WASHINGTON — I’m going to pull back the veil a bit — something I usually don’t do when it comes to the vehicles I test. For years now, the Subaru Impreza is a car I really don’t like driving. While WRX and STI are great fun, the regular Impreza is the opposite for me. It’s not a bad car, it just wasn’t the hot rod, go-fast version I’m drawn to. Then this new redesigned, fully-loaded Impreza hatch shows up looking to change my mind. And it does.
For 2017 and beyond, Subaru has really improved the interior. The materials are upgraded, and they look and feel very nice. The 2.0i Limited is the top trim level with a starting price of $24,595, or about $29,000 loaded. For the loaded price, you get a leather-trimmed steering wheel and seats. The seats, which always seemed very firm, are a bit easier on your body now. This is a hatch version, so there’s plenty of head and leg room all around — even in the back seats. I had no problem fitting two child seats and a booster — which is very spacious for a compact. Cargo space is also generous for the class and a benefit for choosing the hatch over a sedan. My car came equipped with the optional NAV and Harmon Kardon audio. The sound was pretty good and the 8-inch touch screen was easy to use. There are also real knobs and buttons as well as a second small screen in a pod on top of the dash with climate controls and other functions.
Another improvement for the new Impreza is the ride. It’s more pleasant in the cabin for the long haul. The past tire roar is gone. A big plus is the standard AWD system that not many compacts can claim. Because of that, it’s sure-footed in the rain. Handling is good for the compact class. The AWD system keeps it in the lane even with some higher speed turns and there isn’t really much body roll, just confidence when you turn the wheel. I always felt the Impreza was slow; now it feels a bit faster than before. With 152 horsepower, the Boxer 4-cylinder engine has a unique sound but it does struggle with higher-speed passing when the car is loaded with people and gear. The transmission is a CVT that does a nice job of hiding that, with shifts like a normal automatic. I noticed it was a bit fussy in the 15-30 mph range when coasting; it tended to almost surge. My fuel economy was under the 31 mpg combined, as I managed just 26.4 during my nearly 400 miles with the Impreza.
Outside, the styling of the Subaru Impreza has also been updated to a more modern, rounded look. The front end has the biggest change, mimicking the larger Subaru Legacy styling with a big grill and sweptback headlight clusters. It looks more modern and up-to-date than I remember the Impreza ever looking. A nice touch, the power exterior mirrors have integrated turn signals. The roof rails are easy to use for extra storage, with ample clearance for tie downs. Upscale 17-inch alloy wheels are fitting on this car. There are some models with larger wheels, but I prefer this look to those. I was asked several times about a cluster around the top of the front windshield that looked like cameras. It’s the optional EyeSight system, part of a driver-assist technology that includes some nifty safety features, such as pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise lane departure warning and lane assist.
The new Subaru Impreza is a big improvement and has made me think more of this spacious five-door hatch. With an improved and quiet interior, the new Impreza 2.0i Limited is now a safe bet for your next compact. And with standard AWD it’s an alternative to the small crossover too.
Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.
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