Subaru Impreza hatchback - Engines, drive & performance (2018-2020)

The Subaru Impreza attacks corners with verve, but lacklustre engines let the side down

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3.3 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

This Impreza's immediate predecessor was rather less inspiring to drive than some of its forebears and the latest model goes quite a long way to restoring a tarnished reputation. Subaru has reinforced the bodywork to make it up to 100% stiffer than before, while the suspension has been redesigned for a ride height that's 5mm lower.

These efforts have paid off: the car leans only a little during spirited cornering, such behaviour being encouraged by nicely weighted steering and huge reserves of grip from its four-wheel-drive system. There's good news on the CVT automatic gearbox front, too: it does a convincing job of simulating a dual-clutch transmission when you make manual gearchanges using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

Unfortunately, it resorts to type during fast acceleration, noisily holding onto high engine revs for longer than you'd like. It's a shame, too, that the paddles are only offered with the 2.0-litre engine.

Subaru Impreza petrol engines

It's difficult to make a case for the 112bhp 1.6-litre engine. It only costs a little less than the 2.0-litre, isn't much more economical and is considerably less powerful – and also does without those enjoyable steering-wheel-mounted gearshift paddles. Factor in very disappointing acceleration and it becomes clear that the 2.0-litre is the one to have.

With 154bhp, the 2.0-litre is still no powerhouse – a 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds is a long way from matching front-wheel-drive rivals, and the way it delivers its limited muscle is rather less punchy than turbocharged engines do. There's enough go to confidently slot into fast-moving motorway traffic, though, and cross-country driving is still rewarding.

Thanks to its unconventional (yet traditional for Subaru) boxer layout, it's a charismatic engine, too, although it does get rather noisy when pushed to the limit.

Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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