I MUST start this appraisal with an apology.

When I said some months ago that the then newly redesigned Impreza had all the aesthetic beauty of someone you wouldnt touch with your mate's barge pole, never mind your own, I was being a little hasty.

I think, at the time, I was still a little upset that you had ditched the beloved booted version in favour of a hatchback and rushed to judgment.

Although an understandable reaction, it was, I fear, an error.

Having driven the Impreza again I am now more than happy to set the record straight.

I am now warming to shape in the same way that I didn't like pasta as a child, but now believe it to be a more than adequate addition to my diet.

Its taken time, but now I realise it was a lot of fuss about relatively little.

Instead of comparing past and present, I should actually have considered each car in isolation.

Do that and the new Impreza becomes, well, impressive.

Now they've come up with a diesel it's starting to make even more sense.

Whereas before you could watch the fuel gauge plummet as you went, with this latest addition to the stable you can drive by petrol stations almost nonchalantly, returning, as it does, around 48mpg on the combined cycle. Drive conservatively and it's possible to go 670 miles on a full tank and when have you been able to say that before about an Impreza?

You still get the huge bonnet scoop, low stance and big alloys and a 0-60mph time of around nine seconds and top speed of close to 130mph is not to be sniffed at either.

Power comes courtesy of Subaru's famed Boxer engine, which, because its compact, means it can be sited lower down in the chassis, aiding the cars handling and reducing the risk of body roll. With 258lb/ft of torque theres also plenty of pulling power, whichever of the six gears you are in.

Where the Impreza really comes into its own, though, is with its surefootedness.

I drove it in the type of snow that would have scared the bejeezus out of a great many other cars, never mind their drivers. Packed hard, with ice beneath, the Impreza, with its permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, never batted an eyelid. I can honestly say I have never felt safer behind the wheel in such conditions than I did in this car.

My initial impressions of the interior of the car havent changed. It still looks somewhat low rent compared with some of its rivals. But although there's plenty of plastic, everything seems sturdily built and it should stand the test of time.

I also like the way the needles, bathed in neon blue, sweep the clocks when you flick the ignition, but that's maybe more to do with the small boy in me than anything else.

The Impreza diesel comes with climate control air conditioning, Xenon headlamps complete with pop-up washers, four power windows, 6CD autochanger, front foglamps, heated front seats and cruise control. The door mirrors can also be folded with the touch of a button, are electrically heated and adjustable.

It comes in two spec levels, RC and RX, with the latter costing around £2,000 more, but equipped with keyless smart entry, an electric sunroof, rear privacy glass, full leather trim and electric adjustment of the driver's seat.

Whoever said first impressions were the ones that mattered? With the Impreza it was the second one that mattered most.