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Car reviews - Subaru - Impreza - sedan/hatch range

Launch Story

Subaru logo24 Feb 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

SUBARU officially launched its fourth-generation Impreza sedan and hatch range in Australia today, maintaining the entry-level variant’s price tag of $23,990 plus on-road costs and majoring on significant cuts in fuel consumption.

The automatic transmission – now an efficiency-enhancing continuously-variable transmission (CVT) with paddle-shifters that simulate six stepped ratios replacing the dated four-speed auto of the outgoing model – costs $500 more than before, at $2500.

Subaru has also applied a price hike of $1000 to the mid-range L ($26,990) and top-spec S ($31,490) variants, the latter now coming with the CVT automatic as standard.

The outgoing small car was Subaru Australia’s best-selling Impreza, averaging 966 units a month since its October 2007 introduction and regularly achieving four-figure monthly volumes and sometimes outselling the brand’s top performer, the Forester compact SUV.

Australia was the backdrop for the Impreza’s world right-hand drive debut at the Melbourne show last July and originally scheduled to reach showrooms in August, but its arrival was delayed by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

Powered by a more efficient new 2.0-litre petrol ‘boxer’ four-cylinder engine with an identical 110kW/196Nm power and torque output to the outgoing model, all Impreza variants now also get fuel-saving idle-stop technology and improved aerodynamics, with the largest economy gains on CVT-equipped cars.

Fuel savings of 22 per cent are claimed for the CVT, which returns a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres while six-speed manual variants consume 7.1L/100km, a 20 per cent reduction over the old car.

The new-found efficiency means Subaru has pulled ahead of Japanese rivals such as the Toyota Corolla 1.8 and Mazda3 2.0 (except more expensive SkyActiv variants), both of which also produce less power and torque.

However, the downsized 103kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged engine available on the Holden Cruze trumps the Impreza’s efficiency by 0.7L/100km in manual form, although it is 0.1L/100km more thirsty when paired with the automatic transmission.

The opposite is true of the powerful 125kW/202Nm 2.0-litre Ford Focus, which like the Impreza is most efficient with an automatic transmission, consuming 6.6L/100km against 7.2L/100km for the manual.

Subaru’s efficiency claims are all the more impressive given that as usual, all Impreza variants have permanent all-wheel drive, a feature the company is keen to point out as an equipment consideration when comparing the Impreza with rivals.

The system provides 50:50 front/rear torque distribution on manual models and 60:40 for the CVT as default, with an electronic system in the CVT and a mechanical limited slip differential in the manual distributing drive to the axle with most traction when needed.

In addition to the CVT and Euro 5-compliant new engine, one of the main technology highlights is a new multi-function display, which on entry-level models provides the driver with fuel efficiency information including how many minutes of engine running time have been saved by the idle-stop system.

On up-spec L and S models, a premium unit enables the driver to monitor the fuel efficiency of their driving style, including an evaluation and comparison of each journey including how much fuel was saved by the use of idle-stop, which Subaru says can account for up to 30 per cent of journey time in busy urban traffic conditions.

Further display options, controlled using the multi-function steering wheel, include a representation of the electronic stability control’s actions and maintenance or fault indicators.

Seatbelt, air-conditioning and airbag information is also accessible from the multi-function display and unless the optional satellite navigation unit is installed, it is also used to display the reversing camera image.

A ring of reinforcements around the passenger compartment, shock-absorbing brake and clutch pedals and measures contribute to a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.

Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load-limiters (double pre-tensioners for the driver), anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, electronic stability control, all-wheel drive and a hill holder (manual variants only).

All variants of the new Impreza come competitively equipped, with climate control, cruise control, six-speaker CD sound system with iPod, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, height and reach steering wheel adjustment and two interior 12-volt power outlets.

While the base model rides on 16-inch steel wheels, the mid-range L variant gets 16-inch alloys plus dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear shifter, a reversing camera, front centre armrest, front fog lights and rear privacy glass.

The top-spec S adds 17-inch alloys, upgraded upholstery and sporty aluminium pedals plus external embellishments including door mirror-mounted indicators, chrome brightwork and side skirts.

Main similarly-priced rivals in the small car segment offer similar levels of standard equipment, with the Impreza scoring points for standard climate control and all-wheel drive although unlike the Subaru, most competing base models come with alloy wheels.

Options on the Impreza include satellite navigation and an electric sunroof for the L and S, with the latter also offering leather upholstery and eight-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat. The options are sold as packs, priced at $3000 for the L and $4000 for the S.

Luggage capacity remains on the small size compared with rivals at 340 litres for the hatch and 460 litres for the sedan, which Subaru says are sufficient for three and four golf bags respectively.

Lower than usual sales of the Forester and Impreza were offset by a 655 sales of the new Impreza-based XV crossover in January this year, Subaru Australia’s total of 3205 units for the month being 9.2 per cent down compared with the same time last year.

With supplies hindered by the impact of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Subaru sales in Australia were down 15 per cent.

As GoAuto has reported, a full recovery from the earthquake is not expected until 2013 but Subaru Australia is confident that new model launches like the XV crossover, Impreza and BRZ sportscar later this year will place it in good stead for a return to record sales.

Updates for the Liberty and Outback are planned for later this year, as is a run-out campaign for the Forester as Subaru makes way for the fourth-generation model due to arrive in early 2013.

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