What do you mean 1.5? Is that the boost level measured in bars? Or the time it takes to get to 60mph?
Er, not quite. It refers to the size of the engine in good old-fashioned cubic centimetres. There are no turbos, just 104bhp and it takes 13.7sec to get to 62mph, or 8.3sec longer than the top of the range STi needs. Putting your foot down in the £12,495 Impreza 1.5R is a strange experience. The dash in front of you looks pretty much the same as an STi’s, and when hit the right pedal you’ve got that same off-boost dead spot that you get when you’re caught in the wrong gear in the quicker versions. You sit there waiting for the kick but it never comes. This is a car for people with patience.
So it’s a not very fast, not very expensive Impreza. What’s the point?
Before Subaru transformed its image with superquick versions of the Legacy and Impreza it was known for odd little four-wheel drive family cars and pick-ups beloved by country dwellers. Now it wants that market back and reckons a low-spec Impreza can make sheep farmers happy and plug the gap left by the old four-wheel drive Justy supermini. And it’s probably no coincidence that a drop in demand for full-house rally reps has resulted in Impreza sales falling.
So what do I get for my money apart from to my destination slowly?
Four-wheel drive naturally, with a lever to switch between high and low ratios, climate control, a CD player, four electric windows, alloy wheels and a brace of airbags. As Subaru points out that’s more kit than you’ll find on an a similarly-priced Ford Focus, although the Focus appears more modern inside and some of its cabin materials are smarter.
Is it any fun to drive?
There’s not really enough grunt to make it seriously fun and the steering is far too light which might suit pensioners with withered arm muscles as they negotiate their way to the post office, but it’s not very helpful for us. Turn in to a corner and it’s virtually impossible to tell what the wheels are up to. But the ride quality is great and while not as tightly tied down as its sporty siblings, the 1.5R doesn’t disintegrate into a rolling mess at the first sign of a twisty road. You just find yourself wanting more poke to make better use of the chassis.
Should you buy this over a Focus? It certainly looks to be better value although as usual the Impreza’s boxer engine suffers in terms of fuel economy compared to more conventional rivals. Those who need the security of four-wheel drive will find it in a class of almost one but for normal road duties we’d still take something more conventional and more enjoyable. Yes we'll take the Ford please, but we'll be watching out for the all-new Impreza at the Frankfurt motor show next September.