In like a lion, out like a lamb

Baz finds cornering the Impreza is a game of two halves

BARRY PARK

IíVE DISCOVERED a new game in the Subaru: if Iím driving a twisty section of road, I leftfoot trail-brake deep into a corner. This loads up the Imprezaís front end on corner entry, with weight shifting forward to lean on the outside 18-inch Yokohama. The squat centre of gravity Ė the low-mounted boxer engine endows the Impreza with a surprising ground-hugging ability Ė shifts subtly, endowing the front end with imperious grip.

Applying the throttle at this point, even before you reach the apex, helps to offset the dull-witted CVT transmission, as the clever electronic front diff kicks in to stop the inside front wheel from spinning. The Impreza then launches itself out of the corner as though itís being pulled by an invisible elastic band.

Iím not sure that this is the fastest way to get the 2.0i-S through a corner, but it sure is the most enjoyable. Where I live backs onto what must surely rank among Victoriaís best sections of road, and regular trips to far-flung soccer fields and waterways provide the perfect opportunity to turn off the main roads and take the more interesting route home.

However, using these backroads means Iíve also found the Imprezaís limits, and itís not the grip of those Yokohamas, which have been impressive in both wet and dry conditions. Nope. Itís that bloody CVT.

Hereís something akin to one of the besthandling small sedans on the market. But tap into the Imprezaís deep well of dynamic ability and the snoozy auto takes forever to recover from a hard braking manoeuvre, dithering for what seems like a lifetime if youíre just jumping straight off the brake pedal and onto the accelerator.

The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, meanwhile, take what seems like an eternity to flag their intentions to the transmission, despite my spicy vocal encouragement. And seven artificial steps?

Five would do nicely, thanks. Also, drive too enthusiastically while stringing close corners together and the brake pedal starts to get a bit long. Buttoning off a bit brings it back.

But I'm looking beyond these flaws at Subaru's whole package. The Impreza is still a deeply engaging thing to punt along Ė more often than not I still find I'm avoiding the major byways and taking the significantly less-straight way home.

SUBARU IMPREZA 2.0i-S

Date acquired: July 2017 Price as tested: $28,990 This month: 2001km @ 8.3L/100km Overall: 4665km @ 8.2L/100km acqu t mon 4

Heinous envy

Iím starting to have doubts that the sedan is the best-looking version of the Impreza. Yes, itís impressively proportioned, particularly alongside rivals such as the Chevrolet Cruze-based Holden Astra sedan, but every time the rear end of a hatchback Impreza hoves into view, the thought arises that it, and not the booted version, is the more attractive design. And after several trips to Bunnings Iíve found myself in situations where a more versatile hatch bodystyle would be welcome to stow bulkier purchases.

HARD TIMES

Overly firm cushioning on Imprezaís flat leather seats has Baz pining for the give of cloth trim