What are you driving?
It's the fifth-generation Subaru Impreza, now sold exclusively as a five-door hatchback, and a pretty sombre one at that. At the time of writing, there's a single powertrain option for the Irish market, comprising of a turbocharged 1.6-litre 'boxer' petrol engine, a CVT automatic transmission and symmetrical four-wheel drive. But don't get too excited by the potential of all that, as this engine only produces up to 114hp and 150Nm of torque. Buyers can choose from either the S version, at €25,995 or the SE model at €29,995. Only the level of standard equipment differentiates them, though the entry-level car is also cheaper to tax thanks to its smaller wheels and tyres.
Name its best bits
Despite the lack of performance, this Subaru Impreza is really good to drive. The steering is alive with feedback and is direct, the chassis keen to please and adjustable and the suspension does a good job of controlling body movements without making the car uncomfortable. It's crying out for more power, though. No doubt the all-wheel-drive system would be a huge boon in slippery conditions, in terms of driving enjoyment and safety. Speaking of safety, the Impreza is one of the safest cars ever tested by the Euro NCAP and it comes as standard with a lot of active safety equipment, justifying its pricing somewhat.
The interior of the Impreza isn't bad, either. It's hardly innovative in appearance, but it is well-equipped and feels of really good quality. There's decent rear legroom, too, not something that can be said for all cars in the C-segment. It's a quiet place to while away a long journey as well, thanks to noticeably low levels of noise from the wind, tyres and, when you're not accelerating, the petrol engine under the bonnet.
Anything that bugs you?
The most frustrating thing about this car is the lack of performance from its engine. Around town, the engine and transmission work together to help get the Impreza off the line smartly - too smartly sometimes when you're dealing with traffic that is crawling along without actually stopping. But that initially promising response turns into a never-ending flat spot and the Impreza never feels remotely fast. And I don't mean purely from the point of view of someone that expects a blue Subaru to be sporty. It's very slow, by any measure. Unfortunately, it's not particularly economical in return. We saw an average of over 8.0 litres/100km in our time with the car and the motor tax bill will be enough to put many off.
And why have you given it this rating?
The Subaru Impreza is, in many ways, a really good car that promises to be great to own. We'd expect it to be reliable, for example, and the high levels of standard equipment and safety are laudable. However, even the saintliest drivers will find it excruciatingly slow and there's precious little choice in the line-up. The one majorly unique thing it has going for it at this price point is the standard all-wheel-drive system, but very few Irish buyers of a hatchback of this size require that. If you're one of them, then Subaru has your back.
What do the rest of the team think?
Always had a bit of a soft-spot for Imprezas, and it used to be true of the original that it had all of the chassis, but none of the power, of the Turbo model. It was true then, and it's pretty much true now - this new Impreza has lovely steering, sweet chassis balance and an uncanny ability to smother the worst bumpy excesses of Irish roads. And the interior is a big, big improvement on what went before. But it's almost entirely devoid of power and torque, and the engine doesn't even manage to sound that good when you rev it. A manual gearbox might help...
Neil Briscoe, Editor-at-large
I like how the Impreza handles, it has plenty of grip and a sorted chassis. It is comfortable too. The cabin is a little uninspiring, but it is functional with decent amounts of storage. The car feels well screwed together and very study, which I really liked.
Melanie May, Content and Social Media Editor