Subaru Impreza: the lowdown
The Subaru Impreza is about to lose some of its quirkiness; it's always been a slightly odd proposition, standing out from the hatchback norm with those gawky saloon dimensions - but now it's following the European trend for more practical hatchbacks. These are the official pictures of the new Impreza and WRX to be launched at the New York Motor Show this week. Opinions are already fiercely divided about its looks (more sophisticated or dull? More European or too much like a Mazda 3?). The US market will be offered a normally aspirated 2.5i and turbocharged WRX available as a five-door hatchback or a North America-only four-door. In the UK, the engines at launch in autumn ’07 will be a naturally aspirated 1.5- and a 2.0-litre turbo. And a range-topping 2.5 turbo STi is expected in spring 2008. The WRX is expected to cost around $25,000 in the States, although that will swell to around £20k in the UK.
What’s under the bonnet?
Subaru promises all the driving thrills we’d expect from an Impreza - with a little more polish. The 2.5 flat-four engines have been carried over from the previous generation, but modified torque curves are designed to deliver the goods earlier while improving driveability and fuel economy. The normally aspirated 2.5 achieves this thanks to a new intake port and a redesigned cat system; it delivers 170bhp at 6000rpm and 170lb ft at 4000rpm. The WRX motor gains a new intake manifold, intercooler and turbo. It serves up 224bhp at 5200rpm and 226lb ft at 2800rpm (down from 3600rpm). As the vehicle is now 50lb lighter, we should expect improved performance, too.
Can a Scooby get more civilised and still be fun?
On a number of points, smart engineers and designers have proved that you can kill two birds with one stone. Stretching the wheelbase by 3.7in (to 103.1in) improves ride while giving more rear legroom and reducing NVH. Framed windows allow for improved rigidity and seal better to keep noise out. An all-new double-wishbone rear suspension promises to improve ride refinement and reduce road noise while also allowing for a wider and deeper luggage compartment. The new chassis uses high-tension steel at key structural points to improve rigidity while reducing weight. And to improve handling further, those boxer engines have been positioned lower to lower the centre of gravity.
The inside story
The interior of the Impreza has always been summed up in two words: grey plastic. There’s still plenty of that, but brushed aluminium-look insets brighten the cabin and the materials are much improved. Subaru says special emphasis was placed on double-stitched fabrics and high-grade plastics. Although the exterior width remains the same, two inches more front shoulder room have been scooped out. Rear occupants can stretch their legs a bit more and relax in more comfortable reclined seatbacks. It’s apt that a car that has starred in so many computer games now allows you to play them using video jacks and the sat-nav screen. Naturally there’s an input jack for MP3 players, too.
Safety first for new Impreza
The current Impreza has never been put through the industry-standard Euro NCAP test, but Subaru has worked hard to make sure the new model will secure a decent score. Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) will rein in slides as they happen, and four-channel ABS is standard. Intelligent airbags detect the driver’s proximity to the wheel and weigh the front passenger to determine whether they are an adult or child. Active front head restraints help reduce whiplash injury (not available on WRX performance seats).
The North American four-door
Hatchbacks still haven’t caught on in the US. Although new models such as the Mazda 3, Audi A3 and Honda Fit have won plenty of converts, on the whole people regard the Jetta as a cooler vehicle than the Golf/Rabbit. (Cue laughter from the UK.) So the 2.5i, WRX and probably STi models will offer a four-door on this side of the pond. (And as it’s over here, it’s a sedan. A saloon is somewhere you drink.) It’s 4.5in longer than the previous sedan and 6.5in longer than the new hatch, so it can carry three Tour-size golf bags. (The five-door can accommodate just two with the rear seat backs upright.) The rear seats also split 60/40 and fold to increase load space. The four-door has a wider, sharper front design, and comes with a body crease running the length of the flanks. At the rear it has red lamp lenses and a chrome strip. Dual chrome exhaust tips and a rear trunk spoiler mark out the WRX.