The Impreza has always been the underdog in the compact car segment with the heavy weights being the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra. With the improvements that it has made to the Impreza for 2015, including some first-in-class exclusives, Subaru wants to change that status in the mindset of consumers.
If you’re not a Subaru fanatic, chances are that it will be tough to pinpoint the updates to the 2015 Impreza unless its parked side-by-side to a 2014 model. While Subaru has never been known for cutting edge styling (as they themselves proclaim to be an engineering company first and foremost) there is no doubt that the 2015 models are handsome.
Updates include all-new chrome accents to the window beltline and above the foglamps. The chrome highlights above the fog lights even have a hockey stick-shape to them, perhaps a subtle nod of the head from the Japanese designers to the Canadian owners?
But there’s more than what meets the eye. Under the skin, engineers have revised numerous components to increase passenger comfort. For example, the CVT transmission’s housing has been redesigned for noise reduction purposes. In fact, a great deal of effort has been made to dampen noises, all of which have resulted in a very quiet and relaxing cabin.
While we’re on the subject of the cabin, there have also been revisions inside here. A new centre instrument panel now includes chrome accents around the air vents, and a brand new Subaru-designed infotainment system.
All 2015 Imprezas now get a LCD touch screen, regardless of trim level. Higher end models with the GPS satellite navigation system get a 7-inch screen whereas the others are fitted with a slightly smaller 6.2-inch unit. The larger screen even supports iPad-like pinch and scroll gestures due to a slightly more advanced touchscreen.
Regardless, both new infortainment offerings are quantum leaps over the outgoing system which was functional, but certainly not anything to brag about.
Both units support the ubiquitous selection of AM/FM, Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth audio streaming. Subaru’s Starlink system now makes its appearance on the Impreza, with the ability to stream content via a smartphone app.
Other revisions to the interior that I liked included subtle but useful things such as a dedicated spot for a cellphone that even fits my gargantuan new iPhone 6 Plus.
While Subaru’s marketing department has long advertised the active safety aspect of the company’s all-wheel-drive system, the engineers haven’t been resting on their laurels when it comes to passive safety improvements.
The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently stated that “Subaru has the most 2014 IIHS Top Safety Pick Awards of any brand”. And in fact, they’re the only manufacturer with IIHS Top Safety Picks for all models for 5 consecutive years (2010-2014).
New for the 2015 model year, is the availability of the EyeSight system for the Impreza. This is Subaru’s award winning collision-mitigation system and is the first comprehensive system of its kind to be offered in the compact car segment.
EyeSight can not only brake the car to a complete stop to avoid a crash, but also includes lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and adaptive cruise control. The system uses a stereoscopic (i.e. dual) colour camera system which is so advanced that it even watches for brake lights to determine what the cars ahead are doing.
At the launch event in Kelowna, the Subaru team set up a barrier for journalists to drive towards in order to test the effectiveness of EyeSight. While it was a bit unnerving to leave decisions up to the computer, the exercise did allow us to experience the different stages of driver alerts before the system actually takes over and halts the car (before hitting anything of course).
While some people have complained that these systems allow drivers to pay less attention to the road, I’ve always been of the mindset that if collision mitigation systems can save even one life, it’s worth it.
Improvements to the Driving Experience
Subaru offered a wide variety of cars for us to test drive throughout the day on a variety of road surfaces. With a quicker steering ratio than before, the revised cars are undoubtedly more fun-to-drive. A large increase to the car’s overall “fun” factor is also due to the revised auto box.
The CVT transmission now offers 6 virtual stepped ratios above a certain level of throttle application. This was in response to customer feedback which found that consumers still wanted the impression of traditional gears even when they understood the fuel economy benefits of a CVT. Steering mounted paddle shifters allow drivers access to these “gears” on demand.
I found the CVT-equipped cars to be comfortable everyday cruisers whereas the 5-speed manual transmission equipped cars were even more fun-to-drive. Despite the additional dampening, the tell tale boxer rumble was still delightfully audible in the manual box cars. More so than in the CVT-equipped ones.
All 2015 Imprezas are now also PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) certified. This means that additional emission scrubbers have been added to the 2.0-litre 148 horsepower 4-cylinder boxer engine to reduce greenhouse gases.
Customers can ease their conscience a little knowing that the polar bears will live a little longer, and the ice caps will melt a little slower.
It’s no coincidence that Subaru has recently been on a roll. Canadian sales are up almost 20 per cent and the company expecting to sell a record breaking 41,000 vehicles this year in Canada. This is in stark contrast to the 4,000 vehicles it was selling in Canada only two decades ago.
Clearly the company is doing something right, and one can trace back the start of their success to a critical decision made back in 1995. And that was to shake up the industry by implementing all-wheel-drive as a standard feature throughout the entire Subaru line-up.
The rest, as they say, is history
With our varying climate across different regions of the country, it’s no surprise that Subarus are a popular choice among Canadians, whether it’s snowy Montreal and Ontario or rainy Vancouver.
Subaru attributes this to their research, which shows that owners are so attached to their vehicles that when it comes time for a replacement (usually with another Subaru), they end up handing down their vehicles to their children so as to keep the cars still within the family.
With the improvements made to the Impreza, a competent car now becomes a whole lot better. And it’s certainly going to be a Subaru that any parent will be proud to pass down to their kids.