The first glance is promising: the new-generation Impreza carries a more dynamic frame, its mildly aggressive profile helped by front and rear lights that are more distinctive than before. The physique that once actively sought anonymity has been replaced by a more convincing look.
It’s worth noting that the new Impreza uses the recently introduced global platform that will serve as the base of all the automaker’s upcoming models. Overall, the first impression I got was a positive one, although nothing that could anticipate when I experienced once I took it out on the road.
Since nearly the very inception of this model, the cabin you got into distinguished itself mainly by its slightly bleak feel, what with its presentation being muted at best – although the quality of assembly was itself impeccable. The choice of materials, on the other hand, was not necessarily given top priority. It gave the impression that the company and its engineers invested their whole budget on the engine and the platform, leaving few resources for the interior. But that was then; this is now.
To my surprise, the dashboard is modern, dare I say even attractive. In the Sport Tech version I was provided with, the 8-inch display screen immediately announces the Impreza’s break with its past. The materials used are evidently of higher quality; the top-stitching on the steering wheel, the emergency brake lever and the armrests adds a nice touch of refinement to the car. Overall it’s a successful revision, though I’m not sure of the relevance of the mini information centre located in the centre at the top of the dashboard; I found it difficult to access.
Testing out an Impreza is not generally a particularly exciting experience, the engine being somewhat lacking in responsiveness, and the driving experience that results verging on the tedious. Performance, while not anemic, too often left something to be desired. But this time, as soon as I hit the accelerator, the car literally jumped, and this even though the engine tops out at 152 HP, a mere four more than previously.
Instead of waiting a few milliseconds before things got going, the intervention of the 7-speed continuously variable transmission meant the car reacted instantaneously and provided pretty interesting acceleration.
It’s worth nothing that two transmission options are available, the first being a 5-speed manual with the other being that CVT with simulated 7 speeds. The performance of the latter is further enhanced by programmed gear shifts that prove quite satisfactory overall. Changes are even quicker when you use the gear paddles placed on the back of the steering wheel.
Even if the sound insulation could still use perfecting, particularly to deal with the car’s somewhat grumpy engine, there has been definite progress made in this regard. Another positive development concerns the steering, which is notably less assisted than before. Certain of my colleagues found the steering a wee bit heavy for a family-focused car, but personally I appreciated that it wasn’t overly insistent.
The improved sound insulation is partially the result of a platform which is 70% more rigid than before, according to the manufacturer. Moreover, rolling when cornering is less pronounced, without having to make do with a suspension that is too firm. On the contrary, potholes and bumps we encountered during our road test were easily absorbed by the suspension, which has been successfully redesigned in our view.
As with previous versions, the new Impreza is available as either a sedan or a 5-door hatchback. The shape of the latter version was the more pleasing of the two to my eyes, though the sedan can be spruced up with a rear spoiler mounted on the trunk if you want a slightly sportier look. Either way you go, the elegance quotient of the car has also been ratcheted up.
Orders are piling up
Already, after just a month on the market, the new-generation Impreza is generating strong sales, in fact 33% more than what its predecessor racked up in January 2016. And there’s reason to think that’s just the beginning, as sales will likely climb further once word gets out among consumers of the many improvements Subaru has brought to the new edition, while preserving all the qualities that made it so attractive to its many loyal fans.
Those qualities include advanced safety features that make it one of the safest cars in its class, including the EyeSight system that will immobilize the vehicle when confronted with an obstacle. Plus, to the improvements in driving performance and pleasure you can add an infotainment system that’s no longer retrograde and is now the equal of its competitors’.
Overall then, this new 2017 edition of the Impreza is quite impressive on just about every level. Could it now be considered best-in-class? That’s hard to determine short of making some head-to-head comparisons, and the other contenders are no slouches either – starting with the Mazda3, the Volkswagen Golf and even the Kia Forte. One undeniable selling point it has is the highly effective all-wheel drive that has always been the deciding factor for many Subaru devotees.