The Impreza comes packed with the latest safety kit and rural-dwellers will love its all-wheel drive. It’s expensive, though, and its fuel economy and CO2 emissions are poor
If the name Subaru Impreza still fills your head with images of Colin McRae hurtling sideways through a forest, then you might be a little disappointed with what the Impreza is today. Launched in 2017, the latest version still has Subaru’s trademark all-wheel drive, but there are just two rather timid engines to choose between and a single level of trim. That’s a lot less choice than you get with alternatives such as the Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia.
Inside the focus is on carrying passengers rather than winning rally stages, too. There’s good space for two tall adults around the front seats, while another two adults will be able to sit behind them without their knees brushing on the front seat backs. Sure, three adults sat side-by-side in the back will be a squeeze, but no more than in an Audi A3.
That said, if you want serious space for a family a Skoda Octavia will provide more than any rival in the front, back and in the boot. By comparison, the Impreza’s boot is fairly average, with enough space for a couple of large suitcases, but arches that intrude on the space and a slightly lip at its entrance.
It’s better news for the driver, who is treated to plenty of manual seat and steering wheel adjustment to fine tune the perfect position. The view forward isn’t obstructed by thick pillars while the view over the should is similarly clear, although a reversing camera comes as standard on every Impreza to help you navigate the trickiest car parks.
If you’ve sat in a Audi A3 or even Skoda Octavia, you’re likely to be a little underwhelmed by the Impreza’s interior. There’s no knocking its build quality which is as solid as a rock, but the varied mix of materials aren’t always particularly convincing. At least Subaru has remembered to include generous door bins, a deep cubby beneath the central armest, another at the base of the dash and two decent cup holders.
On paper the Impreza’s infotainment system looks good: you get DAB radio, Bluetooth, voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a large 8.0-inch touchscreen to control it all. The trouble is, the menu structure is confusing and the onscreen buttons are often frustratingly small, making them hard to hit confidently on the move. You’re better off relying on Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, because everything is laid out more sensibly.
The Impreza nameplate used to conjure images of rallying, but these days the reality is far more sedate. Ultimately, there are more rounded family cars to try first
There are two engine options on offer: a 1.6 or 2.0-litre petrol engine, both without a turbocharger, and both getting a CVT automatic gearbox as standard. Yep, there’s no manual option. We’ve yet to try the 1.6, but even the 2.0 doesn’t feel quick out on the road, where it needs to be worked hard if you want to overtake or sprint down a motorway slip road and get up to speed, and that CVT gearbox means lots of noise as the revs stay high when accelerating.
Still, drive the Impreza more sedately in town and engine noise isn’t an issue, while at all speeds you won’t be jostled around too much, because the Impreza rides comfortably over all but the worst potholes and ruts. It steers keenly and doesn’t roll about too much in corners, either, which adds up to a family car that is enjoyable to drive, even if it can’t claim to be the most agile of its type.
Flick back and forth between the Impreza’s brochure and alternative family cars and you’ll see it starts at a fair bit more money, but it does at least come very well equipped. Everything from alloy wheels and climate control to automatic headlights and wipers and keyless entry and start is thrown in. What’s really impressive, though, is the standard safety kit, because Subaru’s Eyesight adaptive cruise control system with automatic emergency braking is standard as well as blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert.
However, the Impreza is expensive in others ways. Yes its standard all-wheel drive will be useful in harsh conditions, but the majority of buyers will find it surplus to their requirements and it ultimately results in fuel economy and CO2 emissions that are notably worse than the competitions’.
So, unless Subaru’s all-wheel-drive prowess is a big draw, it’s difficult to recommend the Impreza before more rounded family cars.