From £25,010
Good to drive and well equipped, but interior still feels a bit cheap, and it likes a drink

What is it?

It's the new Subaru Impreza, of course. And this is the first time we've sampled one in the UK.

The less said about the new Impreza's looks the better, you might think. But actually, in the metal, it's really not that offensive. Anyway, Imprezas have always been brutal-looking things.

They've also been known as brutally accelerative things, because people tended to overlook the non-turbo versions. But Subaru intends to change that: the new Impreza is no longer here to fight the Evo (though don't worry, the bulging STi will be along to do that next year), but to take on the Focus and Astra.

What better way to start, then, but with the brutally unaccelerative 1.5R.

What's it like?

The new 1.5 has got a little more power (106bhp v 103) and exactly the same weight to lug around. So it's no surprise that it feels no quicker, though to be fair our test car had less than a thousand miles on the clock, and Subaru engines are notoriously tight until they've got at least a few thousand miles on them.

As before, the engine's limited power is made less of an issue by the handling. The steering is quick, accurate, and the suspension superbly supple. It's easy to maintain momentum through the bends, and nicely placed and weighted controls – the pedals especially – really help. There seems to be better sound insulation, too; it's much quieter at high speeds.

Is the cabin any better? Just about. The dash looks good, and the door linings are reminiscent of those in the Legacy, but sadly the materials are the same old hard, shiny plastic. And the wheel and gearlever are of a sticky rubber that hardly shouts quality.

Should I buy one?

The new Impreza is still very good to drive, and also good value. Try getting alloys, climate control, four electric windows, a CD stereo, front fog lights, four-wheel-drive and a dual-range gearbox in a Ford Focus for £12,495.

Problem is, it's not likely to be cheap to run, despite group 4E insurance, because it'll only average 37.7mpg if you treat it gently, and it emits 176g/km of CO2. Then again, it'll take you places other hatches can only dream of.

Rory Lumsdon

Join the debate

Add a comment…
jan.ackermann 7 November 2007

Re: Subaru Impreza 1.5 R

I think not everything is true - Impreza don't came to fight sporty hatches like Astra VXR or Focus ST, but came to fight bestsellers. It means that the basic version must offer good value for money at first and acceptable design. Subaru must sell at first, and then it can offer top models for special prices (look at Porsche!). Try to understand that predecessing versions were too brutal and then cheap models looked uncomplete - so they were practically unsaleable.

I think new Impreza is OK, try to compare with comparatible competitors. This 1.5 litre has no real competitor! There is no other 4WD hatchback which wouldn't try to be "sporty" and which can offer any cheaper version. And your thrust against CO2 emissions - I can only smile, it is permanent 4x4 car and it naturally has higher consumption. The nearest petrol 4x4 hatchback is Volkswagen Golf 2.0FSI 4Motion and it's is another story.

Anyway - compare Golf 2.0FSIMotion and Impreza 2.0R - compare price, power, comfort, weight, consumption (emissions!) and you must accept, that Impreza is the real alternative for those who want or need 4x4 traction without unneeded power.

I like new Impreza and I think it can be succesfull - other question would be why subaru don't offer any front-wheel-drive version. Only 4WD strategy set limits to market possibilities for better sales.