Although first launched in Japan back in 2012, the Pound-to-Yen exchange rate meant that the new Subaru Impreza didn’t initially make it to these shores.
However, recent currency movements in our favour allowed Subaru UK to construct a business case for importing what is now the company’s entry-level model, and it slots conveniently into the range below the Subaru XV with which it shares much of its basic architecture.
It’s available in only one model – dubbed the RC – and with only one engine, a 1.6-litre horizontally-opposed ’Boxer’ petrol engine with a modest 114PS, mated to either a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (Lineartronic in Subaru-speak).
Replacing the previous 1.6-litre unit, the new engine uses a number of developments aimed at improving economy and reducing emissions, and these measures include the use of new piston rings, lighter pistons and connecting rods, a longer stroke that allows for a more efficient fuel burn, and separate cooling circuits for the block and heads.
It also features a largely unobtrusive stop/start system, and the net result of these changes is a combined cycle economy figure of 46.3 mpg for Lineartronic models (44.1 for the manual) and CO2 emissions of 140 g/km (147 g/km for the manual car).
Both versions power all four wheels through the company’s famed symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Manual cars feature a viscous centre coupling that distributes torque 50/50 front to rear by default, while Lineartronic models favour the front wheels 60/40 with an electronically-controlled multi-plate central clutch.
Both systems can transfer additional torque front to rear as conditions dictate, and for maintaining traction in poor weather conditions or on slippery rural roads, there are few better systems available.
On the road, the Lineartronic falls into that classic CVT trap of sounding like it’s suffering from permanent clutch-slip, and although it’s fairly spritely off the line and around town, attempting to pick up speed beyond this results in an abundance of revs but only modest acceleration.
There’s no manual override function, either, and while both the Subaru XV and Outback are equipped with steering wheel-mounted paddles that allow the driver to toggle through a series of simulated gears, that feature isn’t available in the Impreza.
The on-paper figures (0-62mph in 12.6 seconds for the Lineartronic, versus 12.3 for the manual) suggest the conventionally-geared model is similarly sedate, although it is undoubtedly more engaging as an experience.
We can’t help thinking Subaru’s excellent diesel engine would have made a good match for UK tastes, although we recognise this would have likely arrived with a higher price tag.
That aside, the petrol engine settles down once up to speed, and it goes about its business with a suitably refined set of noises coming from the engine bay.
The Impreza is comfortable, too, and despite a subtle tendency to feel a little stiff around town, body movements are well controlled, with surface imperfections well filtered once out on faster roads.
Grip levels, as you’d expect, are high, and an Impreza fitted with winter tyres is likely to keep you mobile in conditions that even some conventional 4x4s would struggle with.
This sense of dogged practicality pervades everything the Impreza does, with features such as the chunky ventilation controls, heated seats, and wiper de-icers marking the Subaru out as something of a St Bernard of the car world.
Rear-seat passengers will notice the wide-opening doors (almost to 90 degrees), while the 380-litre boot includes practical touches of its own, with a handy underfloor compartment, numerous hooks and tie-downs, and a flat floor with the rear seats folded giving rise to 1,270 litres of space when loaded to the roof.
The Impreza RC is the sort of car you imagine would appeal to rural vets, and it doesn’t take much imagination to picture a grime-plastered RC winding its way from farm yard to village surgery.
Prices start at £17,495 for the manual Impreza, while the Lineartronic model weighs in at £18,995. Equipment levels are respectable, with automatic headlights and wipers, power folding door mirrors, alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control, and a reversing camera all as standard.
While we’d have preferred to pay a little extra for a diesel engine and a manual gearbox, there’s no denying the Impreza’s all-weather practicality and thoroughly trustworthy nature.
|Entry-level Price||£17,495||Price as tested||£18,995|
|Engine||4-cyl ‘boxer’, 1600cc||Transmission||CVT|
|Power||114PS @ 5,600rpm||Torque||150Nm @ 4,000rpm|
|0-62||12.6 secs||Top speed||111 mph|
|Economy||46.3 mpg||CO2||140 g/km|
|Dimensions||4415 x 1740 x 1465 (LWH)||Kerb Weight||1350 kg|