STOCKHOLM syndrome is a real thing. I know this, because I seem to have fallen in love with my captor, the Subaru Impreza.
We’ve spent more than six months together, with at least two hours a day on every workday – maybe more considering the crushing weight of roadworks reducing Melbourne’s traffic to a crawl – spent staring at the rear end of the car in front. And I’ve enjoyed it.
It has given the impression of saving my arse on numerous occasions; the autonomous emergency braking via its stereo-camera Eyesight system stepping in to avoid real – and sometimes imagined – danger in front. It has more than adequately warmed my buttocks in the depths of winter – the heated seats so effective I could only ever tolerate its lowest setting – cut wide tracts of light through the dark shadows of night as the clever active beams peered around corners, and when asked, acted like a properly engaging, chuckable sports sedan.
But not every relationship is perfect, and so it is with the Impreza. The active cruise control’s constant beeping in heavy traffic was painful to the point of some rather negative vocal feedback. Hard, dark plastics dominate the cabin, making it feel a bit dated in the face of some surprising advances made by key competitors. The leather seats, too, were firm to the point of inducing a bit of backache on longer trips – the more comfy cloth seats on lesser Impreza variants started to look appealing for all the wrong reasons.
What struck me, though, was the ease with which the Impreza adapted to family life. Forcing three children to fill the back row would induce typical grumbles, but once settled in to the space afforded by the 2670mm wheelbase, the complaints quickly stopped (although some grumbles about the intrusive transmission tunnel prevailed). That agreeable rear seat accommodation is also thanks to the generous glasshouse compared with some design-heavy rivals that reduce rear-seat visibility to pillbox proportions.
Despite all that glass, cabin climate comfort received a big tick, via an air-conditioning system that could turn over a huge volume of air on even the warmest or coldest of days, compensating somewhat for the lack of rear-seat air vents.
I never quite warmed to the boot, though.
The Impreza sedan is sweetly proportioned, but a constant niggle in my brain said I would have preferred the hatchback that, to my eye at least, has s more balanced appearance. Further, trying to find the driver’s footwell-mounted boot release lever in the dark (it’s right beside the fuel-cap release) was never fun.
What shines, though, was how engaging the Impreza was from behind the wheel. Yes, it has a CVT that helps drive down the fuel figure, but tolerate the Impreza’s dim-witted steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and tap the sweet, sweet chassis that sits underneath it, and the flaws are eventually forgotten. In that moment, I’ve become the romantic hostage again.
When I mentally added up all the bits of equipment I didn’t use, there were a surprising number of them. One of the first things I switched off was the lane-assist system, when it quickly became just another annoying beep. The CD player never turned a disc in anger, the CVT made the automatic hill holder function redundant, and the voice recognition, well, for the brief period I used it, it thought I was speaking another language. I did miss the clarity of digital radio; the Subie’s crisp audio was made for it.
We logged an unusually high number of kilometres behind the wheel of our long-term Impreza, well beyond Subaru’s 12,500km recommended service interval. Normally I service a vehicle by the book, but Subaru was happy to keep the sedan on the road, instead going by the recommended date for the next service. That first service would have cost me $348.30 according to Subaru’s capped-price servicing program that covers the first three rounds of scheduled maintenance.