- Great value for money
- Stylish looks inside and out
- EyeSight safety tech
- Sluggish 2-litre engine
- Frustrating beeping radars
- Flat front seats
The Subaru Impreza has always been a bit of an also-ran in the small car class. Sometimes too sporty, sometimes too bland, it's struggled to really capture the market like a Toyota Corolla or Mazda 3. In the early 2000’s, Subaru’s rally influence meant that the Impreza was the sportiest small car on the block. However, that sportiness came at the expense of practicality. Then, things flipped: the last-generation Impreza introduced plenty of space but seemingly forgot the sporty touch that buyers loved.
With this all-new fifth-generation Impreza however, Subaru claims that everything is different. The car sits on an all-new platform that will gradually underpin all new Subarus, starting with the new XV small SUV, the North America-only seven-seat Ascent SUV and a new Forester. It has also gained a new engine and what Subaru claims is the best quality interior that they’ve ever made, even better than the fourth-generation Liberty. We spent a week with the all-new 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S hatchback after a week with the Impreza 2.0i-L sedan to see if Subaru’s promises of a much improved small car with identity have come to fruition.
The 2.0i-S hatch variant we reviewed this week sits atop the local Impreza range, and is priced from $29,190 for the sedan - the hatch is $200 more expensive across therange. For the money, the Impreza 2.0i-S is blessed with an extremely long standard equipment list, including leather seats, heated front seats, an electric driver’s seat, automatic LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an eight-inch infotainment system with smartphone mirroring and satellite navigation, an electric sunroof and the full suite of Subaru’s EyeSight active safety systems, including autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality.
All Imprezas come with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, producing 115kW of power and 196Nm of torque, and in Australia at least, is mated only to a CVT automatic transmission. Subaru claims a fuel consumption average of 7.2L/100km and CO2 emissions of 163g/km on this 2.0i-S variant, more than the 6.6L/100km and 152g/km of other 2017 Imprezas due to its larger wheels.
The 2017 Impreza range is only available with one engine: a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol. It produces a class-competitive 115kW and 196Nm, mated to a CVT automatic with seven simulated ratios to manually change via its steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Like all Subaru engines, it’s a Boxer engine, which fires its cylinders horizontally and promotes a lower centre of gravity for the engine. Subaru’s Boxer engines are known for smoothness and the 2017 Impreza’s engine is no different with a linear power delivery.
The Impreza’s outputs are similar to entry level engines, such as Mazda’s 2.0-litre SKYACTIV four-cylinder engine in its Mazda3, though less than the 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre engine of the Mazda3 SP25 GT that this Impreza 2.0i-S competes with on price. In reality, the Impreza’s engine feels more sluggish than its outputs suggest, and much more sluggish than its main rivals.
With a claimed 0-100km/h time of 11.1 seconds, the Impreza is no sprinter. Volkswagen’s turbocharged Golf 110TSI Highline is a full three seconds faster to 100km/h, with Mazda’s 3 SP25 GT even quicker than that. The Impreza 2.0i-S feels every bit as sluggish as its acceleration figures suggest. Every time the throttle is even touched, the revs spike and a strained engine noise is heard.
Part of this tendency to rev under acceleration is the Impreza’s comparative lack of torque - 196Nm of torque at a high 4,000rpm - and a circa-1,500kg weight blunt performance considerably. The lack of torque is very noticeable, even just pottering around town, because the throttle needs to be applied hard with every desired movement. Its peak 115kW of power is produced at an also-high 6,000rpm, which means a constant almost-red line noise when power is needed. Getting up to highway speed needs concentration and planning.
The Impreza’s weight and lack of performance do mean that the standard fit-AWD system, Subaru’s unique selling point for decades, is questioned. When every competitor is front-wheel drive, the merit of the all-wheel drive system in Australia has to be pondered.
Also what needs to be questioned is the CVT transmission. No manual or proper automatic is available in Australia and that’s a shame because with actual gears, this engine would perform better. The CVT can be shifted manually with seven stepped ratios, and it in manual mode does an admirable job of sounding, feeling and performing like a proper-geared transmission. The manual mode also removes some of the sluggishness and lethargic response from the transmission, though some of the elasticity and laziness is still evident regardless of which mode you’re in.
The combination of weight, lack of power/torque and a CVT transmission affect fuel economy significantly. Over our week, we saw an average of 9.4L/100km, over 30% more than the claimed 7.2L/100km. Even with a CVT, the Honda Civic RS we had last week returned 6.6L/100km, its combination of a lower weight and low-blow turbo torque aiding its fuel economy significantly.
Unfortunately for the moment, you can no longer choose a second engine option in the Subaru Impreza range. This is a shame, as for around the same price as the top-spec Impreza 2.0i-S, a Volkswagen Golf 110TSI or Mazda3 SP25 GT offer significantly more performance, yet use less fuel as well.
A superior engine option for the Impreza range exists overseas in the Subaru Levorg sports wagon, a 1.6-litre turbo Boxer four-cylinder petrol engine with much healthier outputs of 125kW and 250Nm. This would be a far better engine for the Impreza but until then, it continues to lag behind rivals when it comes to drivetrains.
Like its new engine, the 2017 Impreza rides on an all-new platform as well, and this is immediately noticeable after jumping from the old car. The new platform is claimed to be 70 percent stiffer with 40 percent better crash absorption than Imprezas of the past, and feels much more responsive with less bodyroll than the previous Impreza, especially in harder cornering.
The steering of the Impreza is oddly heavy at low speeds - possibly because of the 2.0i-S’ 18-inch wheels - yet doesn’t offer much feel. Up the speed to the highway and it lightens slightly, but still retains its elasticity. It’s a dull system that doesn’t push the boundaries in any way, much like the Impreza’s overall dynamics - memories of Subaru’s rally influence are a very distant.
Take the Impreza to a more demanding country road, and its dynamic ability falters. Its ride quality changes from well- to poorly-judged, and bumps unsettle the chassis significantly more than in a Volkswagen Golf, which is comparatively unfazed by all different types of roads. The car’s tendency to understeer (as is the case with many of the Impreza’s ancestors) is obvious beyond 7/10ths and the car really doesn’t liked to be pushed.
The Impreza’s brakes are four-wheel ventilated disc with ABS and EBD. They’re powerful but wooden in feel - it’s hard to know how much brake pressure to apply. The brakes themselves bite longer than pressed as well, hampering smoothness in urban driving.
The 2017 Impreza is one of the safest small cars available on the market. From the mid-level 2.0i-L and upwards, Subaru’s EyeSight active safety suite is standard in two different levels. The 2.0i-L includes autonomous emergency braking, radar adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. The 2.0i-S then includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. All of these systems work well, perhaps a little too well - the lane departure warning constantly beeps at you because it thinks that you’re veering across lanes. The radar cruise control is very effective however, and even its stop and go ability is something that makes heavy traffic easy to experience.
With our time with the Impreza 2.0i-S however, one feature we were most thankful for was the rear traffic alert, which uses sensors in the rear bumper to alert you of human or motor traffic on each side when reversing. If there’s movement detected from either side of the car, the blind-spot monitoring lights on the exterior mirrors alert you. Like all of the EyeSight safety equipment, it’s mostly very effective and helps you when driving. Of course, you should never drive relying solely on these active safety systems, but they are helpful.
The Impreza 2.0i-S’ seats are covered in supple leather and also feature front heating. The seats themselves are somewhat small, and larger folk may not find themselves fitting properly or feeling very comfortable, which is something of a Subaru achilles heel. The 2.0i-S also thankfully has an electric driver’s seat with under-thigh angle adjustment - something that the mid-spec 2.0i-L could really use - which aids the driving position significantly, though the feeling of sitting on the seat, rather than in it, is never fully eradicated. The headrests are adjustable, but are quite hard.
The lack of lumbar adjustment in any of the 2017 Impreza range is disappointing as well, as there is little support for your lower back, yet obtrusive padding around the shoulder area features. The Impreza’s front seats give you the impression that Subaru engineers have never driven a Volkswagen Golf or even a Mazda3, which have all-day comfort regardless of which spec you choose.
The rear seats are more successful however - they are angled higher than the front and are more comfortable thanks to better upper shaping. The seats themselves feature no adjustability or, but do have a centre rear armrest with cupholders in all models.
The new Impreza’s cabin is a quantum leap for Subaru, who have struggled to make put together a nice interior since the 2003 Liberty/Outback, which were a real high point for the brand. The Impreza’s design is thoroughly modern, featuring a swoopy and stylish layout with soft touch materials covering the dash and door tops. The soft touch materials extend to the lower console as well, making it easy to rest your knees on and aiding long-distance comfort, as well as soft door padding and centre console armrests.
Subaru have also finally redesigned minor cabin details like the window buttons and mirror controls. They’ve got lashings of chrome on them and aren’t the usual cheap dark plastic. The front windows are auto up/down on all models in the Impreza range, yet even on the top-spec Impreza 2.0i-S, the rear windows aren’t. The small wiper and headlight stalks haven’t been redesigned however, and do feel cheap to the touch and aren't damped in their operation.
The leather used on the steering wheel however is coarse and cheap-feeling as well, and its texture feels more like urethane used on many base models in the small car segment. The materials used on the rear door trims are noticeably downgraded as well - the extra lashings of chrome and soft touch plastics of the front seat are nowhere to be seen.
Visibility is quite good though, with large windows and slender pillars aiding your ability to see ahead, and head check when changing lanes. Corner windows ahead of the exterior mirrors also help when exiting touch intersections, and the large rear window aids reversing, as does the huge eight-inch touchscreen with its crisp rear camera.
The Impreza’s interior is dominated by a touchscreen infotainment system - a 6.5-inch screen in the entry Impreza 2.0i and 8.0-inch in models above. While the Impreza 2.0i Premium and above also feature inbuilt satellite navigation, but all Impreza models come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring so that you can activate maps and other applications on your phone through the car’s screen.
The screen itself has a very high resolution with crisp graphics - the highest in the small car class - and is very easy to use and understand, with large touch points so you can use it easily on the move.
In front of the driver is a small TFT screen which displays trip computer information such as average and instant fuel economy, the car’s speed, the distance set behind a car using the active cruise control and audio system information such as when you’re in a phone call. The digital speedometer is covered by many of these functions though - a more prominent display would be more useful.
Another display also sits atop the dashboard, one that shows climate control information, as well as navigation directions, speed limits, media, as well as a screen that shows what active safety features are in use and even depicts when the car’s lights - that’s daytime running lights, parking lights, low or high beam, even braking, fog lights and indicators - are active. This is useful for many Sydney drivers.
The entire Impreza range comes with a six-speaker audio system that rates much better than competitor’s sound systems. The speakers themselves are quite punchy, with good bass levels and enough clarity to enjoy your favourite music, though it’s certainly no nine-speaker Bose system in the Mazda3 SP25 GT. Standard from the 2.0i-L and up is dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, which is effective no matter what temperature is set. Its ability to clear condensation is good as well.
The new Impreza continues Subaru’s reputation for making extremely practical cars. Due to its modular new platform, the car has grown slightly with a 4.46 metre length, a 1.78 metre width and 1.48 metre height.
New dimensions also mean that the Impreza’s boot has grown slightly as well, now a class-average 345-litres. Fold the seats down, they lie flat with a stepped floor. With the rear seats folded, 795-litres is available - significantly less than the 1,270-litres offered by the Volkswagen Golf. Otherwise, the Impreza’s boot offers a wide opening, only a slight boot lip and sliding retractable cover, and also features four tie down points and a space-saver spare wheel.
The interior of the Impreza is spacious. The front cabin is well sized and features many storage spots for you to lose your keys and so on in. The door bins are large and can accommodate 500mL bottles, but they aren’t lined in flock, so items still rattle when you’re driving. There is also a large centre box with two USB inputs and a 12V socket, as well as a large glovebox. A storage tray ahead of the gearknob houses two more USB inputs, another 12V socket and the AUX input as well, though it would be nice to have some lighting there to help you place cables at night.
The front cupholders are just in front of the gearbox, are of a reasonable size and come with a removable divider in case you want to place something larger in there. The Impreza’s cabin is also ergonomically sound, with everything being within close reach. The cupholders are close to the driver, the centre box is easy to open whilst on the move and the climate controls easy to fathom as well. The touchscreen's icons are large and easy to understand.
The rear seat is more featureless than the front, with only an armrest with cupholders and some reasonable sized door bins. There are no rear air-vents that the Volkswagen Golf range or higher-spec Hyundai i30 receive to keep rear passengers more comfortable, and the console-mounted USB charging points of the Subaru Levorg wagon - itself sitting on the old Impreza’s platform - are nowhere to be seen either.
The rear seat is still a roomy affair though. The car’s dimensions ensure that rear occupants have ample room, no matter what their size is. The rear seats themselves are wider and shaped better than the front, and for somebody over six-foot sitting behind themselves, head and legroom are ample. Four adults will fit no problem at all in the Impreza, with a fifth at a pinch.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
There are four major running costs to every vehicle – fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation. Our calculations are based on the 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S hatchback.
Subaru Impreza fuel economy
Subaru claims an optimistic combined average of 7.2L/100km, which is more than competitors Volkswagen Golf 110TSI (5.2L/100km) and Mazda3 SP25 GT (6.1L/100km), both of which produce more torque and have significantly better drivability. The Impreza’s urban claim (9.1L/100km) and highway claim (6.1L/100km) are almost achievable - we got numbers closer to 10.5L/100km and 6.3L/100km respectively. But the problem is, both the Impreza’s claimed and real-world fuel use is much higher than its competitors.
Over our week with it, we saw an average of 9.4L/100km - a 30% blow out. All cars will use more fuel in mostly urban driving, however the fact remains that the Impreza is significantly thirstier than its rivals. Using all 50-litres, you’ll see just over only 500km from a tank of fuel. The Impreza will run on 91-RON fuel though, helping offset its use slightly. Performance and economy did improve on higher grades of fuel.
Subaru Impreza insurance costs
We seek insurance quotes from mainstream insurers for a 30 year old living in Chatswood, NSW, with a good driving history, and parking in the driveway.
The Impreza 2.0i-S is more expensive to insure than its main competitor set, but only by $17 per annum at $1,012. The Mazda3 SP25 GT is the least expensive at $955, the Volkswagen Golf Highline 110TSI at $985, and the Holden Astra RS-V at $995.
Subaru Impreza servicing costs
The benefit of its brand new engine is that unlike every other Subaru, the Impreza’s service intervals fall under 12-month/12,500km restrictions, saving more than $900 over a three-year period compared to the old Impreza. Owning a Subaru is vastly better value under Subaru’s new capped price servicing scheme, though most other models aside from the BRZ still require six-monthly servicing.
12,500km intervals also mean that if an owner travels closer to or further than 15,000km annually - as many Subaru owners do - the car could potentially require a fourth service before the three-year period has ended, which won’t be covered by the scheme and therefore not capped in price.
The average yearly cost of the Impreza’s servicing works out to be $432.73 over three years/37,500km, significantly more than the Mazda3 SP25 GT’s $311 and especially the Holden Astra RS-V’s $229, but only just above the Volkswagen Golf Highline 110TSI’s $402. The Impreza’s 25,000km/two year service costs $603, so owners need to be mindful of such a large cost so early in the car’s ownership.
Subaru Impreza depreciation
If you keep a new Impreza 2.0i-S for three years and 40,000km, Glass’s Guide data indicates that it should retain about 58% of its value, returning you about $16,900. This is a better figure than the Mazda3 SP25 GT (56% or $17,900) and Holden Astra RS-V (57% or $18,900), but not the Volkswagen Golf Highline 110TSI ($59% or $20,000).
The Subaru Impreza has average running costs for the class
The 2017 Subaru Impreza presents average running costs for the small car class. Compared to the Mazda3 SP25 GT, it uses significantly more fuel, costs more to insure and service and will keep more of its value when it comes time to sell, but not enough to justify spending more in other ownership areas.
VALUE FOR MONEY
For now, the Impreza range features four different variants in either five-door hatchback or four-door sedan form with the same 2.0-litre Boxer four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT automatic combination. Regardless of specification though, all new Imprezas are well equipped for their respective price points. There are no options available on the Impreza range, and Subaru does not charge extra for metallic paint either. A range of Subaru accessories are available for the 2017 Impreza, with everything from floor mats to STi body kits on offer.
The entry level Impreza 2.0i ($22,400 sedan, $22,600 hatch) includes 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control air-conditioning, seven airbags, smart key entry and start, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and two USB inputs, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, auto-off headlights, a multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, and a reversing camera.
Crucially at the entry level, no form of active safety assistance is available, even as an option. Competitors like the Mazda3 Neo have some form of active safety equipment as standard - the Mazda3 has AEB across the range.
Above the 2.0i sits the Impreza 2.0i-L ($24,490 sedan, $24,690 sedan) and it is equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight active safety suite incorporating adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning. It also includes dual-zone climate control, a larger 8-inch touchscreen, two extra USB inputs, front foglamps that incorporate daytime running lights, electric-folding mirrors and tyre pressure monitoring. We would recommend at least the 2.0i-L variant in the Impreza range - it is great value for money and earns you at least the basic EyeSight package, something that could help offset the initial extra purchase cost.
The Impreza 2.0i-Premium ($26,290 sedan, $26,690 hatch) adds satellite navigation and an electric sunroof.
The top of the range is the Impreza 2.0i-S ($29,190 sedan, $29,390 hatch) that we tested. The 2.0i-S adds a superior EyeSight active safety suite including blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alert, as well as steering responsive LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seating with heated front seats, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, an electric sunroof, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
Mazda3 SP25 GT ($31,790)
The Mazda3 is the Impreza’s closest competitor, so much so that the Impreza’s yearning for Mazda3 sales means that it even looks similar at the front. Although the SP25 GT doesn’t quite have all the Impreza’s equipment (it lacks a sunroof and some safety equipment like adaptive cruise control), it has a similarly polished cabin, and has far superior performance and even fuel economy from its 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine.
Volkswagen Golf Highline 110TSI ($32,990)
Although it’s about to undergo a significant facelift, the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf is still the class benchmark for interior quality with a luxurious feel across the range. It is more expensive though, and you still have to option the $1,500 Driver Assistance Package to equal the Impreza’s EyeSight system, but undeniably a more polished product. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces less power than the Impreza - 110kW - but much more torque, at 250Nm and returns far better fuel economy.
Holden Astra RS-V ($31,740)
Holden’s European range has finally returned with the Astra, and it’s easily the best ever version of the nameplate. It features almost the Impreza’s active safety suite (it lacks radar cruise control but that can be optioned), is dynamically far superior and its engine is by far the most powerful Impreza competitor with 147kW/280Nm. Also available with a 6-speed manual across the range, if that’s your thing.
|Power||115kW at 6,000rpm|
|Torque||196Nm at 4,000rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||82kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||7.2L/100km|
|Average range||694 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Gears||1 (7 simulated)|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,398 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||345-litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||795-litres|