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Subaru Impreza


New more fuel efficient Impreza – first drive.

Subaru is quoting fuel economy improvements of at least 20 percent in its 2012 model Impreza sedan and hatchback which are about to go on sale in New Zealand.

Fuel economy has never been Subaru’s strong suit, but it says the new Impreza six-speed manual uses 7.1 litres/100km on the combined cycle, a 20 percent improvement over the old model five-speed.

The new automatic, which uses a continuously-variable transmission with a six-step manual override, does even better. Its 6.8 litres/100km is 22 percent better than the outgoing four-speed conventional automatic’s.

A new 10 percent more fuel efficient long-stroke 2.0-litre Boxer engine, Auto Stop/Start when the car is at idle, the more efficient gearboxes and a 10kg weight reduction have helped achieve the better fuel economy.

The new car is cleaner too, emitting 157 grams/km of CO2 in the automatic (24 percent lower than the old model) and 164 grams/km in the manual (a 22 percent improvement).

The 2012 Imprezas have a longer wheelbase (2645mm) which improves cabin space: the new Impreza now has as much cabin space as older model Subaru Legacys.

Styling is clean and conventional, with a contemporary chunkily sculpted look at front and rear and strongly emphasised wheelarches.

All four models have the same naturally-aspirated 110kW/196Nm 2.0-litre Boxer engine which runs on 91 octane petrol, full-time four-wheel drive and a choice of the six-speed manual or Lineartronic SLT continuously variable automatic gearboxes.

Prices start at $34,990 for the 2.0i manual which runs on 16-inch steel wheels and 205/55R16 tyres and peak at $46,990 for the 2.0i-SL automatic which has 17-inch alloy wheels and low profile205/50R17 tyres.

In each model grade – the others are the 2.0i-L and 2.0i-S – the SLT auto version costs $2000 more than the manual. The i-L has 16-inch alloy wheels and the i-S uses seventeen-inchers.

Safety kit includes Vehicle Dynamics Control, seven airbags (including a knee airbag for the driver) and reversing cameras on all bar the 2.0i base model.

Standard equipment runs to iPod, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, six-speaker radio/CD player; automatic climate-control air-conditioning; cruise control; security system with engine immobiliser and 60/40 split-folding rear seatback.

Models from the 2.0i-L onwards add dual zone functions to the air-conditioning, front foglights, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear lever knob. The 2.0i-S gets chrome trim, upgraded seat upholstery, side skirts and the range-topping 2.0i-S completes the fit-out with leather upholstery, satellite navigation, an electric sunroof and eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Subaru NZ boss Wallis Dumper says he expects to sell 250 Imprezas by the end of 2012, the number constrained by supply quotas imposed by Subaru which was worse affected by the 2011 tsunami than other Japanese carmakers (save for a small number built in the USA, Subaru makes all of its cars in Japan). “250 is all they’re making for us this year,” says Dumper.

In a full year he would expect to sell more than 400 Imprezas and a similar number of XVs which are now sold as individual carline and not as part of the Impreza range.

Dumper sees the much improved fuel economy, lower emissions and increased cabin space allowing the Impreza to compete strongly with European cars, with Subaru emphasising the combination of a greener car with the advantages of all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre engine.

He expects to sell nine autos to each manual, with about 80 percent of the latter going to the South Island where there’s a stronger demand for manual Subarus.

Dumper says new-generation WRX and STi Imprezas which are now seen as carlines in their own right are about two years away.

On the Road

Driving three models (2.01, 2.0iL and 2.0i-SL) during the Impreza’s media launch, the overriding impression was the car’s poised and unflappable chassis.

Mid-corner bumps were shrugged off without the car straying off-line and roadholding grip was phenomenal; the electric power steering was nicely-weighted and offered excellent feel.

In terrain in which the brakes took a real pounding there was no loss of efficiency and the car pulled up with reassuring aplomb.

The 2.0i-SL with its low-profile tyres and 17-inch wheels felt the most firmly planted, though there was less give on bumpy roads and more road noise than on the 16-inch wheel cars which soaked up road surface irregularities with impressive ease.

The SL also offered crisper turn-in and lower steering wheel inputs than the others, especially the steel-wheeled 2.0i.

All cars on the launch fleet were automatics; we’re no great fans of CVT gearboxes but the Subaru take seemed a little better than others we’ve sampled.

Pushing hard on tight winding roads called for use of the paddle-shift controlled six-step manual override, though the engine’s strong torque saw the transmission coping acceptably even left in Drive automatic mode on demanding roads.

The first impression of the new Impreza’s dynamics ?: impressive.

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