To get a leg up usually helps, but the all-new and newly independent 2017 Subaru Impreza surpasses that by getting two wheels up on the competition.
For many years, Subaru has distinguished itself by making all-wheel drive standard on every one of its cars and crossover sport utility vehicles. In the current lineup, there is one exception: the BRZ rear-drive sports coupe. But that was developed with Toyota to give both manufacturers an entry in that category.
Subaru’s other distinction is that all its vehicles use horizontally-opposed engines. Also called “boxer” or “flat” engines, the cylinders lie flat on both sides of the crankshaft — unlike engines with upright cylinders or V-type engines, where the cylinders lean at an angle.
In the last century, boxer engines were ubiquitous in Volkswagen Beetles and microbuses. The other major manufacturer currently installing them — in some models — is Germany’s Porsche, the sports car specialist. The advantage of a boxer is its squished vertical profile, which contributes to a lower center of gravity.
The Impreza — Subaru’s entry in the compact sedan and hatchback class — is newly independent because it now is separate from the company’s high-performance WRX and WRX STI models, which formerly were versions of the Impreza.
For 2017, the Impreza is built on a new platform, which the company says will underpin all its new vehicles for the foreseeable future — even an expected new three-row large crossover SUV. In manufacturer-speak, a platform contains the essentials of a vehicle that can be used in multiple models.
Though marketed as a compact, the new Impreza, in both sedan and hatchback configurations, is classified as a midsize by the EPA based on its interior passenger and cargo space. For the first time, it will be built in the U.S., in a plant in Indiana.
It competes directly against two other outstanding new compacts—also classified as midsize cars — where it gets its two-wheels-up advantage. They are the 2017 Honda Civic and 2017 Hyundai Elantra. Both the Civic and the Elantra, like the Impreza, come in multiple versions. But the most apt comparison here involves each nameplate’s Sport models.
All three, close to 15 feet long and nicely equipped with either automatic transmissions or manual gearboxes, have similar price tags of around $23,000. The Elantra Sport is a standard four-door sedan; the Civic Sport is a hatchback. Both have front-wheel drive.
The Impreza Sport can be ordered as either a four-door sedan or as a hatchback. Alone among the three, it comes with all-wheel drive.
Of the trio, the Elantra Sport delivers the most horsepower. Its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 201 hp with 195 lb-ft of torque. The Civic Sport’s 1.5-liter four, also a turbo, delivers 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. The Impreza’s 2.0-liter four-banger comes in third with 152 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque.
The different power ratings are reflected in the city/highway/combined fuel economy numbers: Civic 30/39/33, Impreza 27/36/30 and Elantra 22/30/25.
But power alone does not tell the tale. All three are superb choices in their own way. The focus here is on the tested Impreza Sport four-door sedan, which has a rigid chassis that makes for quiet highway touring with taut handling abetted by its full-time all-wheel drive.
The tester was equipped with Subaru’s continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which uses belts and pulleys to deliver acceleration without shift points. Recognizing that some potential buyers might prefer the sensation of shifting, Subaru includes software to mimic a seven-speed automatic under vigorous acceleration. The CVT also can be shifted manually.
Though not quite as quick off the line as its Sport competitors, the Impreza delivers acceptably strong acceleration and confident power on the highway. It cruises comfortably and quietly, and the Sport includes automatic brake-activated torque vectoring to hustle the Impreza on curves.
Of course, the Sport is not the only Impreza. There’s also a base version, Premium and Limited versions in both sedan and hatchback models. The hatchback is six inches shorter than the sedan but can carry 21 cubic feet of cargo—more if you stack it higher than the beltline—compared to the sedan’s trunk of 12 cubic feet.
For peace of mind, you also can order Subaru’s state-of-the-art Eyesight driver assist suite, which includes reverse automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind-spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
Even without two wheels up, the Impreza would bow to no Sport in its sector.
- Model: 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport four-door sedan.
- Engine:0-liter four cylinder, 152 hp, 148 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode.
- Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
- EPA passenger/trunk volume: 100/12 cubic feet.
- Weight: 3,179 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/36/30 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $23,615.
- Price as tested: $23,615.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Subaru.