Subaru Impreza-front static

New Impreza is da bomb

 

Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, had its roots in the Nakajima Aircraft Company, maker of the infamous carrier-based ‘Kate’ bomber that sent countless allied ships to the bottom of the sea during WWII. FHI continues to make military and civilian aircraft today, but it hasn’t stopped dropping bombshells.

Words: Paul Owen   |   Photos Paul Owen
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At the New Zealand launch of a new Subaru Impreza, senior FHI board member, Takeshi Tachimori, announced that from April the company will be known as the Subaru Corporation. Seems that when Subaru production broke through the one-million car per annum mark during 2016, it earned FHI’s car-making division the right to lead the corporation’s entire operations by name. Proof of this coming-of-age can be found all over the new Impreza, which will reach New Zealand showrooms in February.

As the harbinger of Subaru’s new era, just about every component of the more sharply tailored 2017 Impreza is brand new, and only five per cent of its parts are inherited from the more bulbous-looking MY2016 version. The Impreza marks the debut of the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which can offer rigidity increases of between 70 and 110 per cent depending upon the model, improvements that will soon trickle down to substantial upgrades of the Forester and XV ranges.

Just about every component of the more sharply tailored 2017 Impreza is brand new, and only five per cent of its parts are inherited from the more bulbous-looking MY2016 version

Tachimori confirmed that “safety is now the number-one priority for Subaru” at the Impreza debut, and it shows in the increased mass of the 2017 model. Kerb weight rises from 1305kg to 1417kg, a reflection of the car’s heavier underpinnings, fully-equipped passive and active safety equipment locker, and a body that’s 45mm longer and 35mm wider. Rear seat space, long an Impreza weakness, is now more family-friendly thanks to a 5mm wheelbase stretch and the use of thinner front seat backs to increase rear passenger legroom.

/Subaru Impreza-interior

Backing up Tachimori’s personal commitment to building what could potentially be considered the safest car on the market in the $30,000 bracket is a plethora of five-star crash test scores from just about every independent safety auditor in the world. No doubt these safety assessors were impressed by the car’s third-generation ‘Eyesight’ system which gives the Impreza arguably the best guided autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, and active cruise control systems in the affordable car segment. Backing these up are the usual stability controls, and further crash avoidance is provided by the Impreza’s standard tyre pressure monitoring system and high-resolution rear view camera. Topping all this is the Impreza’s comparative wealth of mechanical grip, courtesy of Subaru’s brand-defining longitudinal permanent four-wheel-drive powertrain.

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It’s pretty much business as usual under the bonnet of the smallest Subaru despite just about everything being new under there. The cylinder block of the 2.0-litre boxer four is 12kg lighter while being 10 per cent stronger, and the Impreza’s new CVT ‘Lineartronic’ gearbox saves a further 8kg, and now provides seven manual-shift ratio presets. The shift to direct injection permits the use of a higher 12.5:1 compression ratio to extract more energy from a litre of petrol. The official lab test fuel use result over the city-highway driving simulation drops from 6.8L/100km to 6.6 as a result. Anecdotally, the trip computer of the Impreza was showing figures in the low threes during steady-state driving on the open road during the launch. Impressive, considering the weight increase.

Said added kay-gees make the new 115kW engine’s extra five kilowatts of peak power hard to identify when overtaking on the open road. Torque output remains the same as the previous port injection engine, with 196Nm produced at 4000rpm. The wider ratio spread of the new gearbox does help shift the heavier Impreza, but it’s debatable whether the new powertrain offers improved acceleration.

Subaru Impreza-rear static

Chassis performance, however, is definitely a new ball game. There’s a solidity to the new Impreza that most cars this size lack, and it glides serenely over bumps like a hovercraft while the suspension hoovers up every surface imperfection. The electrically assisted steering feels agile and responsive, if a little too isolated from the tyres that are directing the vehicle.

The price of the new Impreza will be announced when it goes on sale in Feb. Will the new Impreza 2.0 Sport maintain the same $29,990 position that the outgoing model has occupied for the past two years? Let’s hope so, for that could have an explosive effect on the small car segment. It deserves to.

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