Subaru Impreza 1.5R
Subaru Impreza 1.5R
REPLACING a cult car is never an easy thing - you have to try and retain the magic that created such a strong fan base while moving the game on considerably, both visually and from behind the wheel.
That was the task facing Subaru when it decided to call time on its legendary Impreza range of four-door saloon and five-door sports wagon models. And controversially the Japanese firm also decided to consign these popular and distinctive bodyshapes to history, opting instead to build its new Impreza as a five-door hatchback - targeting a more mainstream audience who perhaps would also be considering a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.
That thinking is backed up at launch by the rather conservative choice of engines available. Impreza fans used to turbocharged "boxer" engines and 280bhp plus will be disappointed because Subaru only has 1.5 and 2.0 litre non-turbocharged engines currently available in showrooms. In fact if it hadn't been for an uproar from performance fans, the turbocharged drought would have continued way into 2008 when the STi model is set to arrive. However, the firm's UK importer has relented and a limited number of 226bhp WRX models is now available to order.
Only time will tell whether this will be enough to win over buyers who could well be disappointed by the rather dull hatchback design that Subaru has put forward. In fact the Impreza's "new look" could well remind many of the Toyota Corolla launched in 1992, which probably tells you all you need to know about the lack of visual excitement on offer.
The lack of imagination continues into the cabin, where hard and shiny dashboard plastics and lack of flair seem a world away from the quality offered by its European rivals.
Unusually, even in the 1.5 litre model tested, the Impreza comes as standard with four-wheel drive. Perhaps a positive for the limited number of buyers who live down slippery country lanes, but in general the system, which offers superb grip in turbocharged versions, simply sucks what little power there is from the 105bhp engine.
Noise wise, though, the 1.5 sounds impressively burbly and full of life - that is until you engage first gear and attempt to accelerate. It's not that you expect any small capacity engine to be a fireball but the weight of the four-wheel drive system severely hampers progress to the extent that the Impreza 1.5R takes an agonising 13.7 seconds to get to 60mph. The double blow is that as you use all of the engine's power to make progress, the fuel economy plunges rather worringly - and despite its 1.5 litre capacity figures of 37.7mpg on the Combined cycle are quite hard to achieve in the real world.
The Impreza also comes with a low-range gearbox for better traction off-road or when towing which effectively gives the car an extra five gears - but for city buyers this extra gear shift will never be used. The standard five gears, though, are slick and pleasant to use and the rather soft suspension set-up offers excellent level of ride comfort. Conversely, though, this results in too much body roll through the bends and the 1.5R displays little of the handling prowess which made its WRX predecessors so admired.
Boot space is a healthy 538-litres while rear seat passengers get a reasonable though never groundbreaking amount of legroom.
At ??12,495, the entry-level model does come with plenty of standard equipment, including climate control, 15-inch alloy wheels, all-round electric windows and front, side and curtain airbags. Unfortunately for Subaru, it also lacks enough ability and quality to tempt people away from Ford and Volkswagen showrooms in any sort of numbers. Impreza fans can only hope that with suspension changes and a turbocharged engine under the bonnet, the legend can be rekindled. - Neil Greenfield
SUBARU IMPREZA 1.5R - from ??12,495 otr
Engine: 1.5 litre
Max power: 105bhp and 142Nm torque
0-62mph - 13.7 seconds
Max speed - 109mph
ECONOMY: 37.7mpg combined
CO2 emissions/TAX %: 176/22%
STANDARD EQUIPMENT: Front, side and curtain airbags; 15-inch alloys; electricwindows; climate control
Source: [url=http://www.hornseyjournal.co.uk/content/islington/gazette/Motors/story.aspx?brand=ISLGOnline&category=CarReviews&tB rand=islgonline&tCategory=CarReviews&itemid=WeED15 %20Nov%202007%2014%3A34%3A33%3A447]Hornsey and Crouch End Journal[/url]
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