When the Subaru Impreza sedan was unleashed in April 2009, Impreza enthusiasts were no doubt happy since the Pleiades decided not to cut ties with its sedan heritage. After all, previous Imprezas were known performance machines in four door trim - not five door hatchbacks - and for some the WRX and STi badging being bestowed on a hatchback was sacrilege. However, can the present Impreza sedan be as good as its forebears - or even its hatchback brethren?
This writer was given the base model P 1.148 million Impreza sedan 2.0R Sport, expecting heart pounding performance similar to that of the base model Impreza hatchback. Instead he got a narrow power curve, with a high rpm entry (3,800 rpm onwards) and just noise at a notch past 6,000 rpm.
It doesn't help too that the gearing is uneven. Second gear is short and third gear is tall, making frequent usage of the manual mode (or the "Sport" mode) a very good idea. It's best to use second gear on emergency lane changes as you're always in the powerband, because upshifting to third gear produces a huge drop out of the power curve. The results speak for themselves - an ECU-limited 193 kph top speed, a 11.14-second 0-100 kph time, and 6.48 km/l (four days mixed driving).
The good news is that the Impreza sedan, even in base trim, is a corner carver. Traction from the Bridgestone Potenza RE 001 Adrenalin 205/50R17s break at 110-120 kph; it takes a lot for the unit to break grip. A little Scandinavian flick/pendulum action - performed by the driver applying a slight steering input to the opposite direction of the turn upon entry, then steering into the turn while sharply lifting off the throttle and/or lightly applying the brakes to make the car to slide sideways - creates an understeer/oversteer transition, easily controlled with throttle and steering. There's a bit of body roll, though, and a feeling that the car's tail could kick out easily. Steering is sharp; on switchbacks and change-of-camber turns the steering gets weighty (but not as heavy as that of BMW units) but enough for you to point the car in the correct line and power out of the apex. You rarely have to apply opposite lock or saw at the wheel to get the proper line. The steering response on the hatchback Imprezas are better, though, as they can vie with BMW vehicles in terms of feedback sharpness.
The comfort and safety aspects also redeem the engine sins. The ride is surprisingly comfortable (especially at the back), despite the 7.0 x 17-inch rims and Bridgestone rubber. The brakes bite with the slightest prod; ditto for the handbrake. For the latter, just a 10-15 degree pull is all it takes for the parking brake to get decent bite. Exterior lighting is extremely bright, considering that the OE lights aren't HID (high intensity discharge) units. The only downer is the narrow side mirrors, only showing lateral vision up to one and a half lanes of sight.
The overall body shape is pleasing, especially from the rear. The dual tailpipes and the low deck rear spoiler give it a very sporty look, and the black paint on the test unit has a luster similar to that of the black finish on Mercedes Benz units. The said paint (on the test unit) gives it a luxurious feel, but the odd looking grid-like plastic grill on the demo unit makes it seem cheap. Also, the rising angle of the low deck spoiler makes rearward vision tough, making parallel parking and long backing a challenge.
The interior is similar to that of the base model hatchback Impreza. The inside pays homage somewhat to the middle dashboard-centered theme of its Tribeca SUV sibling, with a short, straight line from the left and right flanks and going into a cascade of sorts at the middle front area. The fabric covers on the seats are very comfortable, and retain little heat should the unit be parked in the sun for sometime. They also have side bolsters that prevent derrieres from moving a lot during cornering, but the seats on the WRX hatchback/sedan and the STi hold humans better during pronounced lateral movement. There's power assist for all four windows, and there's automation for the driver's window, but its (the driver's window) automation only activates the down function. A brushed aluminum beltline highlights the said design element along with the head unit and the three-knob aircon controls. Unfortunately the audio entertainment is just middling, as it's wanting at both treble and bass ends.
At least when it comes to storage the proper boot and sedan approach pays off. There's also a fistful of kneeroom left with five-foot-nine guys in the front seats, but little legroom. Numerous places for putting bric-a-brac abound, including cupholders between front occupants and within the front door bins that can hold a one-liter bottle of water. It may look small, but the trunk area swallows a golf bag and three to four duffel bags. And should you need to store the occasional long shaped plywood (or any other odd shaped cargo), the rear seats fold flat to accommodate odd shaped loads, and they're flush to the floor too.
No doubt the Impreza sedan has the hallmark sporty handling, steering/braking and exterior design typical of present Subaru passenger cars, but when it comes to the cabin and the performance it's strictly a boulevard cruiser. One might consider heavily the new Mitsubishi Lancer EX GT-A/GT or the 2009 Honda Civic 2.0S A/T before committing to this town tooler.