Want an affordable and fuel-efficient compact car with all-wheel-drive? Subaru's Impreza sedan and hatchback are your best options - and aside from the thirsty, dated Mitsubishi Lancer, really your only options.
Subaru recently redesigned the Impreza with an emphasis on gas mileage, cutting out excess weight, adding a fuel-thrifty continuously variable transmission and installing a smaller, more efficient engine. While the new car isn't quite as quick as the old model, it's cable of returning up to 37 mpg on the highway - an impressive figure for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Outside, the Impreza looks more focused than its somewhat soft and rounded predecessor. Sleek headlights, a Legacy-inspired radiator grille, well-integrated fender flares and an almost fastback-like roofline highlight the sedan. Inside, the interior is simple but highly functional, with a sporty three-spoke steering wheel and intuitive center stack controls.
The Impreza is available with an updated version of Subaru's Starlink infotainment system. Through a user's Bluetooth-connected smartphone, Starlink provides access to Aha radio, which offers tens of thousands of stations of Web-based content like Slacker, MOG and Rhapsody.
The hatchback offers a healthy 22.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and folding the rear seats down unlocks 52.4 cubes.
Under the Hood
The Impreza is powered by a 2.0-liter flat-four engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft. of torque. It returns 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway when linked to the Lineartronic CVT transmission.
The available five-speed manual transmission helps the Impreza get up to speed faster but it lowers fuel mileage to 25 in the city and 34 on the highway.
All-wheel-drive is standard across the line; it gives the Impreza a sure-footed feeling in slippery inclement weather. In terms of driving dynamics, the car's small size and capable chassis give it relatively nimble feel, but numb steering cuts down on the fun factor. Though slightly firm, the suspension provides a comfortable ride.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Impreza hatchback is offered in five trim levels: 2.0i, 2.0i Premium, 2.0i Limited, 2.0i Sport Limited and 2.0i Sport Premium.
The 2.0i comes standard with air conditioning, a rear-view camera, power windows and locks, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with a USB input and full iPod integration, Bluetooth connectivity, a 6.2-inch color touch screen, cloth upholstery and 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. The 2.0i comes standard with a five-speed manual, but buyers looking to go clutch-less can order the CVT at an extra cost.
The 2.0i Premium adds two extra speakers for the sound system, an adjustable arm rest, a cargo cover, a rear stabilizer bar, an illuminated ignition switch ring, body-colored door mirrors, chrome trim on the outside, and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
The 2.0i Limited brings leather upholstery on the seats and on the steering wheel, a 7-inch infotainment system, automatic climate control, fog lights, chrome exterior door handles, turn signals integrated into the door mirrors, an upgraded instrument cluster, a rear armrest with dual cupholders and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Fitted with a five-speed manual, the 2.0i Sport Premium ups the content level with roof rails, body-colored trim on the rocker panels, sport fabric upholstery and grey-finish 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
The 2.0i Sport Limited adds the features found in the Limited trim to the Sport Premium.
Options include a moonroof, a navigation system, keyless entry with push-button start and Subaru's well-regarded EyeSight technology.
All Impreza models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's side knee airbags, traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Competitors to the Impreza hatch include front-wheel-drive models such as the Ford Focus Hatchback and the Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback..