New car review: Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S Hatch

It’s no Corolla in the sales stakes, but the sensible Subaru Impreza has much to recommend it.

Toyota’s perennially popular Corolla is the small car sector’s sales champ, more or less defining the category ideal in the minds of many Aussies.

No other rival comes close to its 23% category share, not least being Subaru’s Impreza, which the compact Toyota outsells by a factor of seven to one. 

The Subaru also trails other category rivals like the Hyundai i30, Kia Cerato, Mazda 3, and Volkswagen Golf in the compact car sales race. 

Despite this relative lack of popularity, the Impreza is a likeable small car that recently benefited from a minor 2020 model refresh that warrants shoppers taking a closer look. 

There are four grade variants available in sedan or hatchback body styles, all attracting modest price rises with this update, which Subaru claims are offset by new features.

The cheapest variant, the entry-level 2.0i sedan now lists for $23,740 while the 2.0i-S reviewed here sits as the top of the pecking order, with a list price of $31,360.

Externally, the 2020 model is distinguished by a re-profiled grille, revised front bumper and front fog lights, and new-look alloy wheels. Hatch models also get smoke-finish rear combination lamps. 

It’s not exactly a clean-sheet redesign but there’s just enough change for the dedicated train spotter to be able to show off by pointing out a model year ’20 from its predecessor. 

Inside, interior trims and materials have also come in for some mild upgrades, on all bar the entry model. 

Overall fit and finish appears to be good quality, which is what we’ve come to expect from Subaru.

<Subaru Impreza

The neatly presented cabin includes carbon-fibre-look trim and perforated soft-touch door trim inserts, along with stitch-detailing on the leather-accented seats, armrests, centre console and dash pad.

There’s also a classy-looking piano-black surround for the air-conditioning controls on this 2.0i-S model, lending the interior a modestly upmarket look and feel.

Equipment updates for the range-topping 2.0i-S  include automatic door locking, revised LED headlight design, auto power-fold mirrors, auto dipping passenger side mirror, camera-based front and side-view monitor (in addition to the rear-view camera), and a memory driver’s seat with two user settings.

The Subaru hatch also features a healthy list of safety and driver assistance features encompassing seven airbags (including a driver’s knee bag), active torque vectoring, blind-spot monitor, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, tyre pressure monitoring, steering-responsive headlights, and Eyesight Driver Assist. 

The latter includes adaptive cruise control, brake light recognition, lead vehicle start alert, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and pre-collision brake assist with throttle management. That’s about as comprehensive as you can hope for in this category and testament to Subaru’s long-standing commitment to safety. 

On the infotainment front the 2.0i-S boasts satnav, an 8.0-inch LCD touch-screen, Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free communications, six-speaker audio, DAB+ radio, single CD player, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri compatibility, and voice command system. 

There’s no inductive phone charging though, and rear passengers have to get by without USB ports and air-con vents.

Under the bonnet the Impreza’s 2.0-litre flat four-cylinder petrol engine remains unchanged and is officially good for maximum outputs of 115kW/ 196Nm. 

Its performance is responsive across the rev range and better in fact than the numbers alone might suggest.

Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes 10.1 seconds, which compares favourably with the 10.5 second split for a top-spec Corolla ZR but lags the Hyundai i30 Premium (8.0 seconds) and Mazda G20 Touring (9.0 seconds).

Subaru Impreza

While the engine doesn’t feel sluggish, it won’t set pulses racing in hot hatch style. 

The addition of a dual-mode SI Drive allows drivers to choose, via steering wheel controls, between the more fuel-efficient Intelligent mode and the sharper engine and transmission response of Sport.

Official combined-cycle fuel consumption on 91 RON unleaded is 7.2 L/100km, which is slightly higher than the 6.6 L/100km of its lower specification siblings. 

Subaru’s chassis engineers have busied themselves with suspension and steering revisions with this update, delivering improved ride quality and crisper steering response.

As such this updated model offers handling that should satisfy most target buyers, striking a happy medium between cosseting and composed ride, with confident all-wheel-drive handling. 

The steering is well-weighted and accurate, there’s good grip from the 18-inch Yokohama tyres, and the 2.0i-S obediently obliges with quick changes of direction, making it an enjoyable drive through the twisty stuff.

From an ownership perspective the Impreza is covered by Subaru’s five-year/unlimited kilometre new car warranty and a capped price servicing program to five-years/62,500km.

With scheduled service intervals of 12,500km or 12 months, services within the capped price period vary, but the average is $486.60 per service.

Having first launched in Japan in 1992 and now several years into the lifecycle of this fifth generation model, the Subaru Impreza is a well-known and well-regarded quantity on the Australian market.  

With its classy interior, polished ride and handling and all-round refinement, it’s a sound and sensible small car with just enough flair to make driving interesting.  

Key stats

MLP: $31,360
ENGINE: 2.0-litre, petrol four-cylinder boxer
ANCAP CRASH RATING:  Five stars (2016)
FUEL CONSUMPTION (litres/100km): 7.2 (163g/km CO2)

For

Safety features, competitive pricing, new model upgrades, likeable and capable small car.

Against

Minor equipment omissions, space saver spare, slightly higher fuel consumption than lower spec models.