The 2017 Impreza is the fifth generation of Subaru’s popular compact car, and it’s almost entirely new.
By Mark Richardson
The 2017 Impreza is the first vehicle to be built on Subaru’s new Global Platform, which will eventually be the basis for all the brand’s all-wheel-drive cars. The new platform is designed to be both safer and better handling, and about the only holdovers from the previous generation are the screws and fasteners.
The Impreza is available as either a sedan or, for an extra $900, a more versatile 5-door hatchback, and in four different levels of trim from $19,995 to just over $30,000.
We drove both versions of the car in wet weather in California. The roads were slippery, but the all-wheel-drive systems made the cars feel more secure. It was ideal Subaru weather.
The sedan we drove first was the Sport version, which starts at $24,395 with a 5-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission, which came with our tester, is an extra $1,300.
The whole car is a little larger – 26 mm longer and 37 mm wider – and that extra space is noticed inside.
The cabin seems more refined than most other cars at this price. The Sport trim comes with cloth seating, but has a larger central display screen than the less costly Touring trim – 8.0 inches compared to 6.3 inches.
The secondary display above the centre stack is similar to that in most Subarus and includes pop-up displays for climate control and fuel consumption. It’s more useful and better laid out than in previous generations.
All trim levels come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, so you can connect your smartphone to the car and see many of its displays on the centre screen.
The wider car means there’s more room between the seats, and there’s plenty of headroom for 6-foot-tall adults in the back. A third person on the rear seat will be a squeeze, but the cabin is spacious enough for four adults.
The redesigned seats mean there’s even some extra, wider space for the feet of the rear passengers to be tucked underneath.
The sedan has 348 litres of space in its trunk. That’s small in this class – the Honda Civic has 428 litres, or roughly 20% more. The trunk lid opening is wider though, making it easier to load, and Subaru says three golf bags will lie flat inside.
Both cars are slightly lower to the ground. The roof is 10 mm lower, but the seats are also lower inside the cabin and so there’s no compromise in space.
The new Impreza was designed in a wind tunnel to be as aerodynamic as possible, so every crease and wrinkle is there to better streamline the car.
On the Sport and Sport-Tech, the LED headlights are responsive to the steering, so they swivel when you turn the wheel, to see better around curves in the road.
Both Sport and Sport-Tech trims also feature blind-spot detection and rear detection as standard, with the side warning lights now relocated to the inside of the mirrors. Visibility all around the car is very good, in any case.
All Imprezas have the same 2.0-litre boxer-four engine, which is 80%new from before. It’s now direct injected for better fuel efficiency and a little more power, and it makes 152 hp.
All Imprezas also come with a paddle-shifted CVT that’s designed to mimic a 7-speed automatic, though the cheaper manual transmission is available on all but the Sport-Tech trim.
The car is certainly satisfying to drive, with firmer steering than before, but the engine feels underpowered. It’s good when you’ve built up to speed, but it takes a while to get there. It might be better with the stick-shift, but we didn’t get to try it.
At least the Impreza is rated as a partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV), producing far fewer smog-causing emissions than most other vehicles.
It rained throughout the day in central California, which was unusual and made the roads very greasy.
We switched to the 5-door, which was in the top-of-the-line Sport-Tech trim. It sells for $29,495 as a hatchback, and has 18-inch wheels and a firmer sport suspension. It also has active torque vectoring, sending power to the outside wheels around turns, for better cornering.
The Sport-Tech includes comfortable leather seats and red and silver stitching. The interior feels very refined. It’s spacious in the front and there’s more room now between the seats.
Our tester was also equipped with the optional Technology package. This is a $1,500 extra that includes Subaru’s third-generation Eyesight system. It offers lane-keeping assist and high-beam assist and even automatic braking in reverse if there’s an obstacle in the way.
The Eyesight system combines imagery from a pair of cameras on either side of the rear-view mirror with a radar sensor to detect obstacles and lane-markings ahead. It’s less expensive than the equivalent systems from most other manufacturers.
All the new Imprezas generally handle better than before, thanks to a body that’s 70% more rigid and rear anti-roll bars that allow only half as much body roll, mostly due to being fixed directly to the chassis.
The design and materials of the new Impreza also make it 40% stronger than before, so it offers more protection in a collision. The platform is designed to direct front impact forces toward the outer body of the car, avoiding the occupants, and Subaru hopes for a 5-star NCAP crash rating.
The 5-door is more versatile than the sedan, with 589 litres of cargo space behind the rear seats, and 1,566 litres when the seats are folded flat. Its hatch opening is also wider for easier loading.
Of course, fuel consumption is also improved in the new Impreza. We saw an average of 8.7 L/100 km, but we were also driving fairly briskly. The CVT-equipped sedan is officially rated with an average of 8.3 in the city and 6.4 on the highway. The 5-speed is rated at 10.0 and 7.5.
These are impressive numbers, but more impressive when you consider that all Imprezas are all-wheel drive. It’s the only car in its class that comes standard with AWD.
That all-wheel drive is probably what will sway the decision for most Impreza buyers. The old car was always a good car, but this new generation is improved in every way, both obvious and subtle.
Most of the features of the Impreza are also available on other competitive cars and at competitive prices, but not AWD. If you want power at all four wheels in a compact sedan or hatch, the Impreza is really your only affordable choice.
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