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Impreza reborn - again

New-look: MkIII Impreza will be the most conservative Subaru in 15 years.

Subaru explains its change in direction for the vital third-generation Impreza

11 Apr 2007


BREAKING the old styling mould, improving dynamics and refinement, and luring more European small-car buyers – while still retaining a boxer engine and all-wheel drive – are the cornerstones of Subaru’s third-generation Impreza.

Unveiled last week at the New York International Auto Show, the iconic Japanese small-car is a massive departure from its 1992 and 2000 predecessors. It is also Subaru’s most conservative design since the final Leone series from 1984 to 1992.

Australian hatchback sales commence in September, with the sedan due a year after that, due to production capacity limitations.

Known as the ZR1-series, the latest Impreza sits on an all-new platform featuring a variation of the Liberty’s MacPherson strut front suspension set-up, along with a double wishbone rear set-up that is more sophisticated and compact than the current model’s multi-link struts arrangement.

Subaru Australia refuses to confirm the engine line-up, however choices are likely to be a development of the current 2.0R’s 118kW/186Nm 2.0-litre twin-cam four-cylinder boxer unit, as well as WRX’s 169kW/320Nm 2.5-litre twin-cam turbo boxer powerplant. American-spec WRXs now produce 167kW and 306Nm.

It is unclear whether Australian Imprezas will also offer the normally aspirated 127kW/230Nm 2.5-litre single-cam boxer engine offered in the US as its riposte to Mazda’s successful 3 SP23.

The project general manager of Subaru’s product and portfolio planning division Akihide Takeuchi said work commenced "five or six years ago" and that five in-house body designs were considered, with the second proposal, described as being somewhere in-between bold and conservative, getting the guernsey.

2 center imageDespite official denials, BMW’s 1 Series proved influential, along with the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3, according to a Subaru insider, reflecting the company’s European aspirations.

As does the fact that, initially, the Impreza was going to be rationalised down to the single five-door hatchback bodystyle more favoured by Europeans, thus abolishing both the "Sportswagon" look of the earlier series, as well as the four-door sedan variant that has existed since the beginning.

However, with more Americans moving to smaller vehicles, Subaru changed its mind well into the Impreza 3’s gestation period.

The Sportswagon look was also abandoned to improve the Impreza’s dynamic abilities, since shorter rear overhangs improve weight distribution and handling characteristics.

Furthermore, Subaru realised that small-car buyers generally do not need that much luggage space, and that the hatchback’s cargo area is sufficient for most buyers’ requirements.

Finally, achieving more harmonious proportions factored heavily in the decision to go hatchback. No three-door (or two-door sedan/coupe) variants are planned.

Existing Impreza owners may lament the adoption of fully framed door windows, but the need to reduce wind noise and manufacturing complexity ‘sealed’ the fate for the old frameless set-up. Another upshot is wider-opening doors.

Surprisingly, Subaru Australia’s research reveals that the WRX buyer’s average age is 40 years plus, supporting calls to tone-down the current model’s aggressive styling.

In fact, the WRX’s meeker visage will be met by a correspondingly wilder STi version, due out by December. Expect big, blistered wheelarches that barely contain fat wheels and rubber, a wider and lower stance, and far wilder spoilers, diffusers and scoops making up the STi’s bodykit, to distinguish the ZR1 Impreza’s high-performance flagship.

Power and torque figures are expected to eclipse today’s 206kW/292Nm tally from a revised 2.5-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder boxer engine.

Perhaps the most astounding thing about the latest Impreza, however, is that an even fussier grille than the item used on the production model was planned.

Read more:

First official look: Impreza goes mainstream

Leaked: WRX exposed!

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