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Car reviews - Subaru - Impreza - 5-dr hatch range

Launch Story

4 Sep 2007

SUBARU has chosen safety, refinement and value as the three key hallmarks it hopes will differentiate the derivative “Euro-look” styling of its third-generation Impreza hatch from the rest of the small-car pack.

On sale now from $24,490 (just $50 more than the previous five-door Impreza’s starting price), Subaru’s redesigned small-car is more spacious, better equipped, quieter and, for the first time, features both six airbags and VDC stability control as standard across the range.

In line with Subaru’s aspirations as a “premium Japanese” car-maker, that is $3500 higher than the $20,990 base price Toyota has applied to its new (and already top-selling) Corolla hatch and sedan, which comes with seven airbags as standard on all but the base Ascent and Levin SX variants (on which only two airbags are standard).

However, Subaru says the fitment as standard across the range of all-wheel drive, which was a unique selling proposition for Subaru in the small-car segment until Suzuki’s SX4 AWD hatch ($24,390) arrived earlier this year and which Toyota values at $4500 for its new mid-sized Kluger SUV, is akin to a $4500 equipment advantage for Impreza over the front-drive Corolla.

As such, Subaru claims that, for the first time, its Impreza hatch, which will not be joined by a new-generation sedan stablemate for at least 12 months, can go head-to-head on any detail with direct rivals like the Mazda3 and Honda’s Civic.

Furthermore, it says that apart from Citroen’s $102,750 C6 luxury sedan, the new Impreza is the world’s only car to achieve both five-star occupant and four-star pedestrian crash safety ratings from both the European New Car Assessment Program and its Australasian affiliate ANCAP.

Impreza sales are at an all-time high of 900 per month despite the model’s age, but Subaru hopes the MkIII Impreza’s superior refinement and comfort will attract up to 1000 per month until the new sedan arrives, when 1200 monthly sales becomes the target. It is available in the US now but will not come on stream here until next September.

“This is a watershed car for Subaru,” said Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior. “Five-star occupant safety, four-star pedestrian safety, VDC or electronic stability control across the range it meets all European Step 4 emission standards, it has a much larger interior, including a massive lift in legroom and it’s lighter, yet stronger.”

In a thinly veiled shot at its small-car rivals, few of which offer stability control at their entry level, and especially Toyota’s new Corolla, which as we reported last month will not offer it for at least two years, Mr Senior said the life-saving technology was no longer an optional extra or, worse yet, still in the pipeline.

“No longer are small car buyers disenfranchised from safety … there is now a small car that has VDC on every model in its range. Not just the more expensive variants in the category. And the time is now - not in one, two or three years’ time.

“This is the car that forever will redefine and shape the small-car class. This is the car that tells all competitors: don’t come to the table unless you tick all these boxes. All of this in a package that in real terms is thousands of dollars less than the model it replaces.”

Subaru_Impreza_Group.jpgWrapped in a more conservative new bodyshell claimed to be significantly more rigid (although no figures are provided to support this), despite an average weight reduction of 48kg, the MkIII Impreza hatch rides on a 95mm-longer wheelbase (2620mm) and is 10mm higher (1475mm) and 45mm wider (1740mm), but is 50mm shorter overall at 4415mm.

According to Subaru, it liberates an extra 65mm of rear legroom, 41mm of front shoulder room, 5mm of rear shoulder room and 3mm of rear headroom, while 60mm-wider-opening rear doors improve in/egress, extended seat cushions offer more comfort for all passengers and an extra three degrees of seatback recline (to 26 degrees) improves rear-seat comfort.

Subaru says “vast improvements” have been made in terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) thanks to the stiffer bodyshell, which is due in part to the fitment of framed door windows for the first time.

Manual versions are fitted with the convenient Hill Start Assist function (which works in both reverse and forward gears) and all cars get 10mm-smaller steering wheels that are adjustable for both rake and now reach.

All Imprezas now also receive gas bonnet struts and an engine set 10mm lower in the chassis, while at the rear a new Liberty-sourced double wishbone suspension makes the boot 123mm wider and improves handling.

Impreza’s engine-speed sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system is unchanged but returns a larger 10.6m turning circle (was 10.4m), though the MacPherson strut front suspension is lighter and rear brake discs increase from 14- to 15-inch items.

Front brake disc diameter remains 15 inches on naturally-aspirated variants and 16 inches on the WRX, which loses its four-piston front callipers in favour of two-piston units. Despite this, Subaru claims a larger master cylinder has improved both wet and dry braking distances.

Kerb weight for all naturally-aspirated Imprezas drops 15kg to 1340kg (1360kg auto – down 5kg), while the WRX’s is reduced by 55kg to 1395kg. Ground clearance increases from 150 to 155mm, while un/braked towing capacity increases from 500/900kg to 650/1200kg.

However, a space-saving temporary spare wheel/tyre resides under the boot floor instead of a full-size spare. All variants feature clear-lens headlights, LED tail-lights, a roof spoiler with integrated stop light, a roof-mounted aerial and huge side mirrors.

In the absence of a four-door sedan, the new range comprises four hatch variants only, opening with the base Impreza R that replaces the Impreza 2.0i (which cost $24,440). Next up the $26,490 RX replaces the Impreza RV (which cost $450 more at $26,940), while the RS replaces the 2.0R for $950 less at $29,490. Subaru says the RS offers $4500 more value.

Finally, the turbocharged Impreza WRX flagship is priced at $39,990 – the same as its discontinued sedan forebear and $450 less than the hatch it replaces. Subaru says the new Rex offers $3200 of extra value.

As before, a four-speed Sportshift automatic transmission carries a $2000 premium for all variants, excluding the five-speed manual-only WRX. An all-new WRX STi performance hero, this time based on the five-door, will crown the new hatch range in January.

Introduced to meet Australia’s new Euro IV emissions regulations, the entry-level Impreza R and mid-range RX and RS variants are powered by an upgraded version of Subaru’s naturally-aspirated double overhead camshaft 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder boxer engine with Active Valve Control System.

The newer engine features revised combustion chambers and intake ports and manifold, and coolant flow control. It delivers 20 per cent more power (a healthy 110kW at 6400rpm) and seven per cent more torque (196Nm at 3200rpm) than the SOHC four-cylinder engine it replaces in the superseded (92kW/184Nm) 2.0i and RV variants.

With an ADR 80/81 average fuel consumption figure of 8.9L/100km (auto: 8.8L/100km), the R, RX and RS variants are also 5.3 and 9.2 per cent more fuel efficient than the respective 2.0i/RV and DOHC 2.0R variants they replace (auto: 5.4 and 8.3 per cent better), as well as cleaner-burning.

However, despite its 95 RON premium unleaded petrol diet (no figures are available for regular ULP, which is not recommended) the revised 2.0 DOHC engine is down 8kW of peak power on the 118kW version it replaces, even if torque is up five per cent, from 186 to 196Nm.

Internal revisions are claimed to make Impreza’s five-speed manual offer improved shift feel and clutch operation.

Standard across the new Impreza AWD range are twin front, front-side and full-length side-curtain head airbags, VDC, ABS with EBD and BA, ventilated front and solid rear brake discs, five three-point seatbelts, front seatbelt pretensioners, load-limiters, height-adjusters and light indicators, five head restraints and rear child locks. Wheel size increases from 15 to 16-inch.

As the Impreza range-opener, the R also features a four-speaker AM/FM/CD and MP3/WMA-compatible sound system, manual air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows/mirrors, two cup-holders, bottle holders in all four door pockets, remote central locking, microdot vehicle identification, a vanity mirror, seatback pocket and 60/40-split folding rear seat, two map lights, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and footrest, an illuminated cargo area with cargo hooks and privacy blind, two 12-volt outlets, auto headlights-off and a rear wiper.

An extra $2000 for the RX ($26,490 manual – the same as the R auto) buys 16-inch 12-spoke alloy (instead of steel) wheels with 205/55 R17 Yokohama 89V tyres, active front head restraints, climate-control air-conditioning, front foglights, a leather gearshifter and steering wheel (with audio controls) and a 10-speaker six-CD sound system.

Impreza RS customers, for another $3000 ($29,490 manual), gain further with 17-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels and lower-profile 205/50 R17 tyres of the same type, privacy glass, a tail pipe cover and a bodykit including rear diffuser, RS badging and the same Australia-specific mesh grille as the WRX, plus sports bucket seats with different cloth trim (available in either black or ivory trim) and a double locking system.

Finally, the WRX tops the line-up, powered by a massaged version of the current model’s 2.5-litre turbocharged DOHC boxer four that delivers the same 169kW at 5200rpm and 320Nm of torque, but this time 800rpm lower at 2800rpm.

Subaru says 20 per cent more torque (300Nm) is available at 2000rpm than before and that the result is better claimed 0-100km/h acceleration – one-tenth quicker at 5.8 seconds – despite two per cent lower fuel consumption (now 10.7L/100km) and lower CO2 emissions.

It also claims the new WRX’s stiffer body produces a ride/handling balance that is less compromised than Volkswagen’s Golf GTI. The WRX was the beneficiary of most changes applied following “extensive” Australian development testing.

Apart from 10-spoke 17-inch alloys, WRX badging and a less conspicuous bonnet scoop than before, the new Rex also scores a conventional limited-slip rear differential, self-levelling Xenon headlights with washers, a programmable alarm that eschews the previous keypad system, electroluminescent instruments and three years’ roadside assist.

RS and WRX buyers also get the $3000 option of satellite navigation, which comes with only a single-CD/DVD player.

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