THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Legendary robust engineering that includes long-term reliability
- What’s Worst: Current 2.0-litre engine is adequate but needs the punch of a 1.8- or 1.5-litre direct injection twin turbo
- What’s Interesting: The Impreza is the only compact car or hatchback with standard all-wheel-drive
MONTEREY, CA: My autowriter colleague and close friend Brian is six-foot-two and his wife Diana is five-foot-zip.
When it comes to buying a car, their disparate architectures pose a problem because he needs a high roofline and Diana, who already rides low in the saddle, needs to be able to see when backing up. In fact, for her, it is a crucial buying decision.
Last year they bought a Subaru Impreza.
At the press preview of the 2017 model I told that story to Impreza chief engineer, Kazuhiro Abe, who said he was not surprised, as one of the core design directives at Subaru is that visibility must come first – even before styling.
He said the designers can come up with swooping lines and high rear deck lids, but if it impairs vision, the engineers can say “no” — and their decision is final.
It goes back 100 years to 1917 when the parent company of Subaru, Nakajima, starting building aircraft and all-round vision was a primary requirement.
That has not changed and the engineers are still in charge, which explains why Subarus seem to last forever — which brings us to the 2017 model which was introduced to media recently in Monterey, CA.
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The proven 2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder has been revised with direct fuel injection for an increase in power to 152 hp versus 148 hp. Torque is 145 lb/ft.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while on higher trim models, Subaru offers its Lineartronic CVT with seven-speed manual mode with paddle shifters.
The 2017 Impreza is built on Subaru’s new Global Platform that is 70 per cent stiffer than the previous model.
Of course Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) is standard.
Much attention was paid to redesigning the platform architecture with highly stiffened joints between sections, which results in enhanced straight line stability while significantly reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) in the cabin.
I spent an afternoon riding with Abe-san and I asked him what was the primary objective when it came to the 2017 Impreza.
He swiftly said “safety” and, when I looked at it, the new Impreza bristles with driver and passenger safety aids and all at an affordable price.
The previous model was already a Top Safety Pick. It is also a Top Safety Pick Plus when Subaru’s unique EyeSight safety system is ordered.
Subaru just announced more than one million Subarus have been sold with EyeSight.
The EyeSight system includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Pre-Collision Throttle Management and Lane Departure and Sway Warning.
Also available are Blind Spot Detection with Lane Keep Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
New for 2017 are the optional Steering Responsive Headlights, which can illuminate curves as the vehicle steers into them. This is combined with High Beam Assist which automatically activates and deactivates the high beam headlamps based on driving conditions.
If the owner chooses, other driver safety features include Reverse Automatic Braking and the display of steering lines for the standard rear vision camera.
Reverse Automatic Braking was designed to apply the vehicle’s brakes if an obstacle is detected while reversing.
A new four-way Tire Pressure Monitoring System can detect pressure drops at individual wheels.
Subaru’s latest Starlink is a leading edge multimedia system with a host of options such as iPod control, digital music Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity.
But there is more to Starlink than just infotainment.
The Starlink Connected Service system includes SOS Emergency Assistance, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Automatic Collision Notification, Maintenance Notifications, Monthly Vehicle Health Report, and Diagnostic Alerts.
And it can be upgraded to the Safety Plus and Security Plus package that adds Stolen Vehicle Recovery Service, Vehicle Security Alarm Notification, Remote Lock/Unlock, Remote Horn and Lights and Remote Vehicle Locator.
With its “boxer” engine and straight-through AWD system, the Impreza was already glued to the road, but with the new engine five mm lower in the new platform, the centre of gravity is improved even more.
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With my co-driver at the wheel and Abe-san in the passenger seat, we put the full EyeSight and lane keeping systems into play, which made for hands off the wheel driving.
Abe-san insisted it is not autonomous driving, but you and I know the Impreza is more than able to do it with a few software tweaks.
And knowing how the Subaru AWD works after some four decades of refinement, going mildly off-road is certainly possible.
During the driving, engine power was good and responsive and the grip was great in the pouring rain, which was confidence building.
And consumers have caught on to the Subaru AWD message and the brand continues to set sales records.
If you are looking for a stout, dependable and capable compact sedan or five-door, the 2017 Impreza is definitely worth a test drive.
Subaru Impreza 2017
BODY STYLE: Compact four-door sedan, five-door hatchback.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine (152 hp, 145 lb/ft of torque) with five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
FUEL CONSUMPTION: Sedan manual, 10.0/7.5L/100 km city/highway; Hatchback manual, 10.1/7.7L/100 km; Sedan, CVT, 8.3/6.4L/100 km; Hatchback CVT, 8.4/6.5L/100 km
CARGO CAPACITY: (four-door/hatchback) rear seat up, 348 litres/589 litres; Hatchback seat folded, 1,566 litres
PRICE: Impreza Convenience, $19,995-$22,195; Touring, $21,895-$24,095; Sport (various trim), $24,395-$26,595; Sport Tech, $27,195-$30,995
WEB SITE: www.subaru.ca