Writing about Subarus is not for the faint at heart. It is probably for the best, since the foremost Subaru expert is apparently Njoki Chege, closely followed by Jim Subaru Baraza and neither is known for their subtleness.
These days I see fewer blue Subarus driven as fast and recklessly as NTSA or miraa Proboxes about to crash. Did their owners die in grisly crashes, grow up or did they move on to second-hand Audis and BMWs so they can be dicks on the road albeit quietly?
In their place though, there is the new model Impreza (Anenis). Damned thing looks like someone trimmed a Toyota Fielder, cutting off all the fat to make it look less of an obese baby whale and more like a plump silver colored gecko! Most of them have 1500cc of thrust but sadly none of the superb Subaru all-wheel drive that lesbians in North America fell in love with 2 decades ago.
The internet tells me that Toyota has been buying up Subaru stakes which is why the new Subarus are just Toyotas with a Subaru badge. I wasn’t sure so I took my friends car for a spin from Nanyuki to Nyeri. The plan was to drive the car hard, one way and easy, the other way.
The Othaya-Nanyuki Road is an uphill collection of bends - sharper than your mother in-law’s tongue and seemly folding into each other- a bit like her arguments too.
The car starts smoothly giving you the impression that it is in a hurry. Get it to 60 Km/h which does not take long and then try to overtake an old Toyota Caldina. You floor the gas and it gives a throaty hum. It sort of kicks you back to the seat and overtakes but it takes a bit longer than you were expecting.
Along the road, you decide to overtake a police Land cruiser that is clearly doing a 100 Km/h. Again, you floor the gas and the car roars to life. You feel it taking big gulps of air although there is no turbo and you wait for the bust of speed to kick in, but it doesn’t. Since you have no intention of becoming a hood ornament for the oncoming Garissa bound bus, you eat your humble pie and slide behind the Land Cruiser which is still doing 100. When the road is clear, push it all the way to 120 and blast past the police. Clearly, there is a reason you always get stopped.
Now the cracks are beginning to show, or your expectations were too high. I thought this would give me the driving pleasure of a blue modified Subaru dragging an exhaust the size of KQs losses while passing for a respectable car. Wrong on both counts. While given two runways, the car can max out at 180, any crafty driving or attempts to overtake vehicles driving past 100 should be done with care. It makes a lot of noise and you would think you were speeding until you check the speedometer and realize you only went up by 5 km/h.
Anyone who has been on the Othaya-Nanyuki Road knows of the twisty road leading to Nyeri town. It is an uphill collection of bends sharper than your mother in-law’s tongue and seemly folding into each other- a bit like her arguments too. Driving fast up those bends in an Impreza gives you the feeling you are trying to drive on an actual road while sitting in a simulator. You can press the accelerator to the floor and even to the road, but the car just won’t go anywhere. This is quite a waste because I discovered the car has the grip to actually put up quite a show.
The car is pretty stable though and it has no problems gliding through bends at 100. There is an overtaking style that involves getting too close to the car ahead of you, then out, over and back in involving a bit of swerving, so it is not for children. You can do this with the Impreza if you are overtaking a boda boda or a car moving below a 100. It is so low that it feels like if you scrap a bump you feel like you are about to blister your ass. That is pretty good for stability and it tells you the car can carry a decent engine and take some hard driving.
However, the greasy monkeys assembling the car forgot they were making a sports car after their funding got slashed on the first day of designing the car. They threw drum brakes in the back and added the “soundtracks” without the corresponding power. As a result, we have a considerably heavy car for the cc. Nevertheless, this makes it rather comfortable on a minor rough road, if only for a short distance.
It is comfortable to sit in and quite safe to crash in if you don’t wrap it around an electric post.
On the same trip back, I decided to treat the car like a normal car and not put Subaru expectations on it. I was pleasantly surprised. It runs smoothly and seems to prefer to drive itself rather than be driven. When you get it to a 100, it is happy to stay there and only requires a gentle foot at the gas to keep it there. Try doing that with a smaller car and you will notice as soon as your foot is off the gas the car goes back to 60. Consequently, its consumption can be as low as 15km/l and this is still from aggressive driving. From Nyeri to Nanyuki which is mostly uphill, I consumed around KES 340 fuel. It also doesn’t complain going up gentle inclines if you don’t attempt to make it fly up. It is comfortable to sit in and the bumps and portholes will melt beneath you if you are not too harsh.
Yet, make no mistake about it, this is not an off-road car in any shape or form and for all the bumps and portholes you hit at a high speed will be repaid by a visit to the mechanic to replace your suspension bits.
Would I recommend it? Probably? It is comfortable to sit in and quite safe to crash in if you don’t wrap it around an electric post. And as long as you don’t try to do any acrobatics with the car, you can drive around pretending to own a sports car. If you enjoy driving you are better off with a Colt Ralliart, or Honda stream. Better still if you want a Subaru get something with an engine above 2000 cc. It is still going to be bulky and unwieldy as a drunk octogenarian but when it warms up, it will carry its weight better than the little Impreza.
Verdict: buy any Premio of the same cc it beats the Impreza in performance, comfort, and power. The only thing Subaru does better is pretend to be a better car than it really is.