Competitors, pay close attention. This is how you communicate with the driver in the transition to the fully autonomous vehicle.
For a car that rings up at $29,260, the Subaru Impreza 2.0i Limited that showed up for testing in the 2017 Wards 10 Best UX competition – and ultimately made the list – had a lot going for it.
Voice activation, check. Adaptive cruise, check. Ditto blindspot detection, lane-change assist, pre-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keep assist.
That’s an awful lot of high-tech content for a car priced well below the industry average of nearly $34,000, and this one also came equipped with leather seating, keyless access and ignition, heated seats and mirrors and a top-notch Harman Kardon audio system.
But what really puts this car among this year’s 10 Best is its ability to calm the nerves when its driver-assistance systems are activated.
The chief feature is its stacked center display screens, the uppermost of which details the Eyesight active safety and other driver-assistance systems in action, letting the driver know it sees what’s ahead and is ready to react to it. Key information also is shown in the IP.
That upper display even shows brake lights illuminating as the car begins to brake, a “perfect intuitive telltale” of what’s going on, notes one 10 Best UX scorer.
The adaptive cruise control’s smooth braking and acceleration only add to the confidence factor. One judge reports completing a 75-mile (121-km) freeway trek from on-ramp to exit without having to touch the pedals.
“Overall, the best system for the money and then some,” he writes. “ACC indicator exactly what every manufacturer needs to do.”
Another scorer sums it up this way: “Other than the BMW 7-Series, this is the gold standard for ACC operation and showing you what it’s doing at the same time.”
The Impreza also was a 2017 Wards 10 Best Interiors winner, so the cabin – Subaru’s best execution to date – doesn’t detract from the user experience. In winning that award we noted its clean, well-thought-out design and use of upmarket materials marked “a giant leap forward for Subaru.”
We’ve yet to encounter the perfect voice-activation system, but the Impreza scores fairly well here too. Surprising was to find temperature settings can be controlled by vocal commands, a feature not found even in many luxury models tested.
Navigation worked well in testing, and map graphics are a cut above average. The Subaru StarLink Cloud Apps package adds another dimension, providing weather and parking info and access to Yelp, iHeart Radio and other infotainment services.
Few competitors offer as much in the way of active safety. Not only does the Impreza have automatic pre-collision braking, it features back-up emergency assist, so not only will it warn you of cross traffic when backing out of a crowded parking spot at the mall, it will help prevent a collision.
Simply put, few other vehicles in this compact segment deliver on as many UX fronts as the new Impreza.
For the rest of the field, the template’s there. Now take a close look.