LA 2010:cool Subaru Impreza Concept

The list of positive attributes about Subaru’s compact Impreza is a long one. Tough build quality, permanent all-wheel-drive, plenty of interior space, the turbocharged WRX and STI models are a hoot, rock-solid stability in any weather, the ability to cover a patchy road at ridiculous speed with ease, etc. But there are two things the Impreza’s never been: efficient or attractive. Efficiency is an inherent problem with the design: permanent four wheel drive makes it heavier, and higher driveline losses mean more power is used to move the car. Ugly, though, is fixable. And you have to admit, even in blistered-fender WRX form, the current Impreza is dog-ugly.

Yuck. At least it’s beautiful on the inside. So when Subaru pulled the cover off the Impreza Concept at the LA Auto Show, there were gasps all around. It was a car that was clearly identifiable as an Impreza… but it didn’t sear your corneas when you look at it. Considering Subaru has sort of lost the styling plot in the last few years (compare the current Legacy to the old one!), it’s pretty surprising that they spit out such an attractive car.

The front end takes heavily from the new Legacy, but the proportions have been squashed downward a bit, and it doesn’t have that peaky-forehead pedestrian crash friendly look that the Legacy does. The huge air intakes seem superfluous considering it’s a naturally aspirated 2.0L boxer-4 under the hood, but presumably the turbo versions could need them. The lack of hood scoop might mean Subaru is doing away with the top-mount intercooler?

The rear end shows a lot more creative styling than the current Impreza. Check out that bevelled trunk lid! There’s actually a bit of Altima Coupe back here, if you ask me. I would doubt the integrated diffuser makes the production model, but the integrated exhaust outlets might. It seems like those tail lights probably make more sense when you view them in the flesh; here they look a little confusing.

The side profile has ties to the current Legacy and Impreza, with the solidly defined fender flares that blend into that deep recess on the lower portion of the doors, connecting the front and back fenders visually. The busy wheels will also likely not make it to production, but concept cars always have these. The greenhouse is refreshingly simple and sleek, pinching down to almost nothing at the D-pillar and making a straight cut line with the door. Very pretty from this angle, with some hints of Opel or Volvo from the side – uncharacteristically classy.

The interior is typical pie-in-the-sky show car fluff, with glass touch screen controls and LED lighting in places it doesn’t belong. I can see the basic dashboard shape transferring to the production version, if not all the pricey details. It’s clean and uncluttered – hopefully this transitions mostly intact to the real thing.

As far as mechanicals, the Impreza concept has the 2.0L version of Subaru’s next-generation flat 4 engine and a CVT gearbox. Subaru doesn’t quote any power or performance numbers, which probably don’t matter – this concept car is more about demonstrating the future styling of the Impreza than the mechanical bits. Expect the new car to be bigger in every dimension than the old one – what, they were going to make it smaller? – when it makes it’s production debut. It might be mostly more of the same underneath, but for those who drive and love Subarus, that’s a good thing – and if the real deal is this attractive when it hits the street, they will have fixed the Impreza’s biggest flaw.