Smaller than the Legacy, Subaru’s long-lived compact sedan and hatchback share their basic body, and interior with the high-riding Crosstrek crossover. Last redesigned for the 2017 model year, the Impreza promises impressive fuel economy (up to 38 mpg on the highway). Drivers also get the benefit of Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive.
Safety gets the nod for the 2019 model year. Subaru’s “EyeSight” driver-assist package is now available for every Impreza with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), not just upper trim levels. Priced at $845, the option group is newly offered for base trim and remains optional for Premium and Sport models. It’s standard on the Limited edition. A 4.2-inch LCD instrument cluster, overhead console light, and individual tire-pressure monitoring system is included with EyeSight.
Subaru offers four Impreza trim levels: base, Premium, Sport, and Limited. Each is available in both the four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles.
In each Impreza, a 2.0-liter flat- (horizontally-opposed) four-cylinder sends power to all four wheels, via either a 5-speed manual transmission or Subaru’s CVT. Rated at a modest 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, the Impreza engine is one of the least powerful in any compact sedan.
In upper trim levels, the CVT incorporates a manual mode with seven simulated, preset ratios, selected with paddle shifters. Accelerating with the assistance of the paddles thus simulates the operation of a conventional automatic transmission.
Impressive crash-test results come from both federal and independent testers. The Impreza has earned five-star ratings in every category from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: overall, and for frontal and side impacts. Rollover resistance also got a five-star rating. That’s a calculated figure rather than one derived from testing, but few cars manage to attain that level. Imprezas also provide great outward vision.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated Impreza â€œGoodâ€ in every test, and declared its frontal crash-avoidance technology â€œSuperior.â€ Halogen headlights in lesser trims rated only â€œMarginal,” but the Limited”s automatic high-beam LED headlights earned a “Good” score.
All Imprezas are now available with active safety technology, in the form of Subaru’s “EyeSight” driver-assistance group. Standard with Limited trim, it’s optional for each lower trim level equipped with a CVT. EyeSight includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.
Prices do not include $885 destination charge.
Base 2.0i manual (sedan $18,595 hatchback $19,095) comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive, 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, carpeted mats, and 16-inch steel wheels. Substituting a CVT costs $1,000 additional.
2.0i Premium (sedan $21,595, hatchback $22,095) includes a CVT, alloy wheels, heated front seats, a CD player, and dual rear USB ports. The EyeSight safety group costs $1,395, but includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
2.0i Sport manual (sedan $22,195, hatchback $22,695) has a 5-speed manual gearbox with short-throw shifter, aluminum pedals, 18-inch alloy wheels, special suspension tuning, sport gauges, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 8.0-inch touchscreen. A CVT adds $800.
2.0i Limited (sedan $24,995, hatchback $25,495) comes with the CVT, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, keyless access, pushbutton start, 17-inch wheels, and the EyeSight safety group, including steering-responsive headlights and reverse automatic braking.
Subaru’s Crosstrek might offer greater flair, but its Impreza close cousin draws attention for reasons other than its looks. Clean, simple body lines have aged well enough.
All four trim levels can be configured with four-door sedan or five-door hatchback bodies. Hatchbacks promise greater utility, while their longer roofline is more appealing than the sedan’s roof.
Front-end styling is shared between the two body styles. A wide grille sits between large headlights that protrude well into the fenders. Steel wheels, fitted with hubcaps, on the base model look somewhat cheap. In addition to well-integrated, distinctive detailing, Sport trim includes more appealing 18-inch alloy wheels.
Comfortable and spacious, abundantly equipped, the Impreza cabin falls short only in imaginative design.
Soft-touch materials grace the dashboard and front doors. Controls are logically laid-out, with large climate-control vents flanking the 6.5-inch touchscreen. Sport and Limited trim levels substitute an 8.0-inch screen, adding stitching to the dashboard and door panels.
Tough-looking fabric upholsters the comfortable front seats, but the Limited’s leather isn’t particularly luxurious. Only Limited trim features a power driver’s seat, which omits lumbar adjustment.
Rear-seat riders enjoy good leg room and a well-contoured seat that actually bests some midsize sedans for comfort.
Boasting 55.3 cubic-foot capacity with rear seatbacks folded, the hatchback is especially impressive for cargo volume. Luggage space is good even with seatbacks up, at 20.8 cubic feet. Sedan trunks hold only 12.3 cubic feet.
Good road manners make the Impreza tempting, though acceleration can turn sluggish in highway driving. Fortunately, the CVT performs nicely in urban situations, complemented by snappy gas-pedal responses, producing a sprightly feel at lower speeds. That sensation doesn’t last long, so highway passing is a challenging endeavor and mountain grades can be impossible to surmount.
Imprezas handle well, delivering a comfortable and composed ride. Sharp, suitably-weighted electric power steering helps the Impreza zestfully tackle curvy roads.
Unique suspension and steering tuning in Sport trim adds a bit of joy to the drive, without impairing ride quality by much, but power remains limited. During hard turns, the Sport’s torque vectoring system tightens the inside wheel’s brake caliper.
Lack of a 6th gear in manual transmissions doesn’t help performance and feels imprecise, making the CVT a better choice. The ability to simulate gearchanges, selecting from a series of ratios, helps the CVT feel like a conventional automatic.
Standard all-wheel drive is a particularly welcome benefit, operating seamlessly. Shortage of power, despite the Impreza’s light weight, affects this compact’s ability to force its way through rainstorms and snowdrifts.
Fuel economy excels, for an all-wheel-drive vehicle, though it varies by body style and trim level. The CVT-equipped hatchback is EPA-rated at 28/36 mpg City/Highway, or 31 mpg Combined. Impreza Sports reduce each of those figures by 1 mpg.
Sedans fare slightly better, EPA-rated at 28/38 mpg City/Highway, or 32 mpg Combined with CVT, versus 27/36/30 mpg for the Sport. A manual-shift sedan is EPA-rated at 24/32 mpg City/Highway, or /27 mpg Combined, while a comparable Sport manages only 22/30/25 mpg.
Handling well and riding comfortably, Imprezas stand apart for their impressive all-weather capability, though not for performance in general. No wonder they’re popular in snowbelt regions. A spacious interior, especially in hatchback form, adds to its appeal. Best choice for value is the Impreza Premium: a sensible compact with few compromises, priced appropriately.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.