For many of us car enthusiasts, the Impreza is a beacon of affordable performance. This car, in its many guises over the past two and a half decades, has banked on its roots in rallying; that timed motorsport that takes place on closed public roads made of tarmac, dirt, gravel, or snow, often with the impassioned fans watching just millimeters off the course, or sometimes even on it.
But today's Impreza is different, so explains the Japanese engineers from Subaru sitting in front of us. Unlike previous generations, Subaru isn't really marketing the high limits of the Impreza's overall performance. We asked about 0 to 100 km/h times, top speeds, cornering performance and when we can see the Impreza back on the World Rally Championships, but the information they were keen on was the fuel economy, the better features, the improved comfort, and the overall safety performance that any other model in the same class would be hard pressed to match.
Being effectively Subaru's flagship, their most well-known model, the Impreza serves as a fitting model to debut what the engineers call the Subaru Global Platform, or SGP. The platform is perhaps the most revolutionary thing about the new Impreza (and Subaru as a whole) as it presents a long list of improvements to the model: torsional rigidity is up 70% while impact energy absorption is up 40%.
Yes, these numbers sound quite boring, but they are very important. Past improvements to the Impreza line were primarily geared for performance, but Subaru is more keen on highlighting how the new platform effectively makes for a much better road car than a rally car. Now they've got their priorities realigned. We even asked the engineers how much was retained from the old model, to which they said that the 2017 Impreza is all new... well, technically 98% new because of a few bolts and small pieces from the parts bin.
Those familiar with the Impreza line would know that the nameplate was never really known for being pretty. The new one, thankfully, does not continue that not-so-proud tradition.
There's a lot more cohesion with the look whether its the hatchback (quasi wagon, really) or the sedan. I like the way they shaped the fascia to convey a more aerodynamic look with a premium touch to it., particularly the C-shaped (or L-shaped, depending on your perspective) LEDs; a theme continued to the taillights in the back. The 2017 model actually took some of the cues used in the WRX and STI models such as the more profound wheelarches that enhance the stance and blend more seamlessly with the rest of the body without giving the impression that this was a boy-racer's car.
Inside, the premium theme continues. If anything, the Impreza's cabin is far more befitting the prestige of the nameplate as opposed to the original 2012 Impreza. Many premium features like climate control, multi-info displays, and touchscreen audio units are standard. The texture of the surfaces, the quality of the materials, and the way the many elements such as the dashboard, the wheel, and the doorpanels blend together seem far better than before. There really is quite a bit more cohesion, showing how Subaru paid attention to building a road car.
What makes the Impreza truly unique amongst its peers in the compact car class can be found under the hood, and under the car itself: a flat, horizontally-opposed engine as well as Subaru's unique approach to all-wheel drive. The FB20 engine still displaces 2.0 liters, but thanks to some improvements that include direct injection, among others, power is bumped up to 155 PS from 150 PS. The Impreza will still use the Lineartronic CVT, but gets an improved version of their balanced Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, rounding out a powertrain that is touted to deliver improved fuel efficiency, better overall safety, and a better drive over the outgoing model
Yes, Subaru is transcending the rally heritage of the Impreza; that's what became apparent when we met with the Impreza at a defunct golf range after the Singapore Motor Show. Today, it's a range just for driving of the automotive kind as Subaru's partner in Asia, Tan Chong's Motor Image, wants us to experience what the Impreza can do.
There were three courses in all, one to test the speed and stability of the Impreza, another to test its ride over tricky roads, and another to test the handling provided by the S-AWD system. Subaru even had several competitors on hand for us to benchmark the Impreza against; one a European compact, and the other being one of our favorite Japanese compacts.
Needless to say, the Impreza performed exceptionally well over all. In slippery conditions -one that included a wet metal plate (the kind common on our roads to cover incomplete road work)- the Impreza exhibited a stability that can't be simulated in any car wherein only two wheels are driven. Regardless of how great a particular stability or traction control system is in a front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive simply sets the starting point much higher, and ESP and TCS improve on it further.
The new Subaru Global Platform likewise delivered on the promise of better comfort and safety, showing how well the brakes, steering, all-wheel-drive, and the more rigid monocoque tub work in unison. Over a rough road simulated by intermittent and uneven speed bumps, the Impreza showed minimal rattle and squeaks; a testament to the rigidity of the platform, not to mention the build quality of the interior.
The tight handling course proved a bit more difficult for the Impreza, given that the European in the group has an exceptional lineage to it, and has one turbo to the Impreza's none. Nevertheless, the Impreza held to the surface very well to minimize understeer, resulting in consistently quick times.
Yes, driving the Impreza in what is essentially a parking lot isn't particularly ideal given the car's pedigree and the expectations we had after the talk with Subaru's engineers, but we're in Singapore after all... a place without much space (or roads) to space and where fines and punishments for acts such as speeding are hefty. Yet by all indications, the improvements to the Impreza are profound, allowing the brand to take aim at a much wider market with its design, comfort, features, safety, usability, and overall drive. The new Subaru Global Platform does have some great qualities to it, and will definitely be a great base to build the rest of the Subaru line up on.
Towards the end of our afternoon with the Impreza, we asked the engineers how far along the new generation WRX and STI are, to which they said 2020... ish. Well, all good things are worth the wait, right?
Expect us to take the 2017 Subaru Impreza for a longer drive when Motor Image launches the model next month at the Manila International Auto Show.