Subaru Impreza blog | Tim Pollard | CAR magazine

Published: 21 September 2009

One of the biggest disappointments of the year: just driven the new Subaru Impreza diesel over the weekend, one of the cars of the year I’d been most eagerly looking forward to driving. And the gap between my expectation and the reality was gapingly large. I’m not quite Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells, but very much Disappointed of Peterborough.

I’ve got a bit of a Subaru habit, you see. I love their solidity, their leftfield status, the fact they’re proven by decades of abuse on farms (and rally tracks). Buying a Scooby is an alternative choice, one I like to think shows that their owners really know their onions. Japan’s specialist in four-wheel drive, boxer engines and WRX models has been entertaining me for the best part of a decade.

That’s why I was looking forward to the Impreza diesel so much. It’s one of those cars that had passed me by; we first drove Subaru’s diesel early last year, but Subaru faffed around while exchange rates and a global recession wreaked havoc with its UK importer’s business plan. So the Impreza 2.0D has only just landed in the UK in autumn 2009.

Subaru Impreza diesel: why the letdown?

I inwardly grinned when staff writer Ben Pulman threw me the keys to the diesel Scooby on Friday night. Surely Subaru has created a mini WRX with saintly mpg and CO2 ratings? What’s not to like about a boxer diesel four-pot, mated to the Impreza’s grippy 4wd drivetrain and that bulletproof build quality? Even the Impreza’s stubby profile has grown on me since its switch from four-door saloon to Golfalike hatchback.

Sadly, I was quickly disabused of this notion. I still hold that the most telling time in any road test is the first half mile and by the time I’d reached the mini roundabout outside CAR’s office, I had fallen out of love with this particular £20,000 Impreza.

The engine lacks the sparkle I’d hoped for. Only if you rev it out near the red line do you hear any distinctive flat-four thrum (and who does that on a diesel?). With an average-ish 148bhp and 258lb ft of twist from 1998cc, the outputs are hardly world-beating and it feels underwhelming on the road with little of the diesel elasticity most dervs enjoy.

The Impreza that lost its way

But the engine is nothing compared with the rest of the package. The gearlever wanders around the gate like a lost toddler – it’s long of throw and short of precision. And there’s so much slack in the rack that the steering wheel feels like a very distant relation to the front wheels.

Perhaps the added weight of the oil burner up front has wreaked havoc with the balance, but it’s only 60 kilos heavier than the edgy, fun WRX. Whatever the reason, the diesel Impreza understeers like nobody’s business and lacks an ounce of fun its set-up.

To cap it all, those emissions of 155g/km and 47.9mpg combined are hardly stellar. VW’s Golf GTD uses an identically sized 2.0-litre TDI, squeezes out 20 ponies more yet averages 139g/km and 53.3mpg. Game over.

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet