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2016 Subaru Impreza Sport Hybrid debuts in Japan, will it sell in U.S.?

Auto manufacturers generally put a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain in popular models in order to gain an instant foothold in the market. Subaru opted to put its first gasoline-electric hybrid powerplant in its XV Crosstrek subcompact crossover SUV. Many wondered why the Impreza model wasn’t selected first to receive this powertrain. However, Subaru plans to release the Impreza Sport Hybrid in Japan and we wonder if it will go on sale in the U.S. and if so, how well will it sell?

On July 10, 2015 the Subaru Impreza Sport Hybrid goes on sale bearing many similarities to the XV Crosstrek Hybrid that went on sale here in 2013. Considering the Impreza is a volume seller both here and in Japan, the move to add a hybrid variant to the Impreza-line is a sound decision. The high-utility Subaru Forester would have also been an excellent choice for a hybrid hauler in the U.S.

The Subaru Impreza Sport Hybrid promises to be a fun yet highly fuel efficient second hybrid offering for Subaru. Tests in Japan have yielded an impressive 20.4 km/liter (equal to nearly 48 mpg). The electric assist offers an instant-on throttle response and smooth transitions when engaging the gasoline engine. Coupled with a hybrid-optimized Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and Subaru’s legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, the Subaru Impreza Sport Hybrid offers added performance to the little hatchback. The hybrid system benefits from having a regenerative charge under braking and can optimize the battery power while the vehicle operates at high speeds, improving the overall economy to be the most fuel efficient all-wheel drive vehicle in the world.

Subaru-Impreza-Sport-Hybrid-Photos-AutoNation-0818

Beyond the powertrain technology, the Subabru Impreza Sport Hybrid integrates several visual and aerodynamic upgrades with fresh technology. Exterior-wise the Subaru Impreza Sport Hybrid benefits from slighly wider tires all around to improve the grip and stance of the vehicle. The sculpted front end is unique to the Impreza Sport Hybrid, and the redesigned side-sill design enhances the overall appearance yet maintains aerodynamic integrity. A unique roof spoiler has also been added to enhance aerodynamics at high speed. The rear tail lights have been replaced with LED units not found on other Impreza trims and complete the aesthetic treatment of the Impreza Sport Hybrid.

For the interior, Subaru has added a few treatments to set it apart from other Imprezas. A number of blue accents along with piano black trim and metal insets made add flash to the Japan-spec model’s interior. There is also a hybrid-spec EyeSight system that maximizes fuel economy in adaptive cruise mode by making use of regenerative braking system. The rear cargo area features a flat-bottom design in order to ensure the hybrid system’s batteries and related electronics do not interfere with carrying capacity.

With no official plans to bring the Impreza Sport Hybrid to the U.S., we wonder if the model would be a resounding success here. While the XV Crosstrek Hybrid has to fight struggle for buyers against other popular hybrids on the market, the brand-loyalty of the Impreza, coupled with the eco-responsible hybrid system, could make the model a hit with U.S. consumers.

Press Release:

Subaru Launches “Impreza Sport Hybrid” in Japan

Tokyo, June 19, 2015 – Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the manufacturer of Subaru automobiles, will launch an “Impreza Sport Hybrid” on July 10, 2015, through Subaru dealerships in Japan.

The new Impreza Sport Hybrid is the second fun-to-drive hybrid from Subaru, following on from the Subaru XV Hybrid launched in 2013. The motor assist function offers smooth, linear acceleration, which is teamed with sharp, sporty handling to bring out the distinctive enjoyment of driving a hybrid model while achieving fuel economy of just 20.4 km/liter (JC08 mode).*1 Designed to make optimum use of the low center of gravity and superior weight balance that characterize Subaru’s unique Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) layout, the electric motor and high-voltage batteries of the hybrid version are positioned for superb driveability. The hybrid model further enhances the appeal of the Impreza Sport lineup by embracing Subaru design values to achieve its own sporty, top-quality exterior look and a refined, up-to-the-minute interior style.

Main Features

Hybrid System and Power Unit

Motor assist function facilitates both smooth acceleration and low fuel consumption. Symmetrical AWD layout of Subaru’s unique AWD hybrid system offers superb driveability.

Energy management controls for the hybrid system batteries have been re-engineered to utilize regenerated energy at high speeds. Fuel economy has been enhanced by altering controls to boost regeneration frequency and make active use of battery power.

Specially designed Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) incorporates hybrid drive motor. Reduced friction and modified torque converter fluid characteristics have enhanced fuel economy while providing more direct driving sensation.

Hybrid-Spec EyeSight

EyeSight*2 is included as standard equipment on all grades. Coordinated control of the hybrid system and EyeSight enables the Eco-Cruise Control function to make the maximum use of electric vehicle driving and regenerative braking when Adaptive Cruise Control is operating, thereby improving fuel consumption under everyday conditions.

Packaging and Utility

Installing batteries and high-voltage components essential to the hybrid system, including the inverter and DC converter, as a single unit beneath the cargo space secures flat, user-friendly storage for luggage.

Driveability and Comfort

Suspension settings customized for the Impreza Sport Hybrid ensure that it is fun to drive, achieving the perfect balance of agile sportiness and superior ride comfort.

(1) Handling and Passenger Comfort

Teamed with the superior weight balance of the hybrid system, friction control dampers that enhance initial responsiveness and optimized suspension settings assure feel-good handling in sync with driver intent, together with outstanding ride quality.

(2) Tire Size

The 205/50R17 tires used on the gasoline model have been swapped for slightly wider, larger-diameter 215/50R17 wheels to achieve the very best balance between grip and fuel economy.

(3) Noise Insulation

Coupled with use of hydraulic engine mounts specially designed for the hybrid model, optimum placement and enhancement of sound insulation and absorption materials reduce vibration and noise. The passenger compartment has been designed for quiet and comfort.

Exterior and Interior Styling

Exclusive hybrid-grade styling features a top-quality sporty exterior and an advanced, refined interior.

(1) Exterior

Strongly contoured front end emphasizes the wide and low look exclusive to the hybrid grade, while new large-diameter tires and special side-sill spoilers create a dynamic, accented side view.

Rear end has been designed to embody the distinctive functionality and innovativeness of the hybrid model, featuring a roof-end spoiler to enhance aerodynamics and low-energy consumption LEDs in the rear combination lamps.

(2) Interior

Blue accents exclusive to the hybrid model, piano-black panels, and metallic trim combine to evoke a quality, up-to-the-minute feel.

Top-grade model features silver Ultrasuede*3 seats with blue stitching for even higher quality and refinement. Other popular high-spec features include power seats for the driver and front passenger.

Sales Target 500 units per month

Body Colors
Ice silver metallic, crystal black silica, crystal white pearl,* deep sea-blue pearl, quartz blue pearl, and Venetian red pearl.

Eco-car tax incentives: Japan’s tax reduction system to promote the use of environmentally friendly vehicles.

*1. Data verified by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
*2. EyeSight (ver.2) as it is known on the Japanese market.
*3. Hybrid 2.0i-S EyeSight grade only. Ultrasuede® is a registered trademark of Toray Industries, Inc.

Fuel consumption figures were achieved under the set test conditions. Actual fuel consumption may differ depending on usage environment (climate, traffic congestion, etc.) and driving style (sharp acceleration, air conditioner use, etc.).

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