2014 Subaru Impreza

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.

For the latest model year, navigation-equipped Impreza sedans receive a new Starlink infotainment infotainment. Starlink allows users to use a smartphone to access Aha radio and receive audio updates from Facebook and Twitter.

Premium-trim models also gain a standard rearview camera.

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 36 mpg on the highway - an impressive figure for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Outside, the latest Impreza looks more focused than its somewhat soft and rounded predecessor. Sleek headlights, 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. One exception to the generally excellent ergonomics is the optional navigation system, which is fussy and difficult to operate.

At least the setup gains more functionality for the latest model year with Subaru's new 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.

Helping the Impreza to achieve its strong fuel economy figures is a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder that produces 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. Those figures are down from the 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque produced by the last-gen model's 2.5-liter mill, but the tradeoff is 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the available CVT. The old automatic-equipped car returned 20/26 mpg. The other transmission option, a five-speed manual, helps the car get up to speed a bit quicker but lowers mileage to 25/34 mpg.

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 sedan is offered in three trim levels - 2.0i, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited.

The 2.0i comes standard with air conditioning, power windows and locks, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with a USB input and full iPod integration, Bluetooth connectivity, a multi-function display, cloth upholstery and 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. The five-speed manual is the only available transmission for the 2.0i.

The 2.0i Premium adds a rearview camera, cruise control, two extra speakers for the sound system, steering wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The CVT is optional on the 2.0i Premium. The manual transmission model includes heated seats.

The 2.0i Limited brings leather upholstery, heated front seats leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, HD radio, automatic climate control, fog lights, auto on/off headlights and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The CVT is standard on the 2.0i Limited.

Options include a moonroof and a navigation system that comes with a rear parking camera.

Occupant Safety
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.

Key competitors
Shoppers considering the Subaru Impreza Sedan should also take a look at similar offerings such as the Mazda Mazda3 Sedan, Ford Focus Sedan, Chevrolet Cruze Sedan, Toyota Corolla Sedan and Honda Civic Sedan - each with its own distinct characteristics within the segment.