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First drive: Subaru Impreza 1.5R Sports Wagon – on sale now



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This is a weird one – an Impreza with no sporting pretensions; no huge bonnet scoop; no garish wheels; and an estate. Yet it provides a smooth, comfortable drive that would be really easy to live with.

It has all-wheel drive, and it comes with a dual-range, low ratio transfer ’box that, in effect, gives you 10 speeds.

The 1.5R is an entry-level version, which Subaru says is “outstanding value, high equipment, flexible performance with good fuel economy plus all-wheel drive security”.

Although this is a new model, it still manages to feel dated inside. The interior has had “a plusher-feeling makeover”, but the hard plastics still prevail.

It is easy to get a comfortable driving position, even though the steering only adjusts for height. Performance is hardly eye-watering, and you will have to use the gearbox when faced with a hill; lovers of speed still need to go for the top-of-the-range WRX. But the 1.5R grips to the road just as effectively.

We don’t agree with Subaru’s claim of ‘good fuel economy’ at 35.8mpg – rivals top 40mpg. But you can buy an awful lot of fuel for the cost savings of the 1.5R. You wouldn’t even get a very basic Ford Focus for the £12,495 Impreza price.

It’s hard to see where Subaru will get its market from. Rural dwellers will probably want more poke on inclines, and city dwellers will want a smaller vehicle to shoe-horn the kids into. That said, Subaru knows its market and this is not the first Impreza without designs on the rally circuit that it has produced.

It will be an interesting model to watch over the coming year.

Price: £12,495
Engines: 1.5-litre petrol 103bhp @ 6,400rpm; 104lb ft @ 3,200rpm
Performance: 0-60mph 13.5sec; top speed 109mph
Transmission: Five-speed manual with dual range transfer ’box
Efficiency: 35.8mpg combined; 184g/km CO2
CAP RV: 3yr/30k £4,950 (40%)
Rivals: Ford Focus hatchback, Vauxhall Astra hatchback, Škoda Octavia Estate
Strengths: All-wheel drive gives superb handling
Weaknesses: Slower than you’d like
Opportunity: Wider sales range
Threat: Outdated design
USP: Affordable Impreza

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