the windsceen, which makes the car look older than it is and emphasises the length of the bonnet, a very light revision at the front could actually make a lot of difference. The front bumper needs to be reduced in bulk and made a little more angular, and the car would look a lot meaner if the lines of the headlights were continued just a few inches into the wings. The STi grille would complete the picture. The interior is another matter, really the car needs a new, higher quality dash - those curves just don't work, they are so steep that they have the effect of narrowing and raising the height of the dash making the interior seem smaller than it is. However, just removing the silver plastics from the dash and door cards and replacing them with some more expensive looking foils and soft touch plastics might do the job and would be very cheap - it's amazing how a little bit of 'rubberised' plastic, which costs very little, can raise perceived quality (just look at what Volkswagen gets away with!). Come on Subaru, please try just a little harder with the UK market before it withers away.

21 December 2009

Think we need to look at the bigger picture here. We brits tend to think the world should revolve around us. These cars will be styled with US market in mind. I believe I read somewhere that Subaru is doing well in the states. I actually bought a new STi last year and I love it. It goes like $h1t, comfortable, ultra reliable, no squeaks rattles etc, new car on the market - no recalls. Yet cheaper than the 2wd Focus RS. Not to mention the dealers - 1st class. Ford dealers, er no. For me its the whole ownership picture. Don't matter how good it looks inside or out, if it breaks down, always in the garage, has an annoying rattle somewhere. Not for me. Plus in this weather..... no contest. A friend of mine has the diesel Legacy, he loves it. Sometimes its nice not to follow the crowd.


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