Subaru is maturing quite significantly as a brand and while it still has a youthful and exuberant (or is that delinquent?) side to it in the form of the BRZ sports coupe, the rest of the brand’s products have shed their skateboard sneakers and T-shirts in favour of loafers and lounge shirts.
This may have annoyed some Impreza WRX and STI fans, but then again Subaru has long hung up its rally boots and gloves and its future success can no longer hinge on a bygone motorsport era.
As we mentioned in our road test of the Legacy sedan a while ago, the company has changed tack and is a different outfit to what it was a decade ago.
Now pandering to a slightly less sporty and more refined audience, the new Impreza and XV have moved further upstream compared to the outgoing models. In fact, the variants are important models for the marque as they are the first to be built on its all-new global platform that will underpin all future Subaru models.
A mix of high-tensile steel and other lighter metals, the platform is said to be so advanced it already conforms to the safety requirements of the year 2025. There is therefore a great deal of expectation around its performance.
While the previous generation of Imprezas were only offered here in high-performance WRX and STI variants, Subaru SA marketing manager Ashley Lazarus says the new Impreza is a far superior proposition than the model it replaces. He says the new platform has allowed designers to push the envelope that much further in terms of refinement and he has assured us that the new model goes down the road with a more resolved polish.
We are yet to drive the new model, but Motor News will soon put it through its paces to see if we agree with Lazarus’s positive sentiments.
At face value, the vehicle looks far sharper and more substantial than the outgoing model and has decent leg and head room and boot space.
The cabin has plusher materials and a slightly more premium layout and finish, similar to that we had experienced in the Legacy. It also comes with the company’s latest eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system replete with TomTom navigation, Apple Carplay and Android Auto app support, which essentially mirror your smartphone interface onto the car’s screen.
Motivation will come in the form of a 2.0-litre direct injection, normally aspirated petrol engine making 115kW and 196Nm through a CVT (continuously variable transmission) and the company’s now inherent symmetrical all-wheel drive.
While overseas markets will also receive a hatch variant to take on the Volkswagen Golf, SA will only get the sedan, which has been the staple over the years except for the WRX and STi versions in 2007, but these did not go down too well.
Arguably one of the big news items is that the Impreza and XV will be the first local models to feature the company’s Eyesight driver assistance technology.
It includes precollision warning, braking and throttle control, and also comes with lane-keeping and swaying assistance, as well as adaptive cruise control.
The system uses two cameras located on either side of the rear-view mirror to scan the road ahead for impending changes in traffic. The system autonomously assists the driver to avoid any potential collisions. While the items are not new to the market per se, they are certainly new to this subpremium C to D segment of the market.
As such, the system has managed to place the Impreza and XV at the top in the US-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings.
To receive a 2016 Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in five crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention. According to the institute, all 2016 Subaru vehicles with Eyesight received a superior rating, the highest possible, for front crash prevention.
Subaru SA says the system will only be available in the Impreza and XV as of September, so models sold locally before then will not be equipped with the system.
At R399 000, including a three-year/75 000km maintenance plan and a three-year/100 000km warranty, the Impreza is priced on a par with the Hyundai Elantra Sport, which offers more power (150kW and 265Nm) courtesy of a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. The XV, meanwhile, is priced from R385 000 to R439 000.
Of course, we are yet to drive either model to form a more informed opinion, so we will reserve our verdict on the new offerings until such time. – Lerato Matebese