Base price: $31,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre petrol four, 110kW/196Nm, continuously variable automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 6.8 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 11.1 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4415mm long, 1465mm high, wheelbase 2645mm, luggage capacity 340-1230 litres, fuel tank 55 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels on 205/55 Yokohama tyres.
We like: Value for money, polished chassis, fuel economy.
We don’t like: Humble looks don’t do it justice, downmarket cabin materials.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
If you want a Subaru Impreza, this is now it: the just-released X.
Despite launching the Impreza in an imposing range of models last year, Subaru has trimmed the lineup down to a single model: the budget-priced X, in five-door hatchback form only. Why? Well, Subaru New Zealand likes to keep things simple, and the simple truth is that crossover vehicles now dominate the market. The Impreza-based (but not badged) XV is the one that everybody’s buying.
So while the XV continues in no fewer than four different trim levels, we are left with but one Impreza. Let the market decide and all that.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The powertrain is familiar: 2.0-litre boxer-four with Subaru’s version of continuously variable transmission, which it calls Lineartronic. The chassis is standard ride height, which might surprise given that other X-models from Subaru are raised up (like the Legacy X sedan). It’s still full-time four-wheel drive, which Subaru sees as its main advantage against high-image rivals like the Volkswagen Golf (the 90kW TSI model starts at $32,250). It’s a good point, although there’s a bit more to it than that. Subaru still places much emphasis on the dynamic character of its cars and there’s a feeling of substance to this model’s steering, handling and (yes) traction that makes it a little bit special.
The powertrain is more polarising. Subaru’s latest-generation 2.0-litre petrol engine is impressively thrifty and suitably strong, but the Subaru Lineartronic Transmission (SLT) is an acquired taste. Like any continuously variable gearbox, it requires a particular driving style and does not respond well to long periods of full-throttle acceleration.
But SLT is the way forward for Subaru, so we better get used to it.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
It’s tempting to think of the Impreza X as a budget model: there are certain things about it that encourage that view, such as the tiny 16-inch wheels and cloth upholstery. The cabin materials are not exactly premium, either, which is where Impreza still struggles against the likes of Golf.
However, delve a bit deeper and you’ll find there’s very little lacking. You get paddle shifters for the gearbox, cruise control, a multi-function screen that also serves as a (tiny but effective) reversing camera, and of course the full complement of safety equipment: seven airbags (including driver’s knee), stability control and a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
Strangely enough, you can’t. At least not right now.
Subaru New Zealand claims that it can only achieve such a good price with limited-run production allocations – four per year, to be precise. The first batch-bake of 250 cars is already sold, so potential Impreza X customers will have to wait until next year.
Or they could simply save up a bit more and buy an XV like everybody else.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: No/No
Blind spot warning: No
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: No
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: No/No
Keyless entry/start: No/No
Lane guidance: No
Leather upholstery: No
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Power boot or tailgate: No
Power seat adjustment/memory: No
Rear ventilation outlets: No
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: No
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes
Find a Subaru Impreza X HERE