From £25,010
Unconventional diesel will make you stand out from the crowd

What is it?

At last, Subaru has done the obvious thing and fitted its mainstream Impreza five-door hatchback with its quirky but well-received flat-four diesel engine, a four-cam, 16-valve unit already available in the Legacy, Outback and Forester models.

Horizontally opposed engines have always been a Subaru “given”, along with permanent four-wheel-drive. The difficulty of making a diesel in this unusual format - which is more complicated and expensive than a normal in-line four - held Subaru back for years. But since it first version appeared in the Legacy a couple of years ago, it has won a good reputation for economy, refinement and performance.

What's it like?

The Impreza Boxer is a rugged, well-equipped Focus-sized saloon, well capable of 45 mpg journeys, yet with a top speed nearing 130mph and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 9.0 seconds, not far short of a hot hatchback. The car’s performance is especially surprising, given that it weighs a rather lardy 1455 kilograms at the kerb.

The Impreza has never been acclaimed for its shape, and this new version looks as awkward as the rest. This Boxer Diesel comes in two models, both well equipped. The £20,000 RC seems the better bargain since it comes equipped with climate control, Xenon headlights, a 6CD autochanger, front foglamps, heated front seats and a cruise control.

For an extra £2255 you get the RX model, with keyless entry, an electric sunroof, privacy glass, leather trim and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat. Despite the plush equipment, there’s not much that’s luxurious about the cabin, though like the rest of the car it does have a pleasant feeling of strength and durability.

On the road, the Impreza Boxer feels relaxed (especially in its ultra-tall sixth gear) but if you drop a couple of ratios it goes really well. The engine always makes it an enjoyable drive, mostly because of the generous torque available from 1500rpm, peaking at 258lb ft between 1800 and 2500rpm.

You soon learn to drive smooth at low revs, yet to depend on an instant response to the throttle. And though the figures show that maximum power of 148bhp is developed at only 3600 rpm, the engine will rev smoothly onward to the 5000 mark, so it feels distinctly sportier than the more routine in-line 2.0 litre turbodiesels on the market.

Steering and ride are about par for the class. Road-holding, biased towards understeer, is neat and stable but it doesn’t show any particular evidence of the low centre of gravity Subaru crows about.

The four-wheel-drive is unobtrusive apart from a slightly annoying speed-related transmission whine at town speeds. The car would benefit from a better gearchange, though; the combination of a slow, rather crunchy action and a long lever make it slower than it need be.

Should I buy one?

Yes, if you’re a non-conformist. The best argument in favour of the Subaru Impreza Boxer Diesel is that it’s different from the common herd of 2.0 litre saloons, and this will attract some buyers.

But there are an awful lot of extremely competent, more conventional 2.0 litre diesels on the market (Golf, Astra and Focus come to mind) whose all-round excellence make it highly debatable whether different means better.

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
trouzey 9 September 2013

Subaru Impreza 2.0D RC

So I'm looking at reviews because I just went to the Subaru garage a few days ago and purchased this car so I wanted to see what people thought and I cant believe that the car in the photo gallery is my actual car that I just bought! unbelievable. But I think the car is very practicle and unique, me and my wife were searching for car on the internet and had a very clear spec of what we wanted it had to be diesel and had to be four wheel drive with room for 2 child seats in the back or adults in the back basically a family car. So the only car I found was this and the other option is a Audi Quattro whis is way out of my price range so it had to be the Subaru also because I already have the Subaru Impreza 2.0 petrol saloon 07 and I just love everything about subarus its the first car that not a single this has gone wrong or not sounded right with not rattles and just a brilliant reliable quick car. So I am very happy with the car as it meets my needs. Yeah sure if you dont want 4wd there are plenty cars you could have i.e Vauxhall insignia 2.0CDTI Audi A3 or A4 etc.

minus28 14 April 2011

Re: Subaru Impreza 2.0D RX

I have a Diesel Impreza here in Norway. It makes more sense here, where due to taxes your average car can be two to three times as much as a UK equivalent, but a pretty highly specced Impreza costs a bit over £30K. The mistake the article makes is comparing directly with golf, focus etc diesels - the big selling point here is the four wheel drive system with cold winters. Here is a normal diesel hatch that has suddenly been the star of the show in the last couple of very cold snowy winters. Norwegian reviews rave about how much fun the car is to drive in the snow, and it is cheaper than an equivalent 4wd golf for example.

With regards to the quality and even the reliability however, I have to say that Subaru has not scored well. The car has had a new DPF, the engine needed to be removed to replace the sump which had a tiny oil leak, and the car took several long visits to the workshop to finally fix the aircon which blew only roasting hot or freezing cold (sometimes at the same time from the different sides of the car!). This has all been done on warranty by a very helpful and friendly dealer, but doesn't give a lot of trust in the car itself. I'm now selling it as a result..

The last comment is on the storage space - this is pathetic due to the 4wd system, and even though there is no spare tyre provided this is just because there is no room for it, rather than to provide more storage space - i.e. even without a spare tyre the boot is very small.

At UK prices and more temperate climate, I would agree that the Impreza, in its current form, is dead.

docM 22 December 2009

Re: Subaru Impreza 2.0D RX

Can't disagree with any of that, 73henny, because the same reasons apply to why I've had Legacy estates in the past (except for the going like $hit bit, albeit they have had a pleasing turn of speed and great handling). It's because I can't see myself laying down money for the new Legacy or Outback that I've started to wonder about an Impreza and, as you can see, I can't quite get on with that either. The problem is that Subaru is changing and the messages for European buyers, at least, are mixed. Yes, the Japanese, North American and Australian markets are more important to Subaru, but I think they must be after greater sales in Europe, including the UK, with all this reported talk about being a premium player. Early reviews in the USA spoke of the Impreza being 'Europeanised", indeed offering a hatch in the USA, even alongside a saloon, might be seen as having been something of a risk. If this is so, iy looks like they've bodged it; they've ended up alienating their very loyal fans, both urban and rural, and have not done nearly enough to please the premium set for whom perceived quality and design are so evidently important (everything else is in place: engineering, build quality, brio). There are actually many detail changes between cars offered in these different markets and so some thinking must go on about what will appeal in each. I would suggest that Subaru are trying to understand the premium market but still don't get it. It seems that but for a ha'porth of tar Subaru could fail in Europe, which wouldn't please either of us.