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Subaru Impreza 2.0i SE Lineartronic

When I think of the Subaru Impreza, I think of blue paint, gold alloys and an outrageous spoiler. I think of the guy in school who was five years older and would drive around like a complete tosspot blasting terrible drum and bass. He’d obviously played Colin McRae Rally on Playstation one too many times.

But the car that got delivered to CC HQ was entirely different. Subaru has ditched the giant spoiler in favour of a subtler design approach in an effort to distance the car from the yobbish boyracer, and instead tap into the larger market of everyday family runners. But does it deliver?

There’s no getting around the fact that the market is dominated by SUVs. They are literally everywhere you look. And nowadays, if a new car gets unveiled at a glitzy launch that you don’t need a ladder to climb in to, it is met by confusion and bewilderment. Saloons are a dying breed then…

A week on the road in the Impreza made me realise why the model is still on the market today. Quite simply, it offers a driving feel that SUVs cannot. This might be something to do with its rally DNA.

Don’t get me wrong—I am by no means implying that the Impreza is a speed demon. In fact, Subaru now heads its marketing campaign for the model with three words: reliable, resilient and capable. This would imply that the days of seeing those gold alloys blast past in a pillar of smoke (and shit music) are long gone. However, when you get on a nice winding country road the hatchback still manages to deliver a thrill.

And it’s certainly not down to the 2-litre direct injected petrol engine. New for the model year, this engine was apparently designed so that it could deliver maximum transfer of power, but it doesn’t feel particularly punchy. From a standing start a moderately brisk power walker could probably leave the Impreza for dust. In fairness though, the engine doesn’t struggle when you get up to 70mph and need an extra kick to get away from the BMW driver who has come right up your arse on the motorway.

Instead, the thrill comes as a result of some clever work on the chassis and suspension. Essentially, everything has been made more rigid when compared to the previous generation Impreza. This has resulted in enhanced cornering and manoeuvrability. It feels like the body sticks to the tarmac, but a very comfy seat also means the driver's coccyx does not shatter when hitting a pothole.

One of the big areas of focus for Subaru over the past few decades has been safety, and in recent years the company has been rolling out its EyeSight driver assistance suite across its range—and in all markets globally. This was the first time I had experienced the system, which comprises six technologies: pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, lane keep assist and lead vehicle start alert.

I’ve tried stacks of these driver assistance systems, but this is among the best on the market. EyeSight does not bombard the driver with beeps and buzzes like some other systems. And when it does sound an alert or apply some assistance, it does so with accuracy. The result is an almost natural and relaxed drive. I didn’t have any butt-clenching moments with my foot over the brake pedal just in case the radar didn’t react in time.

So the Impreza is comfy, feels safe to drive, and can bring a smile to your face when taking a few bends. It may not offer the space or commanding seating position that an SUV does, but it is undoubtedly a hatchback that ticks a bunch of boxes. After all, we don’t all have six dogs and a need to feel like we can bully others off the road.