The C-Segment sedan. Once the staple of the average Filipino household, the segment doesn't quite have the same hold on the market as it once did. Blame it on B-Segment cars growing in size and more attainable prices of crossovers and PPVs, the C-Segment sedan market is a little caught in the middle. Despite that, the segment is still doing pretty well for itself, serving those who want something a little more upscale compared to a run of the mill subcompact.
In essence, the C-Segment went from economy sedans to well-equipped, upmarket and, to some level, premium cars. The modern C-Segment sedan has taken over the role of the 90's D-Segment sedan, and then some. In the past couple of years, there have been strong contenders and joining the fold is the all-new Subaru Impreza.
Don't try to adjust your screens. This is really the all-new model. As far as full model changes are concerned, Subaru has taken an evolutionary approach to its exterior design. Its headlights look sharper compared to the model it replaces while the lower half of the front bumper gets more design details. It no longer has the relatively flat and slab-sided look of the previous generation. Instead, there are more creases and lines on the doors, just to give it a little more flair. Towards the rear meanwhile, the tail lights seem to base their looks from the Legacy with its 'reverse L' design.
So, the styling isn't exactly a standout, the looks won't draw the ire of people. It is a conservatively designed car, yes, but it isn't a bad looking car either. In an era where manufacturers seem to insist on putting angry faces on cars (see: Mazda, Honda, Ford), the Impreza bucks that trend by doing the opposite. Then again, bucking trends is what Subaru has been doing for the past several decades.
The 2017 Impreza makes up for its rather middle of the road exterior styling with its interior design and detail. For those who prefer function over form, they will appreciate the logical ergonomics with dials, buttons and knobs clearly marked. There is an air of quality and heft inside too as the dashboard is well padded and so are the interior door panels. Visibility is another strong point of the car with little in the way of blind spots. Legroom is abundant too, even with six-footers seated at the front and rear. However, due to the sunroof, tall people might find themselves brushing their heads against the ceiling.
The Impreza has a novel approach to its multi-information display. The first menu shows a digitized and interactive version of the Impreza. There's also an display that shows how the all-wheel drive system is working, steering angle, an inclinometer and various temperature readouts. It's an impressive piece of kit that goes beyond the usual multi-info screen. Apple Car, Android Auto and Subaru's own Star Link application are part of its infotainment package as well.
It's pretty well equipped too by offering a comprehensive driver information display on the dash, of course, an infotainment touchscreen. There are also power seats for the driver, a sunroof, dual-zone auto climate control, cruise control, reverse camera plus a smart key and push button start.
Pop the aluminum hood open and you're greeted by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder boxer-four engine, practically a Subaru signature. A revised version of the previous generation's engine, power is up by 6 PS to 156 PS while torque is retained at 196 Nm; a conservative figure by today's standards. It then shifts via the Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) and, of course, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is standard.
Starting the car up, I can't help but be impressed at the car's refinement, as well as its ride. The car does a great job at isolating noises with wind and road noise kept to a minimum. For a C-Segment sedan, the ride is cushy and absorbs the pock-marked roads of the metro with ease. Combined with the comfortable seats, the Impreza is a great car for the daily grind.
As for performance, the 156 PS mill is up to the task of daily metro driving. It's also well matched with the CVT which simulates gear shifts instead of just sticking to a certain RPM. It gets to 60 km/h easily and offers a fair amount of overtaking confidence if needed to hustle. It's no STI but it does the job well enough. Around the city then, the Impreza presents itself as a baby Legacy. That baby Legacy feel can be felt even more on the highway as it stays hushed, planted and comfortable at higher speeds.
Speaking of its engine, it's a relative sipper for a 2.0-liter mill. At an average of 18 km/h around the metro, it registered 7.9 kilometers per liter. A good figure when you add in the fact that it has all-wheel drive. Thanks to the CVT, it posts a respectable highway economy figure of 14.8 kilometers per liter with an average pace of 93 km/h.
It's also worth mentioning that Subaru did a good job with its electronic power steering system. Unlike in the Outback, which I tested last year, the Impreza has more feel and weight than its wagon/crossover stablemate. It's direct and precise with little slack. With that sort of steering, a drive along winding roads was in order and I was pleasantly surprised. It felt stable taking on the twisty sections of Tanay and, at the same time, was engaging to steer as well. It's been a while since I experienced this much involvement in a C-Segment sedan and I'm glad Subaru fine-tuned the suspension.
Despite the soft setup, it was still fun to drive and felt planted all the time. It was at that point did I wish for more torque. Not that it struggled going uphill but the engine was more vocal than I expected from a 2.0-liter. That aside, if this non-sporting version felt good to drive, then I have high hopes for the WRX and WRX STI versions of this all-new platform.
To sum up, the all-new Subaru Impreza isn't the flashiest looking car in its segment. However, it more than makes up for it with its excellent chassis tuning and equipment levels. On top of the usual safety systems, the car also comes equipped with rear cross traffic alert and steering responsive headlights, features one would associate with D-Segment sedans. As a bonus, it's even fun to drive.
At Php 1,388,000, the Impreza is priced at the higher end of the top of the line C-Segment spectrum. Is it enough to convince people out of a high-riding crossover? At that price, probably not, but the all-new Impreza shows the direction Subaru is heading. If that means we'll get more fun to drive cars out of Subaru, then the future is bright for the brand from Gunma.