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New York show: Subaru’s impressive new Impreza

Dressed to Impreza: Fourth-generation Subaru small-car makes its global debut in New York.

Next-generation Subaru Impreza hatch and sedan emerge in the Big Apple

21 Apr 2011

SUBARU unleashed its chunky new Liberty-inspired 2012 Impreza hatch and sedan at the New York motor show overnight, revealing a striking new design that departs significantly from its four-year-old predecessor’s less distinctive look.

Although Subaru Australia is staying mum on local release timing for its fresh Mazda3 and Corolla fighters, both redesigned small cars are due on sale here later this year after an expected Australian debut at the Melbourne motor show in July.

Both models were previewed ahead of their global debut in the US, by a teaser profile shot in the case of the four-door and, in the five-door’s case, via the jacked-up body-cladded XV crossover hatchback concept that premiered a day earlier at the Shanghai motor show. The latter may also make its local debut in Melbourne.

There for all to see is a far more angular shape than the current Impreza hatch’s more organic appearance, complete with bulging wheel-arches, new-look honeycombed hexagonal grille, a heavily sculpted bonnet, redesigned grille, geometric lower foglight bezels and sharp-sided wrap-around ‘hawk-eye’ headlights with split-level lower edges like the latest Liberty’s.

Subaru says the fourth-generation Impreza’s aggressive new body shape is more aerodynamic due to a faster windscreen that is 200mm further forward at its base.

It also offers improved visibility, thanks in part to larger door-mounted (rather than pillar-mounted) wing mirrors, narrower A and B-pillars, 60mm-lower window sills and a lower-set dashboard.

Also new is a bigger and more upmarket interior that is more generous in terms of rear shoulder and leg room (the latter is up by more than 50mm, thanks in part to new scalloped-back front seats) and was shown in New York with full leather trim and classy white instrument dials.

2 center imageThe extra cabin space comes not from a longer body, which measures the same as the current Impreza overall and has shorter overhangs, but from a slightly lengthier wheelbase – up from 2621 to 2644mm – while entry-exit is improved via larger front (up 127mm) and rear door apertures, 20mm-lower door sills and (10mm front/20mm rear) higher hip points.

Subaru says the Impreza sedan’s boot is bigger too but doesn’t provide figures and still fits gooseneck hinges, while the hatch now offers a flat load space with the rear seats folded.

Refinement and cabin presentation were also key areas of improvement, with Subaru claiming the employment of more soft-touch surfaces for the dash, door trim and centre console armrest.

Under the more heavily scalloped bonnet is a 2.0-litre version of Subaru’s new-generation longer-stroke FB-series four-cylinder boxer engine, which debuted here last year in 2.5-litre guise in the Forester.

It features double overhead camshafts and Subaru's Dual Active Valve Control System (DAVCS) on both the intake and exhaust valves.

Although Australian specifications are yet to be locked in, the new Impreza’s peak US performance outputs are identical to our current models at 110kW of power and 196Nm of torque, although all versions of the naturally aspirated new Impreza are expected to be both quicker and more fuel-efficient.

This time, however, while a six-speed manual transmission will be matched with Subaru’s familiar full-time all-wheel drive system with viscous centre coupling, the Liberty/Outback’s new Lineatronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) will be mated to an Active Torque Split AWD system using an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch to deliver more torque to the rear under acceleration.

The first CVT-equipped Impreza will offer steering wheel paddle shifters and six gear ratios in ‘manual’ mode, and both AWD systems have the ability to send up to 100 per centof engine torque to either axle.

Also aiding the new Impreza’s “incredible” fuel economy is the fitment of a new electric steering system for the first time.

Again, the local line-up is yet to be confirmed, but all Australian models should get a digital central multi-function display, dual-zone climate-control and Bluetooth phone and iPhone/USB audio connectivity as standard, although US wheel sizes range between 15-inch (steel) and 17-inch (alloy).

A power sunroof and factory-fitted satellite-navigation system are expected to be options.

The new Impreza is also claimed to be safer, thanks to the use of more high-strength steel, extra “stiffening elements at key locations”, a new driver’s airbag and a standard driver’s knee airbag for all models.

Of course, Subaru’s VDC electronic stability/traction control system and ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist continue as standard in the Impreza, which already comes with a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Impreza handling should also take a step forward courtesy of the stiffer body, stronger front and rear suspension systems, new vibration-reducing hydraulic engine mounts and, on premium models, special rebound springs in the front dampers and rear anti-roll bars to improve dynamic response.

“New Impreza is the product of an exciting new design direction for Subaru that will be reflected in a whole family of future vehicles,” said Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior.

“It’s also a massive technological leap, with an incredibly lean petrol engine, new-generation Lineartronic CVT transmission and some other exciting technologies that we’ll reveal on Australian spec versions in due course.

“This is a cutting-edge car for Subaru as it gives us the ammunition to fire a few salvos in the small car category. It is Australia’s biggest segment in terms of volume and competitors, with nearly 30 nameplates clamouring for share.

“There’s been a huge amount of work on handling and ride, and I believe dynamically, it will be the best small car on the market.

“With contemporary external styling, fantastic interior design, amazing improvements in fuel consumption, thanks to engine and transmission technology, and a few other surprises, this new Impreza has the credentials to appeal to a far wider audience than previously.” GoAuto understands that rather being introduced as part of the Impreza range, the new XV will be positioned as a stand-alone crossover model alongside the Outback and Forester.

Similarly, the super-successful WRX and STI performance versions of the current Impreza are likely to be replaced by an all-new sports model that will be sold alongside Subaru’s yet-to-be-named Toyota FT-86-based coupe, but won’t be badged as an Impreza.

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