|IMPREZA HOT HATCH ON WAY|
Auto Express can exclusively reveal the Japanese firm has outrageous plans for the next Impreza. Altering a formula which has proved a success for the past 12 years is a bold move, but the introduction of an Impreza hatch follows Mitsubishi's plans to radically alter its Evo line-up.
The decision confirms comments made by Impreza chief engineer, Hiroshi Mori, who told Auto Express that the next-generation car "might take a new design direction, and could be smaller". So why have designers turned their back on saloons? The new car will be smaller, lighter and cheaper to produce than the four-door, and should have better handling, thanks to its short wheelbase and stiffer body.
Led by ex-Alfa Romeo and SEAT designer Andreas Zapatinas, Subaru's styling department has not only opted for a squared-off finish at the rear, but a long nose as well - bringing the new model into line with the look of many European hatches. The front overhang will house the turbo motor's intercooler, which will be moved from its current position at the top of the engine bay.
With the new car not due until 2007, Subaru has a facelifted Impreza saloon already waiting in the wings. Exclusively revealed by Auto Express in Issue 838, it will be launched at the end of this year, before going on sale early in 2006.
The Impreza hatch will sit on a shortened Legacy chassis. The plan is to introduce basic 1.5 and 2.0-litre variants, with flagship models coming with a 2.0-litre 300bhp turbo motor. Five and six-speed manual gearboxes will be available, along with a five-speed auto.
Despite the extra versatility provided by the five-door body shape, engineers won't compromise the Impreza's handling for practicality. Unlike the Legacy, which has compact rear suspension to maximise boot space, the Impreza will use a layout that will optimise driving dynamics.
To enhance the cornering potential even more, engineers and test drivers will also develop an advanced version of the current Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD). This allows more torque to be channelled to the rear wheels for sharper turn-in.
No matter how good the handling, it remains to be seen whether loyal fans will warm to the idea of an Impreza hatchback.