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The new Subaru Impreza – revealed at the New York Auto Show last spring, and finally set to arrive at dealerships – is more important to Subaru than it looks because it’s the first vehicle to use the maker’s all-new global platform. This will be shared among all the next-generation Subarus, and it’s intended to improve the vehicles’ safety and agility. Does it work?

We can’t vouch for the safety, fortunately, which includes more use of high-strength steel and a better distribution of the overall load to help protect occupants in a collision. The main body is 70 per cent more rigid than before, which is a good thing.

Photos by Mark Richardson

A crash is less likely if you opt for the technology package in the regular trims, or the sport trims. For about an extra $3,000, these will combine Subaru’s twin-camera Eyesight system with sonic sensors to provide near-complete detection of objects front and rear, as well as blind-spot monitoring to the sides. Other vehicles have similar systems but Subaru’s costs less than most.

The new Impreza is wider than before, and its curved roofline is lower, which all provides more space. We’ll take Subaru’s word for this – the difference is not really obvious inside, which has plenty of room for passengers both front and back. It’s comfortable, with redesigned seats, and features all the connectivity drivers expect, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.

It’s quiet inside, too. There’s more soundproofing and the all-around design is smoother into the wind, decreasing noise and improving fuel consumption. Active front grille shutters help with that – they redirect the windflow around the car when it’s not needed under the hood to cool the engine.

We drove the CVT-equipped Impreza, which costs $1,300 more than the standard five-speed. This is not a powerful car, whining when the gas pedal is pushed hard and building to speed instead of surging forward, but it is agile and handles confidently through corners. The re-engineered CVT has paddle shifters on the steering wheel that mimic a seven-gear transmission and they make a sportier drive more enjoyable.

Steering ratios on all trims are tightened (13:1 compared to last year’s 16:1) for a firmer feel and quicker response, while body roll is reduced 50 per cent. New for this year is a Sport-Tech trim level that includes sport-suspension tuning, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and active torque vectoring – this reduces power to the inner front wheel while adding it to the outer wheels. We didn’t drive the Sport-Tech, but it should improve steering response and traction. All Imprezas use the maker’s renowned symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system.

There’s only one choice of engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer motor that’s well-known to Subaru enthusiasts, but this version is 80 per cent new. It has direct fuel injection; the 2016 used sequential multiport injection, and if you need the difference explained, just accept that “direct” is considerably better controlled and more efficient. This improves fuel economy and helps boost horsepower by four horsepower to 152.

Again, we have to take Subaru’s word on the fuel efficiency. Official Canadian figures are not yet released, and probably won’t be until it arrives in dealerships in December. All Imprezas are available as either four-door sedans or (for an extra $900) five-door hatchbacks. Prices are pretty much unchanged: the least expensive four-door trim level starts at $19,995, as before, and rises through five more trims to the top-end “Sport-Tech with Technology” that lists at $30,995 for the hatchback.

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