For some time before 2017, the 'Impreza' badge had designated an unassuming, modestly performing petrol-powered five-door hatchback notable only for its unique provision of AWD. So it is with this fifth generation model, which at first glance served up a recipe that didn't initially seem very different to that which was provided before. Same flat four Boxer engine. Same CVT auto gearbox. Same Symmetrical 4WD system. Bear with us though, because radical changes really were made here. The most significant one relates to this MK5 version's stiffer and much more rigid 'Subaru Global Platform', which reduces body roll, improves refinement and allows for a suspension set-up that, though still a little firm, allows this car to ride poor paved surfaces with a much greater degree of supple confidence. The steering was more responsive too. It was all enough to make the driving dynamics of this Subaru far more competitive against more ordinary front-driven Focus-class rivals.
As we've said, the engines are the usual units that Subaru specialises in - flat four Boxer powerplants, with choice in this MK5 design being limited to a couple of petrol units only available mated to the brand's Lineartonic automatic gearbox. There's a choice of either a 114PS 1.6 or the 156PS 2.0-litre variant we'd prefer, an engine able to return 42.8mpg on the combined cycle and 152g/km (both NEDC figures). Both powerplants were re-worked with higher compression ratios and much lower levels of internal friction that reduced the level of the usual familiar 'Boxer' thrum. They were only offered in combination with the brand's well-proved Symmetrical 4WD system, which is a permanent set-up - in contrast to the kind of part-time 4x4 package you'd get on a comparably priced 4WD compact SUV.