Isaac Bober’s 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The new Subaru Impreza is a huge step ahead of its predecessor in every way, from interior quality and connectivity to ride and handling.
2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S
Pricing From $22,400+ORC Price as tested $29,190+ORC (2.0i-S hatch) Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 115kW at 6000rpm Torque 196Nm at 4000rpm Transmission CVT Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4460mm (L); 1775mm (W); 1480mm (H) Turning Circle 10.6m Weight 1438kg Boot space 345 litres (hatch) Towing 1200kg (braked) – towball download not stated Spare space saver Fuel Tank 50 litres Fuel Requirement 90RON Thirst 7.2L/100km (combined – hatch 2.0i-S)
THE NEW SUBARU IMPREZA sits on Subaru’s all-singling, all-dancing new platform that will underpin everything from this Impreza through to Forester and Outback, as well as electric vehicles. It’ll also sit under the new XV due out later this year and which is set for its global reveal at the Geneva Motor Show next month.
Subaru is perhaps being overly cautious calling the new Impreza 95% new, suggesting there are some important bits underneath carried over from the old model… there aren’t. And per representatives from Subaru Japan, there are only things like nuts, bolts and grommets in common between this car and the old Impreza. But, good on Subaru for being so open.
The Impreza is expected to do big things for Subaru, both internationally but specifically locally, and so the local arm has tweaked its capped price servicing costs, as well as the servicing schedule, which is now pushed out 12,500km or 12 months. The cost of capped price servicing for the first three-years is $1298.19, which is around $900 less than the old model over the same period.
What is it?
The Subaru Impreza is the vanguard for a wave of new Subaru product to be built on its new Global platform, a platform that’s up to twice as stiff as the old Impreza. Subaru is calling the new Impreza, the biggest step-change to the model since it was first launched in Australia in 1994. A big call.
The new Impreza is available with just one engine and in just one state of tune, with just one transmission, a CVT. But it can be had in either hatch or sedan form. We’re testing the 2.0i-S hatchback. The new Impreza also offers, from the mid-spec variants up, Subaru’s clever EyeSight driver assist which, says Subaru Australia boss, Colin Christie “will mean more than half of the new Subarus sold in Australia next year will feature the award-winning safety-enhancing technology.
“That volume of vehicles will most likely place Subaru ahead of any other brand in terms of bringing this kind of invaluable safety-related technology to a mass market.”
What about the looks?
In either hatchback or sedan form, the new Impreza looks good, certainly better than its predecessor. Sure, it might not have the sharp styling of a VW Group product, or even the current crop of Kias, but it’s got a more mature look, especially in top-spec 2.0i-S guise.
According to one person I asked, they felt the new Impreza 2.0i-S looked too masculine. You can please some of the people some of the time, but…
To my eyes, the new Impreza, no matter the variant, offers a more hawk-like face, reminiscent of the current XV, with a more mature and restrained look for the rest of the car. Unlike other Imprezas, I think this one should age well, although there’s still room for design improvement. And the same goes for the interior, but we’ll deal with that anon.
The week after we drove the 2.0i-S hatchback we tested a 2.0i-L sedan, and I’ve got to say the new Impreza sedan reminded me, when I squinted, of the original Impreza with its squared-off snout and bum. Anyone else (I’ve included a pic of the original and new sedan below)?
The new Impreza, thanks to the new platform, sits 10mm lower than the old model, which makes for a lower centre of gravity and the handling benefits that affords. It’s also 35mm wider which has given extra room for passengers, which I’ll discuss shortly.
The hawk-eye headlights on the 2.0i-S are steering responsive which is a fancy way of saying they turn slightly in the direction the front wheels are turned. Having driven the 2.0i-S at night and then the following week the 2.0i-L without the bendy headlights, I can say the difference is clearly noticeable and, for me, those clever lights would be worth the price hike alone, especially if you do a lot of country road driving. It also gets LED daytime running lights where the other models only get Halogen.
Subaru said it spent a lot of time streamlining the body of the new Impreza, which has all kinds of benefits from fuel efficiency to reducing wind noise. The streamlining measures include:
- Front bumper: new lower edge and fog light shape and use of Active Shutter Grille;
- Cowl panel (windscreen base): minimal step between pillar and glass;
- Large rear spoiler + end plate (hatch);
- Rear combination lights: tighter edges + outer lens protrusion;
- Rear bumper: optimized amount wrapping around from the side + revised radius of corner arc; and
- Lower body: optimized shape of the underbody cover.
And in the sedan:
- Roof line: lowered rear edge;
- C-pillar: tighter shape; and
- Boot lid: shape of rear lip.
The bonnet, to reduce weight, is made from aluminium, saving 5.2kg. And, to help make the cabin quieter, the glass is thicker as are the door’s outer panels. It doesn’t quite give the same solid thunk as a VW Group product, but it’s much more solid than the old car.
What’s the interior like?
Subaru calls the design of the new Impreza’s interior ‘bold and refined’. And the interior is certaintly more refined than the old car with better quality, fine-grained plastics (some is even soft-touch) used throughout the cabin. And the scratchy plastic that has been used is in places you won’t touch often.
The dashboard will be familiar to anyone who’s sat in either an old Impreza or one of Subaru’s new cars, like Liberty or Outback, and that’d despite the new Impreza getting an all-new design. Meaning, I’m suggesting the look is evolution rather than revolution, and that’s a good thing as it means the Impreza retains the car’s simple and practical layout.
There’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment and communications system that includes both Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity – and both Siri and Google Now voice control. On the 2.0i-S there’s also native sat-nav included which is good, although not quite as excellent as the system in the new Kia Rio. Like most portable units and even smartphone sat-nav systems, if stored the navigation will show distance to ‘home’ or ‘work’… does anyone use these sorts of shortcuts?
Above this touchscreen is a 6.3-inch multi-function display which, in everything bar the entry level 2.0i is colour, shows things like, Vehicle Dynamics Control and fuel efficiency, turn-by-turn navigation instructions on 2.0i-Premium and 2.0i-S, and much more. There’s some good stuff in here and the screen is big and easily seen from the driver’s seat but, for me, it seems like overkill to have the two screens. What do you think?
Subaru’s new platform has meant the wheelbase has grown by 25mm, the cabin is 29mm wider at the front and 34mm wider at the rear, and the distance between seat centres has grown by 21mm while rear legroom is up by 26mm. The new door trim shape means there’s an extra 20mm of hip, shoulder and elbow room. These are only small amounts of room but, overall they amount to a cabin that feels much bigger inside than the old model, especially in the back. But we’ll start in the front.
Climb in behind the steering wheel and the dashboard spreads out neatly and logically. Only the top-centre-mounted MFD seems a little out of place to me. And this is not just an Impreza thing… It annoys me in the Mazda3 too. Beyond that, all the controls feel good to the touch.
The steering wheel offers excellent reach and height adjustment as does the seat. The seat itself is quite broad and not particularly grippy for when the cornering speed rises, but this is a town car and not a corner carver. Sometimes small cars can skimp on the under-thigh support but not the Impreza and a couple of solid stints behind the wheel of more than 100km at a time showed them to be comfortable for longer distance driving.
Climb into the back and the seats are similarly comfortable, at least the two outboard seats are. Indeed, these look and feel more like the front seats than typical back seats you expect to find at this end of the price range.
Getting into the back is easy too with the door opening nice and big. Too many small cars are slaves to their design and taller passengers, or those loading kids into the back, have to duck to avoid hitting their head on the way in. Similarly, sliding out of the Impreza is easy with a hip point and the side bolstering designed so that you can simply swing your legs out and step out of the car. The door sill has also been made smaller meaning there’s no trip hazards, something that will make it easier for smaller children to get themselves in and out of the Impreza (one car that does this very badly is the Mazda CX-9 with a huge lip). There are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats and top tethers for all three positions, these are set at the middle of the seat back.
The middle seat is still more of a perch than a suitable seat for an adult but the transmission tunnel doesn’t intrude, much, and the back of the centre console has been designed to be less intrusive, meaning there’s okay foot and legroom if you do get ‘stuck’ in the middle. Get it?!
There’s no air vent for backseat passengers, which is something that should be rectified going forward, but there are little outlets under the front seats that pipe a little bit of cool air into the back. Luckily, the air-con itself is punchy, and extremely quiet, and so the cabin doesn’t take too long to cool down even on hot days – in the 2.0i-S you can even use voice control to change the temperature.
The back seats are 60:40 split and can be folded via a lift-knob on the top of the outboard seats.
The boot space offers an extra five litres of storage, taking it to 345 litres (for the hatch and 460L in the sedan), but the space is easier to use now thanks to the opening on both the hatch and sedan being wider. Drop the back seats down and boot space grows to 795 litres in the hatch. Quality touches include sturdy eyelets that click back into place when not being used, and a system that allows you to angle up the rear of the boot floor to hide odds and ends away from prying eyes without being obvious about it.
Because the Impreza doesn’t offer a full-size spare, the boot floor isn’t flat when you fold the back seats down. All in all, the boot on the hatch isn’t huge but it’s big enough for a week’s worth of grocery shopping, or for a family’s weekend away worth of luggage.
What’s the infotainment system like?
The Impreza is the first Subaru to offer Apple Car Play and Android Auto Connectivity, so that’s kind of exciting. Other models in the range will follow suit, with the new XV and refreshed Liberty all announced as getting smartphone integration.
The touchscreen is an 8.0-inch unit and in this Impreza 2.0i-S sat-nav is included, other variants don’t get sat-nav and rely on smartphone connection for mapping and directions. The native interface is well laid out and easy to use with no rabbit burrows to get lost down.
Connect up your phone (I own an iPhone only) and Apple Car Play is instantly activated and my initial impression was a good one. With Siri voice control working beautifully… in the middle of a song and simply say ‘Hey, Siri’. As Siri to find a destination, or call someone. Simple. Or, if I ignored Siri, it would return to the last song that was playing.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, because it didn’t work perfectly all the time. Occasionally, during the same drive, Siri would refuse to respond, instead a message would flash onto my phone that my phone needed to be unlocked for Apple Car Play to work. Hmmm. Kind of defeats the purpose.
And then, the buttons, when using Apple Car Play needed to touches before they would respond. Has anyone else experienced that while using Apple Car Play?
Beyond the off glitch, the system works well. Away from Apple Car Play and the buttons responded first time every time, and the sat-nav was excellent. I purposely got lost to see how it would handle redirecting me, and it was good, only taking a moment or two to find the right path.
The call quality via Bluetooth and Apple Car Play, per those people I called, was excellent.
All variants, bar the entry level Impreza 2.0i get a colour 6.3-inch multi-function display and while I’m not a fan of the dual screens, there’s some useful information available. It displays information relating to the EyeSight system, audio (if you’re using the sat-nav), clock (important), various car settings, and fuel efficiency. A toggle on the steering wheel allows you to scroll through the various functions.
The screen itself is split, essentially, into two with a static screen at the top showing things like climate control settings, outside temperature and the clock. The other part of the screen is given over to displaying stuff relating to EyeSight, the auto lights and the rear vehicle detection warning. It also shows Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) which shows changes in the colour of the tyres to indicate when VDC is operational.
There’s also a small screen between the two analogue dials behind the steering wheel and this shows the odometer, trip meter, fuel gauge and cruise control indicator. The Impreza 2.0i-S we tested adds, a welcome sequence which is pretty cool, Eyesight status, and ECO gauge.
What’s it like on the road?
In a word: Quiet. And I don’t just mean for a small car, either. Subaru’s engineers got out the cotton wool and padding (they didn’t actually use cotton wool) to make the new Impreza quieter than ever. And that’s across broken or coarse bitumen, too.
For instance, there’s more insulation in the engine bay to keep engine noise from leaking into the cabin, there’s more underbody insulation and insulation in the wheel arches to keep the noise of stones being kicked up from the road at bay, the floor matting is new and more insulating, says Subaru, and the dashboard contains more insulation too. Subaru says there’s been around 83 improvements to body design, insulation and finishing techniques compared to the superseded model.
The engine might read like the same engine as is in the old model, but Subaru claims 80% copped either revisions or new components. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine makes 115kW at 6000rpm and 196Nm of torque at 4000rpm. It’s mated to a CVT only. But it’s a brand new CVT that gets simulated seven-gear ratios (up from six) when in manual-shift mode and while CVTs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, Subaru’s is easily the best on the market. Left to its own devices and driven at about seven-tenths, the Impreza’s transmission is smooth and responsive.
There’s been plenty of commentary on the web and on this site too that the engine and gearbox combination is rubbish. It isn’t and anyone who says so, either A) hasn’t driven the car, or B) is talking plain rubbish. After the local launch, I suggested that only on long steep hills did I feel the Impreza might need more grunt. I was wrong. It doesn’t.
Sure, it’s not the fastest car on the market, but it’s more than capable of keeping up with traffic and overtaking is easy too. The transmission does a good job of rubbing out any dead spots in the engine, but as good as the insulation is, the engine and gearbox can sound a little thrashy when you pull out to overtake on a hill and the thing revs hard. But that’s it. I loaded the Impreza up with my family for several trips into the Big Smoke and Out West to visit the grandparents and didn’t have a problem.
On a more spirited drive on my own I fiddled with the flappy paddles and while I think they’re as useless as certain appendages on the proverbial bull, unless you’re driving a supercar, they work and are quick to respond and do end up feeling like you’re firing through ‘seven’ actual gears.
While plenty of people turn off stop/start I left it on. See my commute to Sydney involves so few stops that it’s a bit of a novelty. More than that, though, not all stop/start systems are created equal. And out of all the cars I’ve driven recently none of them re-start as fast as the Impreza. You only have to think about lifting your toe off the throttle and it fires back into life.
Because this Impreza sits on Subaru’s new Global Platform, which will underpin just about every car it makes until 2025, it’s done a lot of work to ensure it provides a solid building block for ride and handling.
And the engineers have nailed it with the Impreza which offers good low-speed and excellent high-speed body control. I say good for the low-speed ride (meaning around town) because it does feel a little stiff, stiffer than the old model, but there’s enough compliance to ensure that you won’t rattle your fillings loose.
As the speed rises the Impreza becomes much more settled. Although on harder hits at high speed the body can rise on rebound and joggle for a split-second before settling again, but this was only in extreme circumstances.
The steering is electric power assist but there’s enough feel through the wheel that you feel connected to the car’s doings. There’s good weight in the straight ahead and the steering’s action from there is consistent. It self-centres nicely but not too keenly.
Into corners and it only takes a couple to realise this is easily the best-handling garden-variety Impreza ever. And the way this thing rides and handles bodes very well for the next-gen WRX, which is now a stand-alone model.
It’s easy to position the Impreza in corners, and its balance isn’t easily upset with mid-corner bumps refusing to upset the steering or the body. Push too hard and the Impreza will understeer, but you’d have to be pushing very stupidly hard to overwhelm both the all-wheel drive and torque vectoring on the 2.0i-S we tested.
It rained lightly on one of the days I had the Impreza and to get a sense of the torque vectoring I punted the car hard into a 90-degree right turn. For the briefest of moments, I could feel the tyres scrabbling for grip, and then just at the moment I thought the nose would push wide, it didn’t. You could physically feel the braking of the inner wheels and shuffling of torque to those on the outside to help push the car back into the corner and fight against slip.
Unlike a lot of other car makers, Subaru’s all-wheel drive system is permanent, meaning both front and rear axles are constantly receiving a certain percentage of drive. And this does make the thing more stable in situations like the one I’ve just described. And that’s because there’s no time loss as the system switches from a front-drive car to an all-wheel drive car and then, once grip is regained, switches back to a front-drive car.
What about safety features?
The new Impreza has a five-star ANCAP collision rating and was one of the first cars to be tested under the current crop or tougher testing parameters. It scored 35.80 out of 37. Subaru claims its aim with all its cars is to ensure a 1m tall object, like a child for instance, can be seen by the driver from any angle. To test that, I climbed into the Impreza and asked my daughter to walk around the car. I could indeed see her, only losing her very briefly at the rear three-quarter.
You might consider it a nicety rather than a safety feature, but the Impreza 2.0i-S gets rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, and steering responsive headlights which turn (slightly) in the direction the wheels are pointing. It also offers blind spot monitoring, lane change assist (which are very nearly the same thing), and rear cross traffic alert.
The Impreza, across the range, offers dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, permanent all-wheel drive, traction and stability controls, reversing camera, and tyre pressure monitoring system.
All models, except for the entry-level Impreza now offer Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist system, featuring stereo cameras that can now see in colour and are thus able to recognise things like brake lights. It offers pre-collision braking which works from 30-50km/h with the system able to detect brake lights and thus prepare for a collision if the driver doesn’t respond. The Impreza 2.0i-S offers adaptive cruise control and the third-generation EyeSight cameras have a wider field of vision allowing them to look at more than just the vehicle dead ahead. And then there’s pre-collision steering assist, which if the system detects the driver is trying to steer to avoid a collision will activate the vehicle dynamics control to help the driver steer more accurately and avoid straight-lining into the car they’re trying to avoid.
Why would you buy one?
The new Impreza is a feature-packed machine that, in 2.0i-S guise, places it on the front foot against key competitors. The engine has more than enough grunt to keep up with traffic, yes, even on long hills with the family on-board. And Subaru’s new capped price servicing plan means it’s cheaper than ever to run an Impreza.
Subaru has always been known for its build quality and reliability and the new Impreza should continue that story. The new chassis is excellent, and the ride and handling now right at the sharp end of the small car pack, eclipsed only by the VW Golf, although Impreza’s permanent all-wheel drive gives it the edge over competitors when the weather turns nasty.
2017 Subaru Impreza key features:
- New generation touchscreen infotainment system featuring: Apple CarPlay; and Google Android Auto
- Tyre pressure warning light
- 17-inch alloy wheels
Impreza 2.0i-L adds (to 2.0i specification):
- 8-inch touchscreen
- Premium cloth trim
- Dual zone fully automatic air conditioning
- Electric folding mirrors with integrated indicators
- EyeSight driver assist
- Front fog lights with integrated Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
- Leather accented trim steering wheel and gear shift
- Tyre pressure monitoring system
- Upgraded Multi-Function Display
Impreza 2.0i-Premium adds (to 2.0i-L specification):
- Electric sunroof
- Factory fitted SatNav powered by TomTom
Impreza 2.0i-S adds (to 2.0i-Premium specification):
- Active Torque Vectoring
- Automatic head lights
- Automatic front wipers
- Heated front seats
- Heated mirrors
- Leather accented trim
- Power driver’s seat
- Side skirts
- Steering responsive LED head lights with integrated DRLs
- Vision Assist features: Blind Spot Monitoring; Lane Change Assist; and Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- 18-inch wheel – pattern unique to the variant.