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Motoring: Subaru shines under the skin

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 28th, 2008

Subaru is one of the most misunderstood manufacturers. Their cars are all very good indeed, but their sales have lacked compared to their competition.

The problem with Subaru lies with their design department.

Never have I seen a car company so blind to good design. All their models have questionable styling, and even their recent concept cars are ugly. In fact the only decent looking model is the Legacy, and even that is no pageant winner.

I had been looking forward to the new Impreza, but the result, based on design, was not very convincing. In the past, the Impreza was available as a sedan or a wagon. This time, you get a sedan or a hatchback, but none is what you'd call pretty. The sedan reminds me of the Kia Rio, especially from the back, and the hatchback reminds me of the now dead Ford Focus ZX5.

Yes, in certain colours and especially in the WRX trim, the car doesn't look bad, but they certainly won't win any sales based on their looks.

They won't win any sales based on their dull interior design either. The plastics are dark, look and feel cheap and the design of the dash seems to be inspired by the 1980s.

So, I know what you are thinking. You're thinking this new Subaru Impreza is rubbish and should be avoided like the plague.

The reality however is different. Because the beauty of this car is and has always been the way it drives.

My test car was the Impreza WRX model, which means it has a 2.5-litre, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine, that is fitted with a turbo-charger. This model produces 224 hp and 226 lb/ft of torque. That power is fed to all its wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox (as tested) or a four-speed automatic with Sportshift.

What all this means is that this car is fast, and since it has all-wheel drive, it handles very well too. More than that, this car will handle well no matter what the weather is doing. Trust me, when it snows, nothing is more fun and secure than an all-wheel drive Subaru (except of course an Audi Quattro).

The old Impreza was a great car, but it was a little hard to live with everyday. The new Impreza rides much better than the old car and it is very comfortable. However, that comfort does come with a slight downside, since the new model is not as sharp through the corners as the old model was. However, the steering is still as delicious as ever, giving you just the right amount of feedback.

The performance has also changed. The engine output is the same, but it's just how the new model is configured. In the quest to improve fuel-economy, the turbo has more lag now than before. So the new car is not as eager or as quick as the out-going model. The plus side is now you get much better mileage than before, I averaged 11-litres/100km when I managed only 14-litres/100km with the old model.

So you'll be saving some money at the gas station and that is not the only place you'll be saving. The biggest surprise is that this new model is about $2000 cheaper than the old one. So now you can get into a base model Impreza for $20,695. My WRX test model was a reasonable $32,995. That is not a lot of money for a car that offers you this level of comfort and security.

My conclusion is this, so what if it looks less than impressive, its beauty lies within and in the long run that is what counts most.
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