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Driven: Subaru Impreza sales set to multiply

Automatic choice: For the fifth generation Impreza, manual gearboxes have been dropped in favour of a range-wide CVT.

Big Impreza improvements, and extended service could double sales: Subaru

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Subaru logo22 Dec 2016

SUBARU expects to at least double Impreza volume next year, on the back of the product and ownership advances offered by the all-new model released in Australia this week.

Along with a starting price of $22,400 plus on-road costs maintenance intervals have doubled from six to 12 months, and now come with fixed-price servicing that can slash the scheduled outlay by nearly half over three years, to $1298 instead of $2217.

Subaru Australia managing director Colin Christie said that the fifth-generation Impreza would capture a greater female audience and a more youthful crowd with a more compelling package.

“We see real growth opportunity with new Impreza,” Mr Christie told the Australian media in Canberra this week. “This is probably one of the most important launches in the brand’s history.

“And it’s not just incremental sales we’re after. We believe we can double the sales volume over the current Impreza, which is around 700 to 750 units per month.

“The car itself is a massive leap forward and it’s almost nothing like the previous version. It’s now fairly and squarely in the competitive segment in terms of style, connectivity, feel, driving dynamics, safety tech, cost of ownership… it will start to build a story that most competitors potentially don’ t have.” Already exceeding expectations in the prelaunch phase with a richer-than-anticipated model mix leading the order bank, Mr Christie believes Subaru can snare buyers from premium players such as the Audi A3 Sportback, as well as the more traditional mainstream competitors like the Mazda3.

“It’s early days, with 700 orders so far and we haven’t even launched the car yet, so that’s really positive for us,” he said.

“But the mix has been very strong towards the 2.0i-S – the top-of-the-line model – and the trade-ins we’re seeing include BMWs, Audis, and Volkswagens. So I think the new Impreza has a role to play in that premium space. But the reality is, the price point we’re bringing this car to market in actually allows us to compete against the big players in the small car segment as well. We really see this car delivering across the whole sphere.” The Hatch is expected to account for three quarters of total volume despite attracting a $200 premium over the Sedan, with the 2.0i-S priced from $28,990 currently running at just over 50 per cent – a figure Mr Christie hopes will only ease off slightly over the Impreza’s lifecycle.

“When you launch a new car you always get a higher level of the premium models,” he said. “But it is better than we expected, so I’d like to maintain some sort of high level if were able to run at a third with those higher-spec models then we would be happy.” Mr Christie added that the long-lead campaign announcing as many details as possible in advance of the Impreza’s mid-December on-sale date helped whet buyers’ appetites.

“It was a new approach to pre-launch,” he said, “…providing specification, pricing, and other critical information well advance of the launch.” As reported in mid September, the latest Impreza ushers in a completely new architecture – the first for the company since the original Liberty’s launch in 1989 – in the form of the Subaru Global Platform (SGP). The goal was to substantially improve ride comfort, noise/vibration/harshness (NVH) suppression, and dynamic agility.

To that end, body and chassis rigidity rise between 1.7 and two times due partly extra to the employment of extra high-tensile steel, providing far stronger bases for the suspension and steering systems to be mounted on.

The bonnet is made of aluminium, thicker glazing with better sealing is used, the centre of gravity has been lowered, fewer body holes transmit less noise vibration and harshness (NVH) and aerodynamics have improved underneath as well as over the more-teardrop-shaped car, promoting quietness and better efficiency.

Packaging efficiencies abound thanks to the SGP’s space-saving slide rails that forms the modular backbone of the architecture. While height is reduced by 10mm to 1455/1480mm (Sedan/Hatch), the wheelbase is 25mm longer to 2670mm and width rises 35mm to 1775mm for a significantly roomier cabin.

The front seats slide back further now. Many components have been miniaturised or relocated for incremental increases in foot, leg, knee, hip, shoulder, and head room boosts – especially in the back seat.

Thinner yet stronger pillars improve visibility and previous obscuring objects such as mirrors and the old sedan’s parcel shelf-mounted brake lights have been relocated.

Cargo practicality improves thanks to wider openings, though the Hatch’s capacity rises by five litres to 345 litres while the Sedan’s comes in at the same 460L.

There is a minor cost in terms of overall weight gain, with an increase of 1kg if you compare new with the lesser-equipped 2.0i CVT equivalent (or 41kg up from the previous manual), with the 2.0-S hatch tipping the scales at 1438kg. A current Golf 110TSI Highline DSG is 1265kg while the Peugeot 308 Allure is now just 1150kg.

Revised by 80 per cent, the 1995cc FB20 2.0-litre naturally aspirated and horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder petrol engine is now 12kg lighter. It gains a whole host of advancements, including a higher compression ratio, direct injection, is now Euro-6 compatible, and delivers 5kW more power (115kW at 6000rpm) and identical torque of 196Nm at 4000rpm, but at lower revs than before.

Driving all four wheels in all versions is an overhauled, smoother, lighter, and wider-ratio Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with seven instead of six stepped ratios. It includes a new chain for reduced noise and reduced overall weight, and paddle shifters to control the seven simulated gear steps – a move designed to appease manual fans. Subaru says 13 per cent of previous Impreza sales were manual.

A lighter and faster-acting Auto Stop Start system has been introduced, helping to maintain fuel consumption in a significantly larger and roomier vehicle, varying between 6.6 litres per 100km and 7.2L/100km (depending on wheel/tyre spec).

That equates to between 152 and 163 grams/km of carbon dioxide emissions. Previously the range used 6.8L/100km. Note 95 RON premium unleaded petrol is required. No diesel is in the pipeline.

New from-the-ground-up is the lighter, stronger, and more aluminium-intensive MacPherson-type struts front double wishbone rear suspension set-up, which has also been designed to decrease NVH – as does the faster-ratio electric steering system, incorporating a rack with greater range of tilt/telescopic adjustment.

Redesigned disc brakes all-round have also come in for a rethink, with better feel and shorter stopping distances the outcome.

The base 2.0i CVT gains more equipment over its equivalently priced predecessor, including a totally revamped infotainment system with touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, tyre-pressure monitors, and 17-inch alloy wheels. That’s on top of the reverse camera, seven airbags, cruise control, air-conditioning, AWD system, and stability/traction control.

The newly introduced 2.0-L variant from $24,490 brings with it EyeSight driver assistance and safety systems including AEB Autonomous Emergency Braking and adaptive cruise control, electric-folding mirrors, foglights with integrated daytime running lights, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, more comprehensive trip computer info, dual-zone climate-control, leather for the steering wheel and gear selector, and different cloth upholstery.

Stepping up to the $26,290 2.0-Premium adds blind spot monitoring, lane change assistance, rear cross traffic alert, satellite navigation and sunroof, while the 2.0-S from $28,990 boasts an active torque vectoring system, LED headlights with directional beam, automatic headlights and wipers, heated front seats and exterior mirrors, leather, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, body kit, and 18-inch alloys.

Impreza sales are down 15.6 per cent to the end of November, at 3966 versus 4699 for the same time last year.

2016 Subaru Impreza pricing*
Sedan
2.0-i (a) $22,400
2.0-L (a) $24,490
2.0-P (a) $26,290
2.0-S (a) $28,990
Hatch
2.0-i (a) $22,600
2.0-L (a) $24,690
2.0-P (a) $26,490
2.0-S (a) $29,190
*Excludes on-road costs

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