From £25,0106
It's safety first for Subaru's reimagined Impreza hatchback, but a thirsty engine and CVT gearbox don't make for a rewarding drive

What is it?

The understated family hatch you see before you is the fifth-generation Subaru Impreza. Twenty years ago, that nameplate might’ve been one to make you sit up and pay attention - particularly if you were an ardent follower of the World Rally Championship at the time.

Now, though, the Impreza isn’t quite as exciting. There are two reasons for this: namely, because the coveted WRX performance models have been established as a model line in their own right (not to mention one that’s about to leave the UK for good, supposedly), and also because Subaru has been placing safety at the forefront of its vehicle development programme for some time now.

Not that that’s at all a bad thing. After all, this new Impreza comes with a full five-star Euro NCAP rating, thanks in no small part to its ‘Eyesight’ suite of driver aides. This includes features such as pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.

In addition to the comprehensive range of safety kit, the Impreza also gets Subaru’s symmetrical four-wheel drive to help the car’s on-road surefootedness, while the all-new Subaru Global Platform aims to improve dynamic feel. Suspension, meanwhile, consists of MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone arrangement at the rear.

At the car’s nose, you’ll find Subaru’s naturally aspirated four-cylinder boxer engine in 2.0-litre guise (a smaller 1.6-litre unit is also available). Its 154bhp and 145lb ft of torque are sent to all four wheels via a ‘Lineartronic’ continuously variable transmission (CVT).

What's it like?

Sit yourself down in the soft and pleasantly supportive fabric-upholstered seats and you’ll be greeted by a cabin that’s relatively simple in its design.

There’s plenty of plastic to be seen here, but despite the relatively no-frills approach Subaru has taken towards the Impreza’s interior, it’s by no means an unpleasant environment. There’s plenty of space on offer, and you get the impression the materials used here will stand up to a fair amount of rough and tumble. So far, so good.

Well, good up until the point you hit the starter button and set off. From this point, things become slightly questionable. This is largely down to the Impreza’s combination of engine and gearbox.

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That 2.0-litre flat four produces only a modest amount of torque, and due to the lack of a turbocharger, its 145lb ft of twisting power isn’t available until 4000rpm. This means that any attempt to accelerate with any sense of urgency is met by a harsh, strained and sustained drone as the CVT spins up above this point so progress can be made. You’ll have to endure that accompanying racket for some time, too, because the Impreza takes 9.8sec to accelerate from 0-62mph.

The requirement to really rev this engine out in order to shift the Impreza’s 1379kg mass also contributes to fuel economy that’s not particularly stellar. Subaru quotes a combined consumption figure of 42.8mpg, but we saw a figure closer to 35mpg during our time with the car.

So, Subaru’s selection of engine and transmission may not be a particularly strong one, but at least the inclusion of symmetrical all-wheel drive means the Impreza feels planted and secure on the road. There’s a commendable amount of grip on offer here, and body roll is generally well contained. As far as ride quality is concerned, the Impreza can feel firm at times, but it’s far from what you’d call uncomfortable.

Should I buy one?

For all of its pros - think solid build quality, decent interior space, surefooted on-road demeanour and impressive safety rating – the Impreza is let down by nearly as many cons.

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There’s the 2.0-litre engine, which not only lacks punch but is also thirsty and not particularly refined. At £25,560, the Impreza is expensive, too. Sure, you get heated seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, but for similar money you could have a Volkswagen Golf GT with comparable - if not superior - levels of equipment. At that price point, you’d also get the VW Group’s 1.5-litre, 128bhp Evo petrol engine with seven-speed DSG transmission. Not only is this powerplant smoother, more refined and - thanks to the presence of a turbocharger - more accessible, but it’s also much more economical. We recently tested a Golf estate with this very engine and saw close to 50mpg.

Then there’s the problem posed by depreciation. After 36 months of ownership and 36,000 miles, the Subaru is forecast to retain just 36% of its value. That’s a serious hit. By comparison, the Golf is expected to be worth 40% of its original £25,010 asking price over the same timeframe.

To be totally honest, then, you’d either really have to buy into Subaru’s safety and security spiel, or be a long-time patron of the brand to seriously consider the new Impreza. Without a more favourable engine and gearbox offering, we predict the Impreza will remain a fairly rare sight on British roads.

Subaru Impreza 2.0i SE Lineartronic

Where Surrey, UK; Price £25,010; On sale Now; Engine 4cyl, 1995cc, petrol; Power 154bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 143lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox CVT automatic; Kerb weight 1379kg; Top speed 127mph; 0-62mph 9.8sec; Fuel economy 42.8mpg (combined); CO2, tax band 152g/km, 51%; Rivals Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia

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Comments
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AV 4 May 2018

Pity

What a pity this review is used to plug, yet again, an reliable heap sold by VW. DSG gearboxes, timing chains, turbos, you name it VWs have all sorts of problems and we haven’t got to the dishonesty over emissions yet. Subaru makes well-engineered machines and this is no exception: a naturally aspirated 2 litre motor will, I have no doubt, last a good deal longer than current rival turbos. This car has proper independent suspension and a sophisticated 4 wheel drive system in every model. So called premium alternatives do not. 

si73 4 May 2018

As for this subaru, a manual

As for this subaru, a manual is needed as more people buy manuals in the uk and more engine choice, though at least the 1.6 is coming.

Gargae Man 4 May 2018

Subaru Impreza

Here we go again.The arm chair experts and to a degree motoring journos decrying the CVT gearbox.I have never come across other manufacturers who use CVT's being so round attacked as Subaru.Manufacturers from MB,Nissan,Honda,Toyota etc etc use the CVT but road tests of their cars never begin with gear box comments as an opening,in fact I have never read a road test of other cars that attacked the CVT gear box.I own a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5 premium with a 5step CVT.The delivery of power is so linearer and if the boy racer in you wishes for manual gear changes it has paddle shifters,but like most automatic gear boxes, they out perform manual changes every time.

si73 4 May 2018

Gargae Man wrote:

Gargae Man wrote:

Here we go again.The arm chair experts and to a degree motoring journos decrying the CVT gearbox.I have never come across other manufacturers who use CVT's being so round attacked as Subaru.Manufacturers from MB,Nissan,Honda,Toyota etc etc use the CVT but road tests of their cars never begin with gear box comments as an opening,in fact I have never read a road test of other cars that attacked the CVT gear box.I own a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5 premium with a 5step CVT.The delivery of power is so linearer and if the boy racer in you wishes for manual gear changes it has paddle shifters,but like most automatic gear boxes, they out perform manual changes every time.

I agree with your assessment of cvt usage but not of reviews. Magazines always heavily criticise them. I recently had an insight(now have a crz) and the reviews made the usual high reving drone under hard acceleration comments which is nonsense as you can use the paddles to prevent this,  effectively changing gear so the standard high revs until the car speed catches up can be totally negated. When not accelerating hard and just driving normally and leaving the gearbox to do its own thing it was always quiet and smooth, a relaxing drive, just like the torque converter autos I've driven in the past. If you want a bit of fun on A/B roads again you can use the paddles which work really well. This availability and use of paddles was never mentioned in any review.

artill 4 May 2018

si73 wrote:

si73 wrote:

I recently had an insight(now have a crz) and the reviews made the usual high reving drone under hard acceleration comments which is nonsense as you can use the paddles to prevent this,  effectively changing gear so the standard high revs until the car speed catches up can be totally negated. When not accelerating hard and just driving normally and leaving the gearbox to do its own thing it was always quiet and smooth, a relaxing drive, just like the torque converter autos I've driven in the past. If you want a bit of fun on A/B roads again you can use the paddles which work really well. This availability and use of paddles was never mentioned in any review.

I remember driving an Insight (second generation) but it was the base model and had no paddles. On the flat it was fine, but at the first hill the revs went sky high, making an awful drone. Clearly having paddles to stop the gearbox doing what IT wants is essential on a CVT. Hope you enjoy the CRZ now, the hybrid/manual combo is great. 

si73 4 May 2018

Leaving mine in auto the revs

Leaving mine in auto the revs did rise at a hill, usually though I could come off the power very slightly the revs would reduce but I'd still make good progress, it's very hilly around my way and that does effect the economy but I could still drive with the traffic without the revs staying sky high. It was mainly on slip roads onto the fast flowing A38 that I noticed the high rev issue so that's when I'd use the paddles the most. I didnt actually realise they did one without paddles, all the ones I looked at had them.

Yes really enjoying the crz, my brother and I swapped as he now needs a more practical car, cheers.

Gargae Man 5 May 2018

Imprezza CVT

Ah, there are some people out there that hold a similar view to me on the CVT.On a long intercity trip(7) times a year,500 odd miles each way,my 2015 Outback with the CVT performs faultlessly.I don't overly hear the rise in revs(I can hear a worm break wind 5metres down).In cruise control,which is adaptive,run through the eyesight system, it provides a very comfortable economical drive.I do know the early Subaru CVT's were "droney" but with their development by Subaru,it only now becomes apparent at crawling speeds,round 3MPH in traffic,but hey you tune out.And the detractors need to remember that the car CVT is a development from the original reason they were made,Tractors.They need constant power when ploughing,pulling etc,the same with trucks.So the sophisticated development for cars like many things automotive,Lamborghini for example that started out as a tractor manufacturer.DCT may give very fast gear changes,but what is their use by date?