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New Car Review

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SEE ALSO:Subaru Buyer's Guide

Subaru has been selling its automotive products in the U.S. for about 25 years. During this period it has developed a reputation for building sturdy, reliable small sedans and wagons. A horizontally-opposed liquid cooled engine driving the front or all-wheels and particularly individualistic styling have become Subaru trademarks. The excellent inclement-weather traction abilities of its sedans and wagons has led to its popularity in many of the states where cold and stormy weather is the norm during many months of the year. Because of its sturdiness, practicality and inherent whimsicality, Subaru's have achieved something rare in the automotive world: they have developed a cult following. People who own Subarus love Subarus and buy more Subarus. While, in one respect this is wonderful for the manufacturer, it does tend to limit its market share.

In an attempt to appeal to the unconverted, Subaru brought forth the new Impreza. It is more mainstream than earlier models, but it is still undeniably Subaru. It uses the engineering expertise and technology acquired from the sporty SVX and larger Legacy models. It is available in sedan or sport wagon form, with the choice of front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive. We opted for the all-wheel drive sport wagon as it best exemplifies the all-weather practicality of Subaru.

APPEARANCE: The new wagon, like many Subaru's before it, features distinctive body styling highlighted by a very low hoodline, a slightly domed roof, unique rear quarter windows and a large rear hatch. Its smooth, rounded lines are accented by a cabin with lots of tinted glass. Black trim around the window area, the large side mirrors and side rub strip contrast with the monochrome paint finish. Optional alloy wheels shod with Michelin all-season tires hint at its sport potential.

COMFORT: In the LS trim the Impreza sport wagon is impressively equipped with all of the bells and whistles that provide this potential workhorse with a flavor of luxury. Its interior is well-designed with controls that are simple and well-placed. The front semi-bucket seats are supportive and comfortable on day-long drives. An easy to set and tune AM/FM/cassette radio puts out excellent sound. The heater/air conditioner quietly maintains and even temperature throughout the cabin, and has ducting to the rear seats. The windows, side mirrors and door locks are powered, and the front seat shoulder straps are height adjustable. A tilt and slide sunroof is part of the LS package. The wagon's rear storage is adequate for most conditions, and when additional area is needed the rear seats fold down and forward and add 12 more cubic feet of cargo space. Behind the rear seats there are small removable storage bins designed to accommodate plastic shopping bags providing a practical convenience.

SAFETY: In addition to the positive handling and traction control provided by full-time all-wheel drive, standard safety features include dual front air bags, anti-lock brakes, and side door beams.

ROADABILITY: The all-wheel-drive Impreza is very nimble and a delight on the road. Steering is light and responsive. Urban traffic is no problem, and this sport wagon is great fun on back roads. These positive handling factors are the result of slightly modifying and downsizing the proven platform and independent suspension features of the larger Subaru Legacy models. The LS wagon is fitted with independent suspension plus stabilizer bars, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes and speed sensitive power steering. Other than a slight growl from the engine when accelerating the LS is very quiet on the road. All-around vision is excellent due to the low hood line and full-windowed cabin.

PERFORMANCE: The Impreza is powered by a 110 horsepower, 1.8 liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder, single overhead cam, 16-valve engine with multi-port fuel injection and distributorless ignition. Its computerized management system features a "learn" control which allows the engine to operate at maximum efficiency under a variety of driving conditions that it retains in its memory. For added safety and control the electronic four-speed automatic transmission is interlocked to the ABS system which allows it to downshift to third gear under hard breaking circumstances. Adroit use of the automatic transmission provides adequate power for most driving conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: The Impreza sport wagon LS is a good example of great packaging. Small on the outside for maneuverability in traffic and ease of parking, it is big enough on the inside to hold four adults and their luggage quite comfortably. It is a vehicle that must be driven to be appreciated.


	   Base Price              $ 18,950
	   Price As Tested         $ 19,905
	   Engine Type             H-4, sohc - 16 v, mpfi
	   Engine Size             1.8 liter/111 cid   
	   Horsepower              110 @ 5600
	   Torque (ft/lbs)         110 @ 4400
	   Wheelbase/Length        99"/172"
	   Transmission            all-wheel drive, four-speed auto w/od
	   Curb Weight             2900
	   Pounds per Horsepower   26
	   Fuel Capacity           13
	   Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular (87 oct)
	   Tire                    Michelin MXL P175/70R14 M+S
	   Brake                   anti-lock standard      disc/disc
	   Drive Train             front engine/full-time all wheel drive
	   EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
	     city/highway/observed      22/28/27.2     
	   0 to 60 mph                  12.3 sec            
	   1/4 mi (E.T.)                19.1 sec  
	   Coefficient of drag (cd)     .32