On the Road Review: Subaru Impreza Hatchback

This is the new Impreza. While it looks a lot like the previous Impreza, it is not. It is better.

There is still a four-door compact sedan, the least expensive Subaru model starting at $18,395, as well as the five-door hatchback, which costs $500 more. All-wheel drive continues to be standard, making the Impreza the most practical and least expensive AWD car on the market and the only compact car/hatchback available with this all-season functionality. Civic, Cruze, Focus, new Corolla iM — all rely on front drive.

After the lengthy debate we can have about how small cars are getting larger, most definitely, and more expensive, the added safety gear and regulations, which also add weight, today’s compact offerings also have more comfort features as well as greater performance that is often accompanied by improved fuel economy.

With Subaru on an eight-year sales roll that seems to march on unabated (America’s number nine selling automotive brand!), the latest Impreza is the first Impreza to be built here in the United States — at the Lafayette, Ind., plant that also builds Outbacks. This Impreza also is the first Subaru to utilize the Global Platform architecture, which increases body rigidity (by over 70 percent) while adding greater ride composure and a quieter cabin. An important side benefit is that the new design improves crash energy absorption by 40 percent, making this Impreza a quieter, safer and smoother riding car than any Impreza before it.

Subaru also has produced the latest Impreza with more standard gear. While base models feature a five-speed manual gearbox with the revised 152-hp, 2.0-liter, direct-injected Boxer-engine (EPA 24/32 mpg), all other models come with a new seven-speed CVT automatic, and EPA ratings rise to 28/37/31 mpg. After a 1,030-mile week highly skewed towards elevated-pace highway miles, our Black Silica Impreza Premium five-door (base price $21,695; $24,910 as shown) returned 34 mpg.

Key features include auto-headlamps, power locks, windows and mirrors, rear-vision camera, incline start assist, split-folding rear seatback, outside temperature display, efficient rotary climate controls and simple audio dials, plus a supple fully independent suspension that delivered a very balanced ride. Quieter than last week’s Civic Hatchback, the Impreza’s Boxer-engine produced enough verve to keep drivers entertained and happy with urgent power needs.

The move up to Premium trim adds the Starlink 6.5-multimedia touch-screen with Apple and Android compatibility, steering wheel paddle shifters, heated cloth seats and roof rails. Satellite radio remains an option, and the ignition still requires a key — and entry requires the keyfob — yet Starlink safety connectivity is included.

Premium trim also makes Subaru’s EyeSight Drive Assist technology available. With several electronic driving aids — adaptive cruise, pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, plus blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert — the EyeSight system proved to be smarter and much smoother reacting to real-world situations than previous samples.

New options include a Rockford-Fosgate stereo upgrade, remote starting and a power sunroof.

At 175.1 inches long, the hatchback is 6.5 inches shorter than the sedan and a slight amount smaller than the Crosstrek, which will also share this new platform. Storage is a spacious 21 cubic feet with the seatbacks raised, increasing to over 55 cubic feet when lowered. The deck is flat, but not level; there is a small step at the hinge of the lowered seatbacks, while a removable cargo shade helps conceal parcels.

Hits and misses:the value of the AWD system cannot be overstated, and the elevated fuel economy numbers give the Impreza a considerable advantage over several rivals. The new Lineartronic seven-speed CVT really does feel and perform much like a conventional automatic, while the enhanced functions of EyeSight add another layer of safety at prices that leave the competition disadvantaged, again. Heated front seats, the roomy back seat and a healthy 475-mile range between fill-ups are pluses as well.

Riding on base 16-inch wheels, the Impreza feels low (ground clearance is 5 inches) and the car’s visual proportions seemed different from the sedans and hatchbacks with larger 18-inch wheels — the more expensive Sport and Limited models. To gain more ground clearance, and different styling proportions, you have to spend over $3,000 more to purchase the higher-riding Crosstrek compact crossover.

The newest Impreza continues a long Subaru tradition of offering a big bang for not a lot of bucks. Remember the slogan “inexpensive and built to stay that way”? The new Impreza offers great value, real-world functionality, plus a tried-and-true AWD system that has Yankee-practicality appeal. Sales are up 25 percent so far this year — another winner for a brand that seems to field only winners lately.

Look for the new Ascent three-row crossover later this year at your Subaru dealer.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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