THE Impreza is without a doubt Subaru’s best-known car, thanks to its illustrious World Rally Championship history, but it’s been more than ten years since the Impreza and WRX STI went their separate ways, with the latter becoming the performance saloon which carried forward that motorsport heritage.
The Impreza badge now lives on in the shape of a more reserved, family-focused compact car – but one that fills a very particular niche.
Subaru’s bosses believe that, while many motorists are abandoning hatchbacks for motors that look like but aren’t 4x4s, there are some out there who want a hatchback that is actually a 4×4.
Up steps the fifth-generation Impreza equipped with the marque’s proven Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, which constantly sends power to all four wheels whether on a rainy motorway, an icy lane in winter or off-road in a muddy field.
Power comes from a choice of two, four-cylinder petrol ‘Boxer’ engines – 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre units – with a Lineartronic CVT gearbox.
I drove the 1.6 which, while it’s noticeably slower and has less lowend pull than the 2.0, is still smooth and refined.
Its steering is accurate and nicely weighted, too, making it possible to confidently place the Impreza through corners, while the all-wheel drive system means handling is nimble and agile.
There’s just one trim level, SE, available but it’s generously kitted out, including keyless entry and push button start, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, DAB radio, reversing camera, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, heated front seats, cruise control, and automatic LED headlights that are steering responsive.
What’s really impressive, though, is the standard safety kit, because Subaru’s Eyesight adaptive cruise control system with automatic emergency braking is standard as well as blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert.
Passenger and luggage space is another strength and with rear seats in place, the Impreza manages to outdo several other popular family hatchbacks for boot space.
There’s also a good smattering of pockets and cubbyholes in the interior, with particularly deep central armrest storage a welcome highlight.
The Impreza may not be the cheapest hatchback out there but it’s safe and great off-road, making it perfectly suited for rural-dwellers.
Subaru Impreza 1.6i SE Lineartronic
Mechanical: 114bhp, 1,600cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via automatic gearbox
Max speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 12.4 seconds
Combined mpg: 35.9
Insurance group: 12
CO2 emissions: 177g/km
BiK rating: 28%
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles